Are Your Website Testimonials Breaking the Law?
Testimonials and endorsements are becoming a vital part to an online marketing plan in a world where people are getting used to going to forums and other places on the internet to find neutral verification about businesses. Testimonials have become so powerful that the Federal Trade Commission now regulates them when they’re used in business advertising. Chances are, most of us haven’t even thought about the legal implications. So how do you know if your website testimonials are free and clear? Here are some important elements to keep in mind when collecting and displaying your company’s testimonials
Don’t be Misleading
Gathering website testimonials does take work, but the payoff can be substantial. More business and advertisers are realizing this but are trying to cut corners by fabricating false testimonials just to give their business a favorable reputation. This practice is not only misleading to your potential customers, but it is also illegal and unethical. Make sure your testimonials reflect the actual experience and opinion of a valid customer.
Communicate the Usual Customer Experience
When you are collecting customer reviews, especially product reviews, you often will receive a wide range of responses in regards to your products and services. The key to remember is that it is important that you not just display those that have experienced extraordinary results, but what the average customer would experience. The FTC legally requires that you clearly communicate the results that people can typically come to expect when using your product or service. It is okay, however, for you to display the more remarkable cases if you specify the uniqueness of the results and give adequate proof to back them up (i.e. scientific evidence, before and after pictures, etc.).
Disclose Connections or Endorsements
Another issue that can arise is when an organization that is offering an endorsement was created or controlled by your business at one time or another. If another business like this gives you an endorsement you must reveal the connection, otherwise it will be seen as misleading.
Finally, it is legal for you to pay or give out free items to those that are endorsing you and your business, but if and when you are, you must disclose that particular relationship to the public. For example, if you are providing a person or business with a free trial you must specify in terms such as “We offered Web Ascender a free trial of Post Kudos, and here’s what they said…”
Most importantly, just remember to be clear, be truthful and be open.
What do you think? Have you ever noticed companies using false testimonials just to make their business look good? How do you make sure your testimonials are complying with FTC standards?