In Episode 16, we’ll be talking about FTC guidelines for bloggers. We’ll discuss what they are, why they’re important, and how to properly execute them!
FTC Guidelines And How To Disclose As A Blogger – Sandbox To Success Ep 016
What Are FTC Guidelines?
FTC stands for Federal Trade Commission. Basically, it’s a guideline for bloggers when dealing with sponsored post and material. It’s all about saying when an ad is paid or has been sponsored. It takes away all of the ads where it looks like people are recommending things, but they’re actually getting paid to advertise it.
While the FTC Guidelines only apply to U.S. bloggers, we still adhere to them here at Thinking Outside The Sandbox just because it’s more ethical. We also have many team members from the U.S. The guidelines help protect consumers against fraud by providing transparency. While you aren’t obliged to stand by these if you live outside the U.S., I think it’s good practice as a blogger to stand behind these ethics.
You readers should know up front before they even read your article, what the relationship between you and the sponsor is. You could put something like “I received this product for review, and I’m giving my honest opinion on it,” or you could inform readers a little more seamlessly like “This ABC product was provided by…” When working with an ad network, they generally give you what phrase they would like you to include.
In the world of social media, we use hashtags. When sharing ads or sponsored content you should have the hashtag #AD or #Sponsored.
FTC Guidelines on Product Reviews
The main thing to remember is you want to be ethical. You don’t ever post a review for a product that you haven’t tried. For example, on Thinking Outside The Sandbox Family we did a campaign with Airwick about Canadian national parks. I tied that into Airwick by saying something like “if you can’t visit any of these places, you can bring the outdoors in your home with Airwick.” I suggest doing sponsored post this way because it makes it evergreen content that isn’t time or event specific.
If I was an advertiser, I don’t want to pay for someone to do advertising for me then 3 weeks later it drops off and I don’t get any residuals for my investment. As a blogger, I can never guarantee exactly how many views something might. I can estimate, based on our page’s monthly views, but I can’t ever say for sure. By offering an evergreen product, they’ll get more views on the post-overtime. It also helps you, as you’ll get more pageviews for your site.
You can learn more about FTC guidelines on product reviews here.
What Happens If You Don’t Follow the Rules?
Right now the FTC isn’t really looking for small bloggers at this time (from what I’ve heard), but it isn’t impossible to end up on their radar. You may have one viral post that leads someone to look at other content and say “is this an ad, or not an ad…?” It only takes one complaint to kind of get the ball rolling.
For example, both a blogger and Instant Learning were involved in a lawsuit and it was approximately a $250,000 settlement because their affiliation wasn’t disclosed on either side. Also, a blogger in North Carolina was faced with jail time when he made claims on a paleo diet curing his diabetes. This is slightly different than FTC, but it’s something to keep in mind.
As a blogger, we have a great responsibility. We are talking to the internet. Sometimes it feels like you’re just talking to a wall (in my case, with the podcast) or just throwing things out into the interest. It’s important, however, to keep a business standpoint.
Examples Of How to Write a Disclaimer for a Sponsored Post:
“I was excited when I was approached by ___ to write a post and receive a free product.”
“I’m really happy to work with our sponsor __ today and share this information with you.”
“This sponsored post is really coming at a great time because I was just thinking how I could share with you about ___.”
“Thanks to my sponsor ___ for providing me with a free product to help me write this post today.”
“I cannot wait to share this sponsored post with you! When ______ asked me to share about their new _____, I was so excited because I knew that you would love it!”
You can make it look more personal when you use your own voice. I like to write in my real voice. When I talk, I use words like “so” or funny words that are just part of my jargon. I use that when I write to make it more like me. You may not want to do that if you are writing for a small business or it’s super corporate, but you can still make it seem more natural and less of a “stiff upper lip” fashion.
We have a disclosure page on both of our blogs that is located underneath our “About” category. It’s one that was generated and you can view it here: Disclosure Policy.
If you’re starting to become a bigger blogger making a larger amount of money you may want to see a lawyer to make sure things are legally in order. We always want to make sure we’re protected. We do this out of love. I don’t know anyone who blogs that hates blogging. We want to make sure you can continue blogging for a long time to come!
That’s all for today! I hope this was helpful for you!
As always, I want to hear your feedback. Let me know if you agree, don’t agree, think I’m spot on or way of point! Thanks for listening to the Sandbox to Success podcast, with your host: Katrina M. Thom. If you like what you just heard you can also leave us a message at iTunes or Stitcher. Use the hashtag #totspodcast to connect with us on twitter. Don’t forget to check out the show notes, which can be found at www.totsbusiness.com. Join us next time for another edition of the Sandbox to Success podcast. Have an AWESOME day!