"Many bloggers have accepted perks such as free laptops, trips to Europe, $500 gift cards or even thousands of dollars for a 200-word post. Bloggers vary in how they disclose such freebies, if they do so at all. But now the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is paying attention. New guidelines, expected to be approved late this summer with possible modifications, would clarify that the agency can go after bloggers — as well as the companies that compensate them — for any false claims or failure to disclose conflicts of interest. Bloggers complain that with FTC oversight, they'd be too worried about innocent posts getting them in trouble, because the common practice of posting a graphical ad or a link to an online retailer — and possibly getting commissions for any sales from it — would be enough to trigger oversight."
According to Marketing Pelgrim, 99% of bloggers have nothing to worry about. If you forget to disclose that you used a 50 cent coupon on that hamburger you raved about, you’ll probably be just fine. Likewise, if you blog that your new Ford gets 33mpg but in reality only gets 31mpg, you won’t likely face the wrath of the FTC.
In fact, the only bloggers that need to be wary of any new FTC guidelines are the ones that have brought this on us all. They are the ones that accept gift cards, then rave about their shopping experience. They claim their acne cleared up overnight, while receiving a free monthly supply of the skin-care treatment. In other words, the FTC is going after the professional bloggers that make a living off of freebies and commissions–all without an ounce of disclosure.
If you ever stop to ask yourself, "should I disclose this?" then the answer is probably "yes." The chances are that whatever is causing the guilt-trip isn’t worthy of the FTC’s attention, but you’ll feel better for disclosing it AND you’ll earn the trust of your readers!
Other tips that might help you sleep at night:
- Create a page that lists all of your potential "conflict of interests" and simply link to it whenever your post includes mention of one of those relationships.
- Tag any links with something visible and obvious. Such as (affiliate) or (sponsor).
- You don’t have to publish the full terms of your compensation. Simply stating "Company X sponsored this post…") or ("We received free XXX as part of this review…") will likely be enough to satisfy the FTC.