What Marketers Need to Know About the New FTC Disclosures

social media viewpointsAre you confused about the new Federal Trade Commission (FTC) disclosure rules and how they relate to your social media activities?

Do you want to know more about what you need to disclose and how to make disclosures on social media to comply with U.S. consumer laws?

In March of this year, the United States Federal Trade Commission released the first update to the .com Disclosures guide.

Here’s a look at the key points in this update relevant to social media marketers today.

cover of disclosure guide

Read the .com Disclosures guide for full details.

The Environment Has Changed

First, it’s important to understand the environment in which this guide was published.

With the first release in 2000, the .com Disclosures guide was an attempt to narrow the gray area of how marketing and advertising worked on the Internet so companies could maintain compliance with consumer protection laws.

When the initial .com Disclosures guide came out, we were breathing a heavy sigh of relief having “survived” Y2K.

There was no such thing as an iPhone (first sold in 2007), Twitter was 6 years away, MySpace was on the horizon (2003) and many were eagerly awaiting Windows XP (2001).

year 2000

A lot has changed since the year 2000. Image source: iStockPhoto.

Even more important, a lot has changed since the research that went in to creating the .com Disclosures guide was done back in the late 1990s. More than a decade of technology has come along and how we communicate now is vastly different than it was 5 years ago, let alone 13.

For the past several years, advertisers were trying to overlay new technology onto guidelines that never projected the platform. And in trying to do what’s right, there have been instances where it has all gone wrong.

Initial Observations

While the .com Disclosures guide of 2013 does reduce some confusion, it does not eliminate it entirely.

Before breaking down some of the key points, if you read the guide one thing you’ll likely notice missing is how all of this applies to nontraditional businesses. Bloggers, entrepreneurs and startups, for example, may not consider themselves digital advertisers but, in fact, many are.

what you need to know

It's important to know how this will affect your business to avoid confusion. Image source: iStockPhoto.

In addition, many of the examples presented don’t relate to how many online companies market or advertise their products or services. In my opinion, the biggest disadvantage of the update is it’s still heavily weighted toward “big company” digital advertising and does not provide much guidance for nontraditional marketing and advertising programs.

As marketing, brand, social media, PR and digital professionals, what does the 2013 .com Disclosures guide mean for you? With regard to consumer protection laws themselves, not much. With regard to how digital marketing and advertising programs are executed, there will likely need to be changes.

These Are Not Laws

The .com Disclosures guide is not definitive law. Rather, the guide is just that—a guide. For all the times you’ve wished you knew exactly what the law meant, this is your gift.

Consumer protection laws have not changed and the FTC still maintains oversight of most of those laws.

gavel

Consumer protection is to ensure the rights of consumers as well as fair trade competition and the free flow of truthful information in the marketplace. Image source: iStockPhoto.

Truth in advertising laws have applied to every aspect of web and mobile communications since the technologies were developed and as they change. There is no change in the fact that all consumer advertising and marketing must be free from deception and unfair practices.

The guide was designed to offer insight into common consumer advertising and marketing programs that seem to be of greatest concern to the FTC regulators.

They Apply to Anyone Engaged in Digital Advertising and Marketing

Since consumer protection laws apply to everyone who advertises or markets to consumers, so does the .com Disclosures guide. Compliance with the guide is voluntary; however, practices inconsistent with the information provided in the guide can be the basis of corrective action taken by the FTC.

While the FTC has specifically stated that they are not monitoring blogs, websites or individual social platforms, the agency is fielding thousands of consumer complaints daily.

A one-off inconsistent blog post won’t likely be enough to draw the agency’s attention, but a pattern of noncompliance by bloggers may trigger an investigation of a brand’s or agency’s practices.

If you’re working with a brand or agency, pushing their message on your website (whether paid or not), appropriate disclosure will be expected. As a digital marketing or advertising professional, it will be of significant importance to ensure all programs with third parties include appropriate disclosures.

One example in the guide (Example 21) included a sponsored blog post and specifically noted that the blogger, while including a disclosure, should have placed her disclosure differently.

ftc example

The FTC considers that this blogger should have made the disclosure more obvious. See the Examples section at the end of the .com Disclosures guide for all examples.

While bloggers may be required to place a disclosure in accordance with laws related to endorsement and testimonial advertising, clearly the FTC is including bloggers in this new guide as well.

