As Eminem would say, "the FTC won't let me be or let me be me, so let me see..."

FTC: friend or foe?

Testimonial videos have long been listed as one of the best ways to promote you or your business on the internet. With how easy it is to pull out a miniature camcorder and shoot a video testimonial with your past clients and customers, I’ve noticed that more and more people are getting started with web video so they can capture these testimonials themselves. But could it be dangerous to post a testimonial video considering the recent guidelines published by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)? With the 2009 FTC guidance on testimonials and endorsements, there are a few important things to keep in mind when planning your next testimonial video:

  1. Any results that are mentioned need to be considered typical. As per the FTC guidelines, “Advertisements that feature a consumer and convey his or her experience with a product or service as typical when that is not the case will be required to clearly disclose the results that consumers can generally expect.”
  2. If you’re getting paid you need to say so. In today’s market, peer recommendations and reviews are weighed more heavily than advertising when consumers make a purchase decision. So, it makes sense that this point a biggie: “Bloggers who make an endorsement must disclose the material connections they share with the seller of the product or service.” Additionally, the FTC states that “both advertisers and endorsers may be liable for false or unsubstantiated claims made in an endorsement.”
  3. Tell the truth, the whole truth and have proof that your claims are true. That recommendation comes from the online training animations at the FTC website.
  4. Be prepared to pay the price. You’ve already paid to have a commercial made and for airtime to show the ad on TV, so you might as well do your due diligence to ensure it won’t end up costing you even more. Consumer complaints over false advertising claims could require that the advertiser remove the ad, or worse– refund money to consumers.

With this new FTC guidance, should businesses be worried when posting testimonial videos? If you’re an ethical business person, my answer to that is “no.” The new culture that social media creates is one of transparency and authenticity — in short, being open about who you are, what your intentions are, and not being a shmoozy douche bag. For those of us not looking to cheat the system and use web video to swindle people with douche baggery, this FTC legislation should provide comfort that your message will actually be taken more seriously.

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