The Latest FTC Rules on Blogger Disclosures, Hashtags and More.

As more and more brands turn to mom bloggers to support and generate social content on their behalf, it’s important to understand the latest FTC guidelines. The FTC recently released an update for disclosures in digital advertising, which is really a guardrail, not an ultimatum. And if you have mom bloggers posting tweets, blog articles, Instagram photos and Facebook updates about your brand, they are digital advertisers and, as such, they need to be following the new guidelines. 

It’s all about Truth in Advertising.

In order to meet the FTC guidelines, disclosures must be “clear” and “conspicuous.” 

Here’s what you should ask advocates/influencers you engage:

– The blogger should place the disclosure at the top of the blog piece, rather than at the end of the article. It must not be buried.

– The disclosure needs to be the same size as the text in the article. No mouse type allowed. 

– Never use a color that makes it less noticeable.

– Hashtags: The FTC suggests that “Ad” at the beginning of a tweet or similar short-form message should inform consumers that the message is an advertisement and the word “Sponsored” likely informs consumers that the message was sponsored by an advertiser. The FTC also has indicated that consumers might not understand that “#spon” means that the message was sponsored by an advertiser.

The guidance, however, does not insist on any specific word or phrase for disclosure. It is not settled as to potential other options advertisers have to comply with the new FTC mandate. The guidance states that other abbreviations or icons may or may not be adequate, depending on whether they are presented clearly and conspicuously, and whether consumers understand their meaning so they are not misled. The FTC is also looking for empirical data to support other phrases. Regardless, the FTC has provided no definitive answer to the question of what specific disclosure will pass muster in the context of short-form messages.
The most conservative approach is to place the phrase “Ad” or “Sponsored” at the beginning of a tweet or similar short-form message. The FTC, however, is open to disclosures other than “Ad” and “Sponsored.” So, the guidance offers an opportunity if an advertiser is willing to explore other options. An opportunity, however, that involves a certain amount of risk. The issue becomes: how much risk do you wish to assume or, better, how best do you manage the risk in whatever solution you choose. 

– Hyperlinks for purposes of disclosure are discouraged by the guidelines.

– And although I didn’t see it covered in the FTC guidelines, I believe brands/companies that are now using testimonials from blogger in advertorials and ads also are subject to disclosure guidelines if those bloggers were compensated for their appearance and review.

The bottom line is the new rules are all about clarity and truth in advertising.

All the mom bloggers I’ve met, and I’ve met thousands, take tremendous pride in what they do. They would never write about any product they didn’t believe in or falsely advertise. Their social currency has been built on being a trusted resource. I am constantly asked, “How do you control them writing something negative about my brand?” The answer I always give is you can’t control it, but you have nothing to worry about if you make a great product backed with excellent customer service. Because they’ve built trusted relationships with the communities that follow them they are the embodiment of truth in advertising, which is why their opinions are sought by brands in the first place.

By Holly Pavlika
Holly Pavlika is SVP, Strategy for Collective Bias, focusing on content and media, and founder of MOMentumNation.
Courtesy of MediaPost

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