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Be it snake oil or social media, transparency is recommended

Since the days when the snake-oil salesman would roll into town with a well-placed accomplice in the crowd to support bogus medicinal claims during his sales pitch, promotions pro- fessionals have struggled with issues of transparency and full disclosure. The Web has replaced the stage outside the cov- ered wagon as the venue of choice, but the issues are still very relevant as word-of-mouth marketing and testimonials remain effective promotional strategies.

So, when is the line between creative publicity tactics and de- ceptive practices crossed? The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has maintained its Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising for decades. In 2009, the FTC updated the guides to, among other things, specifically address the use of testimonials in blogs, social media, and other online outlets.

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