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Sunday, September 7, 2014

FTC Guidelines: Understand Blog Disclosures

 

New to the blogging world and want to eventually write sponsored content or review products? You will have to understand what is required when writing sponsored content or sharing content to your social media. There are specific things that need to be covered in the disclosure depending on what type of content it is.

What is the FTC? What is a disclosure?

FTC is short for the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC helps to protect consumer rights and manages online advertising and marketing. Basically they are here to make sure that the reader KNOWS before they click (or read) anything they know that there was compensation or products given.

That is what a disclosure is. A disclosure is a note to your readers advising them of your relationship with a company or client. It’s also a promise to them that you are being honest with your opinion and are no way influenced by the compensation. A disclosure is an absolute must in any sponsored content; whether via a website or social media. It’s against the law to not disclose paid links or products sent for consideration and it could get you in a TON of trouble.

When to disclose?

A disclosure must be present in any post that contains compensation; whether they paid you to write a post or sent a product for your consideration.

*In any post that contains an affiliate link. An affiliate link differs from a normal link because you get a certain percentage of sales if a reader clicks from your link. It’s basically a referral link from you. You have to let them know you’ll benefit from them clicking on that link, that way they can make the choice to visit it or not.

example: Imagine I just wrote a post reviewing and recommending Microsoft Office to all of my readers.

I then search for a link for my readers to be able to purchase the software if they want.

Direct link:

 off

The direct link would be grabbed in your URL box at the very top of the page and doesn’t contain your affiliate link. It is just the link to where they the product can be found.

 

Affiliate link:

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No matter what companies you are an affiliate for, they give you a certain “code” that tracks what is bought through your code. Your code might be automatically inserted or you might have to add it in there yourself, make sure you check. Then the company will pay you a certain percentage any time a purchase is made through your recommendation of the product.

You can add your affiliate code by clicking what is circled in red above. It will prompt a pop up window that looks like this:

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you can choose whether to show the product link as text/image, text only, or image only. It’s totally your choice which to insert.

Get the HTML insert code making sure to look for your affiliate link (circled in red).

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Where and when the disclosure needs to be made.

The disclosure needs to be written immediately at the beginning of any link or post.

Example:

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It has to be immediately before the content and links are viewable to them, so they outright know that there is a possibly of you making money off of their purchases through your link. This is because there were some websites that intentionally mislead their readers by not giving proper disclosures of their honesty about the products/money they received.

The FTC knew there had to be a compromise of trust made with the online shopper and website owners. Online shoppers want to know the truth and The FTC started penalizing sites who weren’t totally honest of their compensation before posting. This is intentionally misleading to readers and shouldn’t be warranted. Readers need to be able to believe the website owners reference or word is in no way tainted.

Website owners establish their readers trust through being honest and upfront with them ALL of the time. Most readers don’t care that they are going to make you a little money by clicking on your link, they just have to know that you will before doing so. Most readers would actually WANT to do it for referring them, but give them that choice. Just make sure that all affiliate and sponsored links are known and shown.

Does the blog/website size matter?

It doesn’t matter what size your blog is, big or small.. a disclosure is always needed. Even a blog with ONE follower has to have a disclosure for every paid or sponsored link. WHY? Blogs grow, both in content and readers. You might not have many readers now, but EVEN one reader has to know the truth behind the post/link.

You will eventually lose your readers trust if they find out. It’s just such a risk, why take it? It only takes a few minutes at the most and could save your butt in the future. The sponsor or client could decide to pull your contract or pay for not adding one. You even risk being investigated (along with your sponsor) and even fined for not properly disclosing to your readers. Why go through all that trouble in the future when you can disclose it now and not worry about it.

Did I help you understand why disclosures are needed? Is it easy to understand? How do you feel about disclosures?

If you have a second will you please share this via social media to help spread the word?

FYI>> Keep an eye out for the next post in the FTC Disclosure series- Making the Right Disclosure for Your Post.

  -Jess

author

This post was written by:

Jessica is the writer behind Sweet Southern Mama. She is the mother of 2 adorable kids- Aidan, 7 and Adisyn, 5. She lives in Kentucky with her fiance and kids. She loves designing blogs, reading, writing, crafting, all things electronic, photography, and spending time with her family.

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