BOISE -- A popular department store will be opening its doors in Boise Thursday. But it's what happened Tuesday night at the store that has many in social media, and some in the legal community, talking.
On Tuesday, several Boiseans who are active in social media (mostly Twitter), were invited to a pre-opening event. It was called a "VIP Tweetup," where attendees were given early shopping, drinks, appetizers, and a gift card.
"At the table, they encouraged me, they encouraged the people behind me, and some others that I talked to, to Tweet about it," said Lisa McGrath.
McGrath, a social media lawyer, was at the event. She isn't providing legal advice, but says the event likely unintentionally violated Federal Trade Commission guidelines. Violations can and have resulted in hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines for other companies.
"Non-compliance with the FTC guides is one example of when companies can really get themselves into trouble," said McGrath.
The FTC requires that endorsers, which includes anyone paid to review a product, must disclose payment from the advertiser, and that the advertiser must tell endorsers about this FTC guideline. Very few tweets from Tuesday night included a mention of the gift cards. At the event in the store there were also no signs or other communication that encouraged tweeters to disclose the gift card.
"They didn't actually ask anybody to disclose that they had received this payment," said McGrath.
But is the gift card payment? While attendees were encouraged to tweet, they weren't required to. Also, no one was guided to give a positive account of their experience.
Nevertheless, a spokesperson for Nordstrom Rack (the advertiser), said it was up to the blogger or endorser to disclose the gift card. McGrath disagrees.
"The responsibility is on both the advertiser and the endorser," said McGrath. "But they generally go after the advertiser."
McGrath says she can't predict if the FTC will investigate, but points out that they pursued Ann Taylor for a similar event. However, in that event, bloggers were required to write posts, and there were signs posted encouraging disclosure of payment.
McGrath says issues like this could be avoided with more legal counsel in social media marketing planning.
There is no current investigation into Nordstrom Rack and the FTC hasn't indicated whether they will investigate.
The store opens at 9 a.m. Thursday. It is located in the Boise Towne Plaza at 534 N. Milwaukee Street, next to the Boise Towne Square Mall.