Automating Social Messages May Need Reconsideration

There are various schools of thought about automating social engagement, but those who use some form of automation will need to review how it’s used and, if necessary, what changes may be needed.

The FTC has made it very clear that the inability of a platform to allow for an appropriate disclosure does not excuse the need for disclosure.

Hashtags Are Not Necessary

While hashtags allow for easier searching on some platforms, the FTC has not specifically said hashtag use would or would not make a disclosure compliant.

The hashtag is used by many across platforms. Some platforms are adding hashtag trackability. Others are removing it.

The FTC wants to focus on the message, and adding “#” before a word, in their view, is not necessary.

Is it helpful for the brand? Maybe. But remember, the FTC’s focus is consumer protection.

Character-Restricted Platforms Must Still Have Disclosures

The FTC has clearly stated that if your advertising message and disclosure cannot both be made in the limited number of characters, then that medium may not be appropriate.

The goal of the disclosure is to allow consumers to understand that what they will be reading or clicking on is an advertisement, is sponsored, or involves some type of business relationship that may have influenced the information provided.

In Example 15 of the guide, using the words “ad” or “sponsored” may be sufficient if provided BEFORE the message.

full disclosure

You must make full disclosure obvious on all social platforms. See the Examples section at the end of the .com Disclosures guide for all examples.

For disclosures that are lengthy or unable to fit in a space-constrained platform along with the message, the advertiser may link to a website where the disclosure is clear and conspicuously displayed.

The Disclosure Must Be Clear and Conspicuous

As with all truth in advertising laws, the consumer must know he or she is being sold to before reading something or taking action to purchase. And keep in mind that the advertising or marketing message may require more than one disclosure.

When it comes to digital advertising, there are many variables that play into how a message is delivered. Sites are optimized for different browsers, mobile devices vary in size, apps use different interfaces and yet the exact same information may be shown.

How consumers see the information may impact their ability to determine the truthfulness of the message.

All disclosures should be:

  1. Proximate to the information so the consumer does not have to hunt for it
  2. Of at least the same size as the message
  3. In the same format as the message
  4. Accessible on all platforms used
  5. Understandable by the consumer

Check out the full text of the .com Disclosures guide to find out all of the suggestions provided.

Be mindful of technology limitations or quirks.

mobile constrained image

Many consumers hate pop-ups, so they install blockers on their browser. There are some mobile operating systems that do not read certain scripts. And there are apps that may have limitations depending on whether they are free or paid.

Despite all of these unique characteristics of technology, digital advertisers and marketers must ensure their disclosures are seen by consumers. It is the responsibility of the advertiser to ensure that all providers (be it their own website, social media platforms or blogs) are capable of including an appropriate disclosure.

If a disclosure is included in hover text but a consumer can’t see hover text on a mobile device, this will not be considered a meaningful disclosure. Disclosures that are on subsequent pages on some mobile devices but not on others need to be standardized so consumers aren’t forced to hunt for them.

Advertisers Are Responsible for Ensuring the Disclosure

In today’s online media, it’s not uncommon to find advertising and marketing promotions driven by social media shares or blog posts. While many brand and PR reps want to respect the authenticity of the hired influencer, the fact remains that the advertiser (the brand, the PR company, the digital agency, etc.) will most likely be held responsible if the FTC determines consumer protections were missing and corrective action is necessary.

Bloggers are often unsure what, if any, disclosure is required. Since the consequence will likely fall to the advertiser, the advertiser (whether it is the brand, the PR company, the digital agency, or the like) should feel comfortable providing guidance to any and all parties and platforms about what disclosure may be required and where the disclosure will need to go.

If you want to use a hyperlink for your disclosure, take the time to read pages 10-13 of the guide and seek legal counsel to ensure your link will be deemed adequate.

Don’t Just Link to a Disclosure

How many of you have ever clicked on a disclosure link at the bottom of a website? How many have seen a graphic at the bottom of a page you were reading and had no idea what it really meant?

In an effort to be compliant, companies have formed to “help” brands, online companies and bloggers meet FTC disclosure requirements.

Unfortunately, for the average consumer, these custom links or graphics are not meaningful disclosures. If you, an online professional, aren’t always sure what something like http://discl.se/Level6 would mean, then neither does the average consumer.

insufficient disclosure

You can find this example of insufficient disclosure in the .com Disclosures guide.

