New Twitter Advertising Rules – Some Tweets Illegal!

Wikimotive Twitter FTC

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has released their newest .com disclosure guidelines, the first new release since the year 2000. It takes them a long, long time to update this document, and they never really say anything all that groundbreaking. The general message is that the same guidelines that apply to traditional advertising mediums apply to the net, so your affordable SEO company is safe. There is only one piece of really noticeable news that jumped out to people so far, and that pertains to Twitter.

Apparently, the FTC is sick of the paid, viral ads on Twitter. You see celebrities (or anyone with a lot of followers) mention products a lot, and it can be difficult to know what they actually like and what they’re being paid to endorse.  The new rule puts an end to this, requiring Twitter users to be very clear about what is a paid or “sponsored” Tweet.

As an example of the changes, look at this sponsored Tweet the FTC gives as an example:

Wikimotive FTC Example 1


That link goes to the product page, and the followers of the account have no idea if this was a genuin success or a paid story. This kind of Tweet is now illegal. For a sponsored story to be allowed, it must contain two things: the statement indicating it’s an advertisement, and the realistic expectations of the product. The FTC took the same Tweet from above and applied these new rules:

Wikimotive FTC Example 2



The FTC understands that Tweets are only 140 characters long, so they allow shortcuts. A simple “Ad:” is enough to address it being an advertisement, and the “typical loss” is enough to set realistic expectations. That’s a legal paid Tweet.

There are additional rules, in case people try and circumvent these methods. You AREN’T allowed to send out a paid Tweet, and then follow up with the disclaimer and advertisement notice. It all must be in the same 140 characters. You also aren’t allowed to use the “#spon” tag, because the FTC has decided that it’s too confusing, not enough people understand that it means sponsored.

Keep in mind these new rules apply to any short-form digital marketing, Twitter is just the one it applies to most. On sites like Facebook (where you aren’t limited to a certain amount of characters) you can just include the advertisement disclaimer underneath the ad itself.

So keep these rules in mind going forward, and make sure you don’t get yourself in trouble by Tweeting the wrong way!

Check out the FTC document on .com disclosers here.

Original post about Twitter advertising can be found on Wikimotive’s blog under the title, “Some Advertising Tweets Now Illegal!” by Zach Billings.

About Tim Martell

Timothy Martell is a digital marketing and SEO expert regularly sought out by both media and industry leaders for his opinion on social media marketing campaigns that really work. Timothy has been seen on MSNBC and Dateline, has been interviewed twice by Facebook for his successful dealership advertising campaigns, has been a featured speaker at automotive conferences such as, DMSC, AMBC, and the Driving Sales Executive Summit and has been featured on the cover of AutoSuccess magazine. Timothy is known for pushing the boundaries of conventional automotive thinking and producing social media campaigns that generate massive numbers of followers leading to record ROI.


  1. Tom Bales says:

    So what about these chirpy litle twrrts that promise you thousands of new followers if you just join some data mining company’s “group” so the company can sell a database of Twitter users to anyone with the cash to pay for it?

  2. Good measure to keep us all protected. Disclosure is not a bad thing. It gives one the total picture for better judgment or decision. No doubt, advancements in technology and its fast-paced popularity pose some bit of challenges to the way things are done. Good move, I dare say!

  3. So… if someone with influence shifts multi-million dollar markets on wall street or in international trade, it’s usually business as usual… but when someone does it on Twitter to make a few bucks, it’s supposed to be a crime??? Gotta love governmental priorities.

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