New FTC Guidelines for Bloggers

While I am an attorney, I am not your attorney. Nothing in this post shall be construed as 
giving, offering or providing legal advice, legal review or legal analysis. You should 
contact an attorney with assistance in understanding the FTC Rules and how it applies to your 
blog or business.

I have been fortunate to have spoken about legal issues in social media at a variety of Blogging conferences and events. Notably Blissdom, Blog Better Boston, Eventbrite, Springboard, Bloggy Boot Camp, SheStreams and soon Type-A Advanced and Reviewer’s Retreat. Yet, it always amazes me how this legal social media landscape is shifting. It is finally catching up.

If you haven’t yet heard, in March 2013, the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) has issued new rules about disclosures. While these new rules really reflect the trend in using social media in advertising and sales, as well as use of celebrity endorsers, it does trickle down to us bloggers. So what does it mean? I could get into the nitty gritty about it, but your eyes would glaze over.

Here’s the gist: If you got paid, or got freebies, for that “review” or “sponsored post” or “giveaway”, you need to tell people up front that you got paid or got freebies whenever, and wherever, you happen share that post. Note that the FTC does not put a dollar amount on the payment. So in theory, if you got paid one cent, or got a coupon for a small fries, you have to disclose. (So it may make sense to start asking brands for more than small fries.)

So here are the “whens, wheres and hows” you have to disclose. (Note that while my tips apply if you sell products or services, there are many more complexities if you do, and I’m not getting into them here. However, if you are a standard blogger, then read on.)
 

ftc bloggers disclosure 2013

 
1. Disclose in ANY social media mentions.

  • This applies to everything: Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Instagram, Pinterest.
  • You have to use the word “Ad:” or “Sponsored” or “Paid Review”. Apparently #sp or #spon or other abbreviations are not enough for intelligent people to understand & apparently the FTC thinks most of us are unintelligent. Spell it out.
  • It must be IN the social media mention itself. For example, you can’t tweet that you have a sponsorship & then send another tweet with the link to your sponsored post. You must tweet your sponsored post with the word “Sponsored” or “Ad” in it, etc., each and every time you share.
  • Note, you don’t have to use it as a hashtag.

2. Be up front in your disclosure.

  • Disclosing at the bottom of your post is no longer acceptable. You need to put it at the beginning of your post.
  • The idea behind this change is that the FTC thinks that your readers will be clicking on the links you have in your post, and thus leave, and will never make it to the bottom to see your disclosure. As a result, your readers need to know “upfront” (literally and figuratively) if you got goodies (product, money, services) in exchange for your post.
  • You also need to be upfront in your social media mentions (at a minimum, before the link) for the same logic.

3. Your disclosure must travel with you.

  • No more auto tweets or automatic Facebook posts. Unless you have the ability to customize your auto sharing, it would mean that you just shared without your disclosure in it. You could have a personal policy to include the word “Sponsored” or “Ad” in your title, but, err, that doesn’t seem pretty and I’m sure it must have some sort of negative impact on SEO. So, turn off that plugin or find a better one.
  • For you vloggers, this “Travel With You Concept” also applies to videos. You can’t disclose on your blog post that you got paid for the video and not say anything about that in your video. As you can see from my videos, I disclosed at the end of my video reviews, but from now on, I will have to disclose at the beginning – either with a text slide or in my opening verbal introduction.

So, how are you doing? Eyes glazed over? Head hurt? Still have no idea what I am talking about? Let me put it to you this way:

  • If you are posting with a hashtag for a brand anywhere on social media (like Google+, Twitter, Instagram), you should be using Sponsored or Ad, or something similar, in a conspicuous place. A link to a disclosure is not clear or conspicuous.
  • If you got paid for that post, video, tweet, pin or picture in cash, check, credit card, or product, and you are sharing it somewhere, you need to use Sponsored, Paid Review, Ad or some combination thereof in your content.
  • If you got paid or got freebies for that post or video, you need to tell people up front, and clearly, that you got paid or got freebies.

Sucky. Yes.

Required. Yes.

However, it is up to you to decide whether you are going to comply or take the risk. While this is not the law, they are rules that the FTC can enforce, and if they decided to enforce it on you, you could lose your blog, your money and your reputation. Not fun.

So, what else do you need to know? Read on.

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While I am an attorney, I am not your attorney. Nothing in this post shall be construed as giving, offering or providing legal advice, legal review or legal analysis. You should contact an attorney with assistance in understanding the FTC Rules and how it applies to your blog or business.

Many thanks to fellow attorney Jessica Severson from Jellyfish Web who provided feedback on this post!
 

Note, this is brand new information that is still being processed by a lot of people. It is unclear if you have to go back to amend posts. Even I am learning about the scope of the changes every day and will continue to update my blog and social media extensions as the information becomes known, shared and understood.
 

Thanks for staying and reading my blog post!

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About Charlene DeLoach

As a Boston Mom Blogger in Massachusetts, Charlene DeLoach doesn't care about the megapixels on a smartphone. She only cares about whether it will survive being in the hands of her kids.

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  1. […] you have read my two posts on the good/bad of the new FTC rules and the three ways the new FTC Guidelines impact Bloggers, then you have probably started to wonder about three common applications of these new disclosure […]

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