This is not to say hyperlinks to a disclosure page are always inappropriate. In certain circumstances, such as when a lengthy disclosure is necessary or the disclosure is not integral to the claim, a hyperlink to a disclosure may be acceptable.

For most circumstances that trigger a disclosure, a hyperlink may not sufficiently alert the consumer to information needed to make an informed decision if the link is not accessed.

Relying on hyperlinked disclosures requires the consumer to be sufficiently educated to know they must click for important information.

Read the Guide to Understand “What” Disclosures to Use and “Where” to Put Them

Overall, the 2013 .com Disclosures guide provides insight into what an FTC investigator may be looking for when evaluating digital advertising and marketing programs, claims and promotions.

The FTC recognizes technology is continuously changing. However, enforcement will continue to be scrutinized using traditional criteria, which may not wholly translate to these new and innovative platforms.

While the guide provides detailed insight, what it is clearly lacking is the “when.” It contributes greatly to the “what” and “where” with regard to disclosures, but still leaves advertisers and marketers searching for clear guidance on exactly when one is required to disclose.

What are your thoughts on the new updates to the FTC .com Disclosures guide? Will it make your job easier? Do you think it will be helpful in creating programs for online influencers or working with brand/PR reps as an online influencer? Leave your questions and comments in the box below.

Disclosure: While Sara Hawkins is an attorney, this article is for informational purposes only and is not to be considered legal advice. If you are in need of legal advice, please consult legal counsel.

Images from iStockPhoto.

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About the Author, Sara Hawkins

Sara Hawkins is a lawyer, blogger and doer. No longer happy waiting for someday to find her, she's finding ways to make her somedays happen. Other posts by »




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  • http://www.EntrepreneurOnFire.com/ John Lee Dumas

    It’s great that online marketers will finally have a revised and updated guideline to follow. Thanks for a very informative post Sara.

    Keep rockin SME peeps!

    ~John Lee Dumas

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  • Cara Barone

    I agree with John, while there are still a lot of gray areas…we need some definite do’s and dont’s. Thanks for sharing!

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  • http://markfrisk.com/ Mark Frisk

    Thanks for this detailed overview of the revised FTC guidelines. Lots of gray areas for sure. A WSJ blog post in March centered around the sample tweet from “JuliStarz,” a fictitious celebrity promoter, which is cited here. The post offered a re-write of the tweet that would bring it into conformance with FTC guidelines. Notably, the re-write no longer had room for a link, which kind of defeats the purpose of the tweet, in my opinion.

    The FTC’s sample tweet is ill-considered from the get-go. Why would someone include in a tweet a link to a DISCLOSURE, instead of to the brand or product being promoted? Makes no sense whatsoever.

    All things considered, requiring in-tweet disclosures, as well as “statement of fact” language, are absolute non-starters when it comes to tweets.

    http://blogs.wsj.com/corporate-intelligence/2013/03/12/paid-tweeters-beware-the-ftc-is-watching/

  • Dara Khajavi

    Thanks for explaining! These guidelines needed to established. Advertising has guidelines and laws. It is about time that digital media and social media did too.

  • http://twitter.com/MCOAonline Telain Ware

    This information is extremely relevant to all marketers today….because everyone should have integrated some digital marketing and advertising into their mix.

  • Becca

    Thanks for making sense of this, Sara! I feel like I have a better grasp of the new guidelines.

  • mymarketer

    I am curious how this impacts SEO and paid backlinks. For years it has been against Google’s guidelines because of how backlinks skew their results. I am sure there can be a strong argument now that paid backlinks are a violation of U.S. consumer protection laws. I know this is not a social media concern, but social and seo are so intertwined that it is important to consider.

  • Geri Lafferty

    So whenever I write a Tweet with a link to a promotion I must disclose that it’s an ad? Isn’t “ad” going to be the Number 1 term now on Google? Or is that only when I “might” receive compensation “if” the reader makes a purchase? How does this differ from the affiliate disclosure we are asked to show in the past?

  • David Epstein

    Is there mention if these rules apply to U.S. companiese, companies whose goods or services are used in the U.S ( if so, how would they litigate against a foriegn co.), foriegn companies with U. S. direction or some other definition?

