The TTB has released an Industry Circular addressing the use of social media. The TTB has made it clear that they consider any use of social media the same as an advertisement. All “fan pages,” posts, links, QR codes, blogs and comments made on any social media platform are considered advertising by the TTB.
There are two primary regulatory components of adverting that the TTB regulates; health (and false) claims and mandatory statements.
All social media platforms should include the mandatory statements (see below) and comply with the TTB’s prohibited statements and practices. See here a brief TTB presentation that details the prohibited statements and practices with associated code sections referenced.
Abbreviated excerpts from the TTB Industry Circular:
“Because TTB considers industry member fan pages for alcohol beverages to be advertisements, all mandatory statements required by the regulations (in §§ 4.62, 5.63, and 7.52) must be included on them. TTB views the entire fan page (i.e., the “home” page and all sub or tabbed pages directly associated with the “home” page) as one advertisement, so mandatory statements need only appear once on the fan page, either on the “home” page or on any sub or tabbed pages directly associated with the “home” page. The regulations require that mandatory statements on alcohol beverage advertisements be: (1) conspicuous and readily legible; (2) clearly a part of the advertisement; and (3) readily apparent to the persons viewing the advertisement. Thus, mandatory statements may not be hidden or buried in an obscure location on the fan page.
Although the regulations do not require that mandatory statements appear in a particular location, TTB strongly recommends that, for the benefit of consumers, advertisers consider placing mandatory statements in a location where a viewer would most logically expect to find information about the brand or the company. This is generally called the “profile” section, though it might have a different name depending on the service and may change as social media sites are updated or revised (e.g., currently on Facebook, it is the “About” section).
The regulations regarding prohibited practices or statements (in §§ 4.64, 5.65, and 7.54) also apply to social network fan pages. Any information or images posted to a fan page by an industry member, including content created by a third party and reposted by an industry member, is part of the fan page and therefore considered to be part of the advertisement. Similarly, TTB considers any information or images posted to industry members’ websites by the industry member to be part of the advertisement.
Industry members may also enable consumers to access content by including a quick response code (or QR Code) on a label or advertisement. Consumers can scan the QR Code with their mobile device to access the additional content. Depending on the type of media that is linked to by the QR Code (such as the industry member’s webpage, mobile application, or blog), the relevant regulations and TTB public guidance documents will apply. If, for example, the QR code links to a document, such as a drink recipe using an industry member’s product, the recipe will be considered an advertisement because it is a written or verbal statement, illustration, or depiction that is in, or calculated to induce sales in interstate or foreign commerce.
§ 7.52 Mandatory statements.
(a) Responsible advertiser. The advertisement shall state the name and address of the brewer, bottler, packer, wholesaler, or importer responsible for its publication or broadcast. Street number and name may be omitted in the address.
(b) Class. The advertisement shall contain a conspicuous statement of the class to which the product belongs, corresponding to the statement of class which is required to appear on the label of the product.
(c) Exception. (1) If an advertisement refers to a general malt beverage line or all of the malt beverage products of one company, whether by the company name or by the brand name common to all the malt beverages in the line, the only mandatory information necessary is the name and address of the responsible advertiser. This exception does not apply where only one type of malt beverage is marketed under the specific brand name advertised.