FTC Guidelines for Social Media Influencers

Am I an influencer? I like to think so, but compared to the EDUcelebrities out there, I am barely a blip on the radar. Maybe one day I'll start getting invited to special insider events and conferences, but for now I'm just me.

A recent article in EdWeek discussed the FTC Guidelines for Social Media Ambassadors and stated that:
Huge companies like Google, Microsoft and Apple—and smaller ed-tech businesses—invite educators to become part of what many call “ambassador” programs where the teachers share their enthusiasm for a product and receive something in return.
After reading the article, I realized I should make a few things clear for me personally. These points are regarding myself and does not apply to everyone posting about companies on social media.
  1. I have joined numerous EdTech ambassador programs for products that I truly feel have an impact on the classroom.
  2. Anything I post is my own opinion. While I may get swag once in a while, I will never post just for free swag. Okay I might but if I do, it's probably a contest/raffle and will be marked as so.
  3. I display all relations on the side of my blog and some organizations have multiple titles.
  4. Sometimes the "free swag" is just access to beta features in exchange for giving feedback. Other times I've been invited to receptions during conferences.
  5. I will not blindly share anything just because I am in one of these ambassador relationships. I will also tell you honestly (maybe a little too honestly) when I disagree with a company.
  6. I have an account as an affiliate on Amazon. If/when I post links to products on Amazon, I may earn a small commission if you choose to make a purchase. 
Why did I suddenly decide to post this? Well, I was selected to represent United States educators at the Education Exchange in Australia. This is sponsored by Microsoft and they are paying for me to attend, but I am not under any obligation or expectation to speak about them. I do speak about Microsoft because I like their products and think they have amazing tools for the classroom, but they are not sending me to the event because I speak about them. When I register for events hosted by Microsoft, and other companies, they often have disclaimers on the registration page. An example of this disclaimer is:
In order to comply with all applicable gift and ethics rules,...signed authorization letter from your agency/institution gifting/ethics officer or responsible attorney. 
Basically, they require a signed form from your school documenting that there is no quid pro quo in exchange for my attendance at the event. I've seen some people have to leave during meals because their school did not sign the letter to accept a free lunch. I do not currently work for a public school and they do not require a signed letter, however the same understanding is still there. Never am I forced to do or say anything in exchange for the learning opportunities provided by a company.

The major companies that I have a strong relationship with include Google, Microsoft, and SmartTech (I currently work for a Smart partner). Though connections I made in these programs, I have also learned about and joined other ambassador programs.
Original Article

Molnar, Michele. “Feds Warn Teachers to Disclose Ties to Ed-Tech Vendors.” EdWeek, 25 Nov. 2019, marketbrief.edweek.org/marketplace-k-12/ftc-ed-tech-ambassadors-must-follow-social-media-influencer-guidelines/.

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