  • http://BillVick.com/ BillVick

    I question that these guidelines will really protect us from ourselves and are yet another cost the consumer will ultimately pay more for thanks to the nanny state mentality.

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  • http://twitter.com/MomsGetReal MomsGetReal

    Sara, thanks so much for breaking this down!
    I have a question that I hope you can answer. I operate a popular mom blog. When I do product reviews or giveaways, I clearly and conspicuously state that the products were provided, etc.
    BUT, lately I’ve been getting requests by the dozen from people who want to submit guest posts. They say they aren’t being compensated, but every blog includes a link back to a company of some kind. The content is often very good and useful to my readers, but I worry that I’m somehow violating the rules by allowing these links.
    If I say at the end of the post that the blog was written on behalf of whatever company, will that be enough to protect me, or should I ditch the guest bloggers altogether?

  • http://twitter.com/SaraFHawkins Sara Hawkins

    Thanks @JohnLeeDumas:disqus. Appreciate the kind words.

  • http://twitter.com/SaraFHawkins Sara Hawkins

    @twitter-68980980:disqus you’re welcome. So many people often lament that they don’t know what an FTC investigator is looking for but now we have a little peek into what the agency is using as a baseline. It may not be prefect but it is a good start.

  • http://twitter.com/SaraFHawkins Sara Hawkins

    @google-386442252cb2e87d914f3b0f5cb967cb:disqus my pleasure. It’s a bit overdue, but I think there was a belief by some that traditional advertising laws and guidelines applied to digital and social media, while others in the digital/social space thought (and often still do) traditional media laws/guidelines don’t apply to them. It was this difference of opinion that has lead to the FTC clearly stating that digital and social media are included in all laws and guidelines designed to protect consumers from deceptive and/or misleading information.

  • http://twitter.com/SaraFHawkins Sara Hawkins

    Thanks, Telain.

  • http://twitter.com/SaraFHawkins Sara Hawkins

    Glad you found it helpful, Becca. Thanks for taking time to comment.

  • http://twitter.com/SaraFHawkins Sara Hawkins

    David, the FTC has jurisdiction over US-based companies as well as foreign corporations under the FTC Act. The Act give the agency jurisdiction over cross-border consumer transactions, and the agency works closely with law enforcement and governmental agencies around the world. There are some countries that are not fully cooperative with the FTC is pursuing consumer fraud, but that is to be expected.

  • http://twitter.com/SaraFHawkins Sara Hawkins

    BillVick, many have that same feeling. However, the reason for governmental regulation is often because industries are unable (or unwilling) to self-regulate. The FTC is tasked with protecting consumers in the US, many of whom are part of vulnerable populations.

  • http://twitter.com/SaraFHawkins Sara Hawkins

    Paul, I think we see this in the FTC Endorsement Guides with the requirement for disclosure of affiliate links. Compensated links, whether through direct payment, affiliate links, or sponsored content, are included in the FTC laws related to disclosure of information provided due to a material relationship with the endorsor and the company/brand/pr agency.

    I don’t think the FTC took into consideration the SEO aspect, but on both the Endorsement Guides and the Dot Com Disclosures there was an extensive public comment period in which many organizations weighed in on a multitude of scenarios. It’s quite possible the SEO aspect was mentioned.

  • http://twitter.com/SaraFHawkins Sara Hawkins

    Geri, you’ve picked up on one of the nuances connecting the Dot Com Disclosures with the Endorsement Guides. There is overlap between the two, which you’ve recognized. Usage of “AD” in tweets is not limited to those containing links to a promotion. “AD” is used in a multitude of situations where truthfulness about the information could be questioned.

    After 50+ years of television, we’re educated as to what an advertisement is. However, even within advertisements there are additional disclosures (ex., “paid endorser”, “results not typical”) because consumers may not be aware that these things are used to sell to them.

    With digital marketing, sales, and advertising it’s not easy to know when we’re being sold to and when it’s just someone saying something authentically. The line between paid content and unsolicited opinion is very blurry.

    While the application of truth in advertising laws to the digital space may seem a natural extension, for a great many it’s not. And consumers may not realize that in the digital space those “helpful” people giving “free” information may actually be paid content providers. And consumers may not be able to discern an “I love ABC Company’s widget” from you as authentic because you really love it from someone else who was paid to promote ABC Company as the prime widget maker.

