On October 27, 2009 LinkShare launched a Twitter tool for affiliates to use. Almost simultaneously with the LinkShare’s announcement, Amazitter (an iPhone app for tweeting Amazon affiliate links) came out. The wave continued, and yesterday Amazon has changed its policy from no affiliate links on Twitter to let’s “Share on Twitter” and provided a tool for it as well [more in Eric Nagel’s and Tim Jones’ posts].
The new FTC’s guides, which prescribe mandatory disclosure of affiliate links, come into full force in just 25 days, but it seems that regardless of the size of the company that launches a Twitter tool, an important point is being continuously missed — that of helping affiliates stay compliant with the new rules. Additionally, there is also a growing concern among merchants/advertisers that do not specifically offer any tools for promoting their brands on Twitter, but wonder how exactly they are can be policing/monitoring affiliates that promote them via social media. It is these two questions that I would like to address in my today’s blog post.
1. Helping Affiliates Stay Compliant
If I am reading and hearing the Federal Trade Commission right, the burden that’s being placed on the merchants’/advertisers’ shoulders is actually considerably greater than that which is being placed on the backs of the affiliates. On October 7, 2009 Richard Cleland, the FTC’s assistant director of advertising practices, stated that in case with “bloggers” the “approach is going to be educational”, and no one should fear a “penalty if they inadvertently make a mistake.” He also added:
We’re focusing on the advertisers: What kind of education are you providing them, are you monitoring the bloggers and whether what they’re saying is true?”
Is including a relevant clause in the affiliate program’s TOS going to be enough? Not really. There are two components that the FTC will be looking at: (i) education, and (ii) monitoring. The clause in the TOS will take care of the former, and I will address the latter below (see point #2). What I think every merchant/vendor who is putting a Twitter tool ought to also do is ensure that the disclosure is in place: be it with a use of an #ad hashtag or something similar to what cmp.ly is doing, but the disclosure of the monetary connection between the “endorser” and the “sponsor” must be in place.
2. Monitoring Affiliate Compliance
This is another thing that is expected of advertisers. How do you do this on Twitter? Coincidentally, Nathan Hangen of of Making It Social has just published a directly relevant post at TwiTip.com. In it he talks about the three tools that companies can use to monitor their brand on Twitter. These three are: TweetDeck, Hootsuite and Tweetizen. All three can be successfully used for monitoring what your affiliates tweet about your brand. Hangen writes:
- TweetDeck panes: …TweetDeck is robust and easy to use. The simple way to set up monitoring in Tweetdeck is to add a few search panes for the keywords and hashtags that represent your brand. For instance, I have a search going for #twitterrockstar and Twitter Rockstar to see what people are saying about my Twitter course.
- Hootsuite tabs: …a fabulous web client that has all of the features of TweetDeck without having to download an application, which is perfect places where you can’t download (like at work). You can handle multiple accounts here as well, but the best feature of Hootsuite in my opinion is being able to set up a tab for each brand. I set up tabs for Twitter Rockstar, Beyond Blogging, Nathan Hangen, and any other product or name that I want to track. Since everything is saved to my account, it’s always ready and waiting for me when I log in.
- Tweetizen: …a great way to not only track your brand, but to show it off to others. Tweetizen allows you to create a “group,” which you can use to track keywords or hashtags, but the difference here is that you can embed the results in any web page. This is great for product pages or launch pages so that you can build hype for your brand without having to force it on your own.
Great lineup, and affiliate program managers can certainly use the above-quoted tools for monitoring what their affiliates say about them (and their products) on Twitter, and whether their tweets are compliant with the FTC’s rules.