You have the basics on FTC disclosures down, you’ve read our Blogger Disclosure Examples and Tips, and we’ve answered your 5 Top Blogger Disclosure Questions, but you’re still stumbling for the right language and the proper placement for your affiliate link disclosures or sponsored post disclaimers. In fact, your Disclosure & Disclaimer Dilemma is causing huge headaches and you just need a simple solution that you can implement quickly. This article will help you decide on a disclosure format so you can move on to more important things like content creation and marketing.
Drafting sponsored post disclaimers and using affiliate link disclosures is easy when you use this simple strategy:
Is my relationship to a product or company obvious to my reader?
Then, think about your disclosure in the context of the following questions, with a non-blogging reader in mind (i.e., someone who doesn’t understand how the blogosphere, sponsored posts, and affiliate links work).
1. Did I receive a product or attend an event for free or was I compensated for writing a blog post or social media update?
If the answer is yes to any of these, then you probably need to disclose that relationship. Depending on the circumstances, it can be as simple as
- “I was so excited to be invited by Company X to attend Y.”
- “I received a free pair of tickets to the opening of Movie X.”
- “Company X sent me these great Y to review.”
- “I’ve always wanted to try X and when Company Y offered to send me some, I jumped at the opportunity.”
- “This post is brought to you by Company X.”
- “Company X sponsored this post.”
- “I received compensation from Company X in exchange for reviewing Product Y.”
2. Can my reader see my disclosure?
The disclosure must be near the claim you’re making. That means that sidebar disclaimers about possible affiliate links in your posts or a general Disclosure Page usually are not enough.
With affiliate links, a good rule to follow is: “Don’t Trick to Get a Click”
Your reader should know before she clicks off your site that she is being taken to an affiliate page where you may earn a commission or percentage from her purchases.
3. Are my disclosures readable on all devices?
What works on a desktop may not not work on a mobile device. What people see in a blog post, they may not see in an RSS feed. The images that show up on one device may not show up on another in the same location. Make sure that your disclosure stays with the part of your post it relates to across all browsers and on all devices.
4. Are my disclosures obvious across platforms?
On your blog, don’t minimize the text of your disclaimer or make it harder to see than the rest of your post’s text.
If you’re a vlogger, your disclosures must be made at the same speed and volume as the rest of your video content.
If you’re writing a sponsored tweet or other social media post, make sure you are either making your brand relationship obvious to the folks in your feed or use a hashtag like #sponsored. Tip: Although hashtags are an easy way of making disclosures, they are not required, so you can skip them if you choose.
5. Is my disclosure understandable?
The words you choose can be short and sweet, but they must convey something meaningful to your readers. Does your reader understand that a company paid you for writing a post? Is it obvious that you were given free access to an event or product because you are a blogger?
6. Am I still using #spon?
If you’re disclosing with #spon, stop now. The FTC has specifically identified #spon as an unacceptable form of disclosure. The reason for this is because “spon” is not a word and no one – other than bloggers using the term – knows what the word means. I would argue that the same applies to hashtags like #shop and #client.
7. Is my disclosure compliant with the sponsor or affiliate company’s Terms of Service?
You may not be violating the law, but you could be violating your partner’s Terms of Service. For example, Amazon’s Affiliate Program requires that you make a particularly worded disclaimer on your site.
8. Did I leave anything out that would help a reader understand my relationship with the sponsor/brand?
If you are skimping on disclosures because you’re afraid to sound commercial or you want to conceal the fact that you are making money off your readers, I have two solutions for you:
1) Be more creative. There are many organic, non-spammy ways to incorporate sponsored content or affiliate marketing in your blog.
2) Stop working with brands until you are ready to recognize that you are running a business and that part of your income stream will come from ads, publishing network placements, sponsored content, brand campaigns, and affiliate links.
9. Even if the FTC isn’t targeting bloggers, do I believe I am acting ethically?
The FTC has stated it is not targeting bloggers and it has no plans to do so. Why would you still want to disclose sponsored relationships or that you are sending readers to affiliate landing pages?
There are a few reasons, the most import of which is trust.
Your relationship with your readers is based on trust and concealing your brand relationships or compensation may turn off readers more than the fact that they know you are trying to support your family with your blog’s income.
If you still have a disclosure dilemma, you can always call the FTC for clarification or you can consult a lawyer who specializes in advertising law. You can also seek guidance from the company you’re working with because it is likely they have consulted an attorney or at least have done some thoughtful research on the subject. Of course, companies get it wrong as many times as bloggers do, so if the information you are getting from your partner does not sound right, trust your gut and get another opinion.
Other Posts In this Series:
- Best Practices: Blogger Disclosure Examples and Tips
- Your Top Five Questions About Blogger Disclosures Answered
- FTC Guidelines: Are You Making The Right Blogger Disclosures?
Disclaimer: This article is intended to be a general resource only and is not intended to be nor does it constitute legal advice. Any recommendations are based on personal, not professional, opinion only. For information on how to use this site, please read our Disclaimers and FAQ pages.