    Although you and I may be savvy digital consumers, the fact is that a vast majority of the consuming public is not. And it’s those people who are at a high risk of being mislead that these guidelines and laws are targeted.

  • http://www.devdigital.com/ Dev Digital

    Excellent post Sara, I am very happy to read this. This is the kind of info that needs to be given and not the random misinformation. Already bookmarked your blog for future references.

  • http://twitter.com/SaraFHawkins Sara Hawkins

    Mark, there are a variety of scenarios in which a link to a longer disclosure would be more appropriate than to a home or product-specific page. Before a person buys, or is offered the opportunity to buy, there may be important information that must be considered first. And if that information can’t be included in a space-constrained medium then a link to the disclosure is better than a link to a page that won’t provide the necessary information.

    The full discussion about hyperlinks in the Dot Com Disclosures (update) is under Section C(1)(b) and is quite thorough. But it comes down to the fact that if you can’t fit information requiring a lengthy disclosure and the associated disclosure on the space-constrained platform then maybe that is the wrong platform for the message.

    Adding all the disclosure language to tweets may be non-starters, for a number of reasons. If the tweet is no longer capable of sending the intended message because it’s now highly qualified, then sharing this information on Twitter may not be appropriate. We’re at a very early stage in consumer education and just like when TV ads first aired there will be quite a learning curve to get the average digital consumer up to speed.

  • http://twitter.com/SaraFHawkins Sara Hawkins

    Thanks, Dev Digital. The reason I write these types of articles is because I hate that there is so much misinformation out there and that’s not helpful to the people/businesses that find it thinking it’s correct. Running a small business and being an entrepreneur is a lot of work, and I know most don’t have a legal department at their beck and call, so I do what I can to offer useful and valuable information.

  • http://twitter.com/SaraFHawkins Sara Hawkins

    Disclosure needs to be before any paid and/or sponsored content. If a guest post is primarily used to promote a company/product and you are being paid by the guest poster it is no longer a guest post but a sponsored post written by an employee or representative of the company/product. That information should be clearly and conspicuously stated before the article begins. If there are affiliate links included, the up-front disclosure should state they are. If the links are just backlinks to the company/product and there is no compensation to you for clicking/buying (basically it’s not an affiliate link) the up-front disclosure that the post is written by an employee/rep of the company would likely be sufficient.

    The links, however, must be “nofollow” because the links are part of paid content and are likely only there because the company is building it’s backlink portfolio. The “nofollow” requirement is from Google and without it there is a risk of the target company being delisted by Google.

    You should let the company/guest poster know up front that any links will be “nofollow”, because if they are legit they’ll already know that and won’t balk. If they’re just trying to build backlinks to a site they won’t like it.

    Another thing, if you are not being paid and are just allowing this guest to write for you there is a strong argument the links can be follow links. I still believe it’s important to put the disclosure up front letting your readers know that the author is an employee or representative of the company/product they are talking about, if that is the case.

    Hope this helps.

  • http://socialmediadiyworkshop.com/ Charlene (@SocialMediaDIY)

    Great article, Sara. Just last week, I added an item to my to-do list to make sure I was in compliance in revealing affiliate links in my updated website. I appreciate the way you broke this down and pointed out their intentions. I’m going to take a long look at this. I’d rather err on the side of caution. And I do my best to run a transparent business as well. Thanks for the help!

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  • tonydbaker

    Disclosures are important, but ultimately it looks like enforcement will be based primarily on the level of complaints that are received. To this day there are still radio commercials that are designed to sound like a news broadcasts, without the hefty “paid programming” disclosure you see before television infomercials designed to look like news.

  • Joe Sandy

    Tried to pin from your Pinterest link but I’m getting a “sorry, no image found” message.

  • http://twitter.com/SaraFHawkins Sara Hawkins

    Hi Charlene, so happy it was timely for you and provided you with the information you need to run your business as best you can.

  • http://www.karenkefauver.com/ KarenKefauver

    Loved the info, great comments on the post, and appreciated your article concluded with its own disclaimer! “Disclosure: While Sara Hawkins is an attorney, this article is for informational purposes only and is not to be considered legal advice. If you are in need of legal advice, please consult legal counsel.”

  • Geri Lafferty

    Thank you for the great explanation/response.

