FTC Guidelines for Blogger Disclosures

FTC dot com disclosure guidelines: what every blogger needs to know

If you’re a blogger who participates in doing product reviews or accepting paid articles on your blog, the FTC guidelines for blogger disclosures is a must-read.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC for short) updated its dot com disclosures article this year, and it has tons of important information for advertisers (this mean us, bloggers!). This applies to all of us, “big” and “small” alike. I am a blogger–period, and the FTC won’t discriminate against the size of my blog if I am breaking its guidelines on consumer protection.

What the FTC cares about is that advertisers do not mislead the consumer when they are reviewing (FTC calls this endorsing) a product. The disclosure should state whether the blogger was compensated for their review, or whether the blogger was provided a product for the purpose of a review.To be clear: “an endorsement would be covered by the Guides if an advertiser – or someone working for an advertiser – pays a blogger or gives a blogger something of value to mention a product, including a commission on the sale of a product. Bloggers receiving free products or other perks with the understanding that they’ll promote the advertiser’s products in their blogs would be covered, as would bloggers who are part of network marketing programs where they sign up to receive free product samples in exchange for writing about them or working for network advertising agencies.”
“Disclosures should be placed as close as possible to the claim they qualify. Advertisers should keep in mind that having to scroll increases the risk that consumers will miss a disclosure.” So, in other words, placing your disclosure at the bottom of your post is NOT OKAY. It has to be easily visible. If you want your disclosure at the bottom, you’ll have to repeatedly let the consumer know that there is a disclosure at the bottom by the use of arrows or other reminders. Ain’t nobody got time for that! This is what I’ve been doing lately:
See how my disclosure is at the very top…before anything else? Yup. That’s deliberate. If there are links in the blog post that might take the reader away from the post before they make it to the end of the post, a disclosure at the bottom of the blog post is not “clear and conspicuous.”
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All disclosures should be:

  • Proximate to the information so the consumer does not have to hunt for it
  • Of at least the same size as the message
  • In the same format as the message
  • Accessible on all platforms used
  • Understandable by the consumer
All platforms also includes social media, and with that also comes TWITTER! Wonderful, right? Understandable by the consumer means that you cannot use hashtags such as #spon or #spons because most consumers won’t know what that means.
Here’s an example of one of my recent tweets promoting a BzzAgent campaign for Kroger. While the hashtag wasn’t necessary, the addition of “Ad” before the rest of the tweet is totally necessary. Not after the tweet. All BzzAgent requires is #GotItFree at the end of the tweet. (Since I’m not sure if it’s to let consumers know I am promoting something or for their tracking purposes, I put it in anyway, but the important thing is that “Ad” precedes anything else I wrote.)

 

#ad Can’t wait to get my #KrogerSummer coupons to make sliders! Mini-burger party, anyone? u.bzz.com/d4nsz #GotItFree
— Lisette (@NBelleDiaries) May 21, 2013

 

“Sponsored” can also be used as a disclosure, although that would take up too many of the 140 characters in Twitter updates. Facebook promotions are better suited for “Sponsored” disclosures. Just remember, whichever word you use it has to come first in the message in order to comply with FTC guidelines.