Ever wonder why some blog posts contain language like “This post was sponsored, but the opinions expressed are my own?” That is because it is legally required by the FTC’s .com Disclosures. I am here to help decode this.
The FTC regulates unfair and deceptive trade practices and this encompasses online marketing. This means that when bloggers are being paid or otherwise compensated to write about something, they need to disclose “any material connections they share with the seller of the product or service”.
Let’s kick things off with a little history that explains why bloggers need to pay attention to the FTC dot com disclosures. In 2010, Ann Taylor Loft invited bloggers to preview of their new summer collection. The bloggers received gift cards if they wrote a post about the new collection within 24 hours. The FTC opened an investigation after bloggers who wrote about the summer collection did not disclose that they received gifts in exchange for promoting the brand. While the FTC did not fine Ann Taylor Loft, or the bloggers, they issued more specific guidance regarding disclosure language for online marketing and blogging.
What you need to do, if you are being compensated for a blog post:
- Disclose that the post was sponsored
- Disclose if you received a product for free
- Use the hashtag #sponsored when tweeting and instagraming about the product and when promoting your post on the topic
- The disclosures must be clear and conspicuous
What you need to do if you are using affiliate links:
- You need to disclosure that it is an affiliate link
What if the brand you are working with doesn’t want you to include this disclose language? That is a problem; this language is legally required and the FTC could fine both the blogger and the brand for non-compliance with the .com Disclosures. On the other hand, some brands will even give bloggers specific guidance explaining how to comply with the .com Disclosures. You can always ask the brand you are working with for guidance.
What if you received a product for free, but weren’t paid to write a sponsored post? Always disclose when you receive something for free. You can casually say this in the blog post. Here is an example, “To celebrate the launch of their new ice cream, Sprinkles sent me free samples of their red velvet ice cream”.
For more information, read the March 2013 update of the FTC .com Disclosures.
Please note, I am not a lawyer, and this is not legal advice.
By: Kit Graham