  • Sharon Kay

    For me, affiliate links are a nice bonus, but really have nothing to do with what I say about the product. I work for my readers, not for the people whose products I review. I’ve said as much in a page on my blog and in a sidebar that shows up on each blog page, but reading this makes me think that will be inadequate.

    The challenge I see is in creating readable prose while still having the necessary disclosures for affiliate links. The first solution that comes to mind is to get rid of in-line links altogether. E.g., where I’d normally say
    …this product integrates well with _link to other product_ …
    I really don’t want to say
    …this product integrates well with _link to other product_ (this is an affiliate link)…

    That’s just clunky.

    It would be a little less clunky to have all the links at the top, bottom, in a sidebar, or in a pull-quote. In that list they’d be labeled whether they are affiliate links or not, and if they are the word “affiliate” would link to the page with my philosophy on affiliate links and a brief description of what affiliate links are.

    I’d love to hear other people’s opinions of that approach.

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  • http://twitter.com/SaraFHawkins Sara Hawkins

    Tony, you’re absolutely right. A great deal of enforcement is based on consumer complaint, although FTC investigators are online for their own personal reasons and something may catch their attention.

  • http://twitter.com/SaraFHawkins Sara Hawkins

    Thanks for letting me know you found the article helpful. It’s important to provide good information, but I don’t want to mislead anyone into thinking they’re getting legal advice because there are so many “howevers” when it comes to each specific set of facts. Thank you for taking time to comment.

  • http://twitter.com/SaraFHawkins Sara Hawkins

    Sharon, there are a number of different ways to disclose affiliate in compliance with these new guidelines and the endorsement guides. I’ve seen people include a statement at the beginning of a post that “all included links are affiliate links” and link to what affiliate links are. I have also seen where bloggers do use “affiliate link” in a parenthetical after the link and it does not look clunky or distracting. As a matter of fact, one blogger I know said she saw an increase in her affiliate clicks and income after she started adding the “affiliate link” parenthetical disclosure.

    It’s a learning curve and you might have to do some testing to see what works best on your blog with your readers. The challenge is that there is no one right way to add the disclosures. Having an absolute would make it easier, but would lack some of the authenticity and natural language the FTC is still trying to ensure.

  • Sharon Kay

    Thank you so much, Sara! This had been bothering me, and the post and especially your reply to my question really help.

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  • http://www.seansupplee.com/ Sean Supplee

    With the US law there are always gray areas. They are changing them and making these laws so broad in some cases that it’s hard to figure out if your ever really in the clear or not. This guide does help clear up some things though.

    However even with all of this gray area I am glad they stepped in a bit. The amount of scam and just flat out lies going on a few years ago was unreal. I just hope they don’t keep pushing more and more laws that ends up hurting business growth for the legitimate ones.

  • http://twitter.com/SaraFHawkins Sara Hawkins

    Sean, it’s always the scammers that make it difficult for the ones trying to do it right. The low barriers to entry in the online marketing space make it quite attractive to those who have no intention of following the laws. Also, the fluidity of the web makes it easy for those outside of reach to push their scams and misleading programs on vulnerable populations world-wide.

    But, as long as enough people stay vigilant the good guys will always win out!

  • gerri50

    One big question I have with regards to FTC disclosures is;

    I am not based in the U.S. but I promote a number of products and services from companies based in the U.S. Do I still need to comply with these laws?

  • http://twitter.com/SaraFHawkins Sara Hawkins

    @gerri50:disqus Gerri, the FTC does have jurisdiction beyond the US Borders through treaties and agreements with other countries. While the FTC often does not seek enforcement against individual people, it’s not out of the question that they have that right.

    The FTC guidelines are an excellent source of “best practices” that attempt to raise the bar for all online marketing, advertising, sales, and business transactions. It is your choice whether to comply with the FTC rules and guideliens, however, for many businesses it just makes good sense.

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  • gerri50

    Hey Sara,

    Thanks for responding to my question. One more thing just came to mind, you say that the guidelines are a source of “best practice” which does make sense. With regards to someone in my case, I have received emails from some advertisers who stipulate that when promoting their products/services, the association between us must be disclosed. There are a few more who I work with who have not made such requests.

    This takes me back to the original question I asked and the answer you gave, is there a place where I can get information on the countries that the FTC has treaties and agreements with?

