The FTC reported a big increase in consumer complaints today arising from bogus offers on social media. The most common complaints are in the following areas:
- Reports about ecommerce sites that fail to deliver the ordered goods;
- Romance scams;
- Social media messages that offer grant money and other giveaways, many pandemic-relief related; and
- Pyramid and fraudulent multilevel marketing schemes with grandiose earnings promises.
Why is this important, aside from the obvious fact that fraudsters are ubiquitous and the FTC is watching? It’s important news for legit marketers too, because they’ll be affected if consumers become more jaundiced about what they see on social media, the channel of choice for modern marketers. If consumers start thinking that all offers they see on social media are fraudulent, or from an imposter source, they’re going to steer clear, right? While the FTC’s report includes tips to consumers about how to avoid getting scammed on social media, marketers too should take note. They should ensure that their own social media campaigns don’t overpromise, include all material terms of their offers, can be fulfilled in a timely manner, and don’t require consumers to provide more personal information than necessary. And, of course, as FTC enforcement activity makes clear, marketers should enlist only those influencers who are willing to follow the rules too.
Social media is a vital channel for conversation, engagement and, yes, marketing. When the fraudsters take over, the channel is compromised as an effective tool. Regulatory enforcement helps, but given the extent of the problem, social media advertisers will have to help too by keeping their own campaigns clean, monitoring the marketplace, and challenging competitors who market unethically or illegally.
And as for dealing with those who lie on social media for political purposes … #Vote!
(Description of image for visually-impaired readers: drawing of people engaging with the Internet.)