  • Hanh Bui

    hi Sara, thanks for writing this post – I’m an ex-solicitor turned blogger/affiliate marketer, living in Australia but marketing globally, so it’s been a bit daunting understanding whether I’m breaching any laws running my business (in addition to learning the ropes of marketing online). I’ve bookmarked this page for future reference and have shared it socially to spread the word to other business owners. Thanks again.

  • http://sarafhawkins.com/ Sara F. Hawkins

    @gerri50:disqus you can find out more about the FTC’s international reach from their website. Please take out the spaces – http://www. ftc. gov/oia/ index. shtml

  • http://sarafhawkins.com/ Sara F. Hawkins

    @hanhbui:disqus thank you for your nice comment. Glad you’re finding this information helpful and worth sharing with others.

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  • Paula Miller

    HI Sarah, thanks for a great breakdown.

    Quick question. If I put an author box at the top of each post/page or under my header that states: “This site contains affiliate links. Purchasing through these links supports this blog and my family (without costing you anything). Thanks!”

    Will this qualify or do I need to place (affiliate link) before or after each link?

    Thanks!

  • http://sarafhawkins.com/ Sara F. Hawkins

    According to the FTC this would not be sufficient because a reader would not know which links were sending them to an affiliate and which were not.

  • http://Amongstlovelythings.com/ Sarah

    My understanding was that disclosure links had to be before or right next to the affiliate link. Is that your understanding too? Can we place affiliate disclosures at the end of our posts, instead of at the beginning?

  • http://Amongstlovelythings.com/ Sarah

    My understanding was that disclosure links had to be before or right next to the affiliate link. Is that your understanding too? Can we place affiliate disclosures at the end of our posts, instead of at the beginning?

  • Jamie Pison

    Doing that could also be against your affiliates TOS. I had a similar one on my site that stated I only used the money to improve my site and for possible giveaway’s in the future and had my affiliate program ended. I had to reapply because they said you cannot offer incentives to your followers to use your affiliate links. I was just being honest and not trying to offer any incentives but they told me to use their disclaimer which is worded perfectly so you don’t end up violating their TOS. So be careful with your dislaimers. You could lose all money in your affiliate account.

  • Jamie Pison

    Can I ask you a question? I am building a website and plan to use affiliate links. It’s a book review site and I buy all of my books, I don’t accept free books and even when I do ARC’s I always go back and buy the book on release date but I plan on putting a disclaimer on my site. What I’m wanting to know is how should I do on my business Facebook page or fan page? Should I just include (affiliate link) after or before every post or do I also need a link to a disclaimer or a link to somewhere explaining what affiliate links are? I just have no idea how to do it on Facebook.

  • Jamie Pison

    It doesn’t help that I can’t even edit any posts I make on facebook with affiliate links so I can’t even go back and edit in (affiliate link) now. Should I maybe put a disclaimer at the very top underneath where it says My Website right under my banner or header?

  • http://sarafhawkins.com/ Sara F. Hawkins

    @Amongstlovelythings:disqus from the FTC, disclosure must be before the post so the reader knows that what they are about to read was written due to some type of business relationship. The FTC’s position is that disclosure at the end of a post does not provide a reader with sufficient information to decide if they wish to proceed before they read something.

  • http://sarafhawkins.com/ Sara F. Hawkins

    NOTE: For informational purposes only, not intended as legal advice

    @jamiepison:disqus if the affiliate link is in your post the disclosure should be on your post when you use the affiliate link. If you receive a free book that should be disclosed as early in the post as possible. With regard to Facebook, if you’re asking a reader to click on a link that is required due to a business relationship or for which you have a material relationship with the business/person and are posting for that reason a disclosure should be provided prior to click. The FTC guidelines suggest using the word “AD” but there are many other ways to make the disclosure in your own voice as well.

  • Pingback: From Around The Web: The Skinny On FTC Guidelines And Brand Ambassadors | The Upward Word

  • chris

    Ive been watching tv all my life. Ive never seen a disclosure about how the tv show im watching was paid to wear brand name clothes or wete given clthes for free in order to influence the public. If it was ive never seen it.

  • http://fashiondiy.co.uk elesteLONDON

    This is actually very useful even a year on so thank you for putting it all together I can now see who follows and who breaks the rules and yes the ones that don’t follow guidelines are quite often the links you open to an article to be confronted with something else…







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