Sunday, May 29, 2011

Blogging Tips- FTC & Facebook Regulations & Guidelines for Normal People to Understand

If you have been blogging for any period of time you know that it isn't an easy job, and yes I said JOB.  We, bloggers, work very hard on our sites!  I know I work over 40 hours a week sometimes just to make sure everything is just right.  You really need to put a lot of time in effort into your site to make it perfect.  There's more to blogging than just writing up a few posts!  There's research, communicating with other bloggers, sponsors, contributors, or maybe the other people you have working with you on the site and those things take up a lot of time.  By the end of the day, I am exhausted!  Not to mention we have ALOT of rules to follow.  One thing I've noticed recently is some bloggers either, don't know or understand  these rules and regulations or they just don't think that they apply to them.  So I wanted to write up a post and explain as much as I can about FTC and the new Facebook Rules and Regulations so that it's a little more clear and you won't have to worry about getting your Facebook Fan Pages shut down or worse, getting fined by the FTC!


Let's start with the FTC shall we? 


The FTC or Federal Trade Commission isn't just monitoring TV and radio anymore, they're all over the internet tracking websites, blogs, online stores and anything you can find online. 


Bloggers
 Bloggers are aware that you must comply with FTC regulations which state that you must disclose in each blog post if you received any kind of compensation for your post or a product in exchange for your review since the product is considered a form of compensation. According to the Federal Trade Commission Website, "The post of a blogger who receives cash or in-kind payment to review a product is considered an endorsement. Thus, bloggers who make an endorsement must disclose the material connections they share with the seller of the product or services.  And a paid endorsement - like any other advertisement - is deceptive if it makes false or misleading claims."  In other words as long as you've been putting a disclaimer on the end of your advertising posts you should be fine, if not then listen up!  You should be posting disclosures at the end of reviews, giveaways, and sponsored posts. Now the FTC has never said specifically what you need to write as your disclosure so I usually write something along the lines of, "I was given this product for free for the purpose of a review please see the rest of my disclosure policy in the Contact Me section of my site."  If it's a sponsored post than you could write something like, "This is a sponsored post, the opinions in this post are mine and unbiased."  It's usually a good idea to have a separate page dedicated entirely to your disclosure policies or at least have a separate page with that information on it, that way you don't have to write out a long disclosure policy at the end of each post.  There are a few websites online you can go to that you can provide a few basic facts and it will write up an entire disclosure policy for you in seconds.  I use a wonderful site called Disclosure Policy.Org and it's quick, easy and free.  Another fun fact that's good to know, if you are using a product, shampoo for example, and you experience results not typical for that product you must still state the typical results someone can get from using that product.  A typical "results will vary" clause just won't cut it.  So if you are reviewing the shampoo and it makes your hair turn green, if you choose to write about how it turned your hair green you must still write the typical results of the shampoo. (i.e. softer hair, thicker hair, etc..)  
I have heard that Google frowns upon paid posts, so much in fact that they have hit some sites with penalties that have too many sponsored posts.   Now don't quote me or anything but from what I've heard around the blogosphere as well as from a few of my tweeps, Google doesn't like it when you post sponsored posts on your site.  I heard of someone that had a company ask her to take down a post they had her publish, and yes it was a paid post.  They told her, "Sadly, my website has just been hit with a Google penalty and my best guess is that is was due to the large number of sponsored posts.  I'm truly sorry to be a bother but the penalty has killed our business."  A few other companies have asked her and  bloggers like her to reword it somehow to still comply with FTC regulations but take out the part about "paid sponsorship." So what in the world is a blogger to do?!  A few bloggers have come up with an ingenious idea of using paid sponsorship buttons.  These buttons disclose to your readers that your post or publication is a sponsored post (aka. paid for) without having to come right out and actually say it.  They're also help companies and bloggers avoid being penalized by Google, this includes penalties and PR rank.  Sponsored post buttons disclose for you without you having to type it in, which is a big plus to companies and sponsors.  I found a few really cute ones online and you can search for a few yourself or even make one!  Some companies even provide you with these buttons when they ask you to write a sponsored post for them. (Sponsored Post buttons curtosy of Little Yayas.)






Social Networking
Now here's something most people don't realize.  The FTC regulates you even when you're on your social networking sites.  So besides having to deal with Facebook's new promotion policies (I will explain in a second) you also need to keep an eye on what you say on your Facebook and Twitter pages as well.  So for instance, if you were working for Bob's Fish Mart and became a fan of theirs on Facebook or tweet about how much you love Bob's selection of fish and fish supplies, make sure everyone knows that you work for Bob because it's against FTC regulations for you to keep that information to yourself.


Facebook
As most of you have heard, Facebook recently updated their promotion and contest regulations again.  They're making it harder and harder for small business and bloggers to use Facebook and they're driving us away!  To find the newest rules you can visit their website, HERE.  Basically Facebook's newest changes to their Promotion Guidelines haven't changed much from the last time.  It's pretty common sense stuff when it comes down to it and yet I see bloggers every single day holding "flash giveaways" and announcing giveaway winners on their Facebook pages and it just blows my mind!  These bloggers are not beginners by any means!  These people have thousands of followers and alot to lose if Facebook were to catch them.  The penalties are harsh if Facebook catches you breaking the rules!  They can and will shut down your Facebook fan pages, sometimes just for a few hours or days but if you continue to break the rules they will shut it down for good.  For those of you unfamiliar with the guidelines I will list a few of the more important ones below.

  • Promotions must be administered by a third party site and through an opt-in application developed specifically for the promotion.  Such as Apps on Facebook.com
  • Promotions on Facebook must include a complete release by each entrant or participant, acknowledgement that the promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or associated with Facebook and disclosure that the participant is providing information to the company holding the promotion not Facebook.
  • You must not use Facebook features or functuality as a promotion's registration or entry mechanism.  So in other words you can't use "liking" someone or ""checking into somewhere" as the entry into your giveaway on Facebook.  On blogs, you can't use use "liking" someones Facebook page as the mandatory entry of a giveaway.Y
  • You must not notify winners through Facebook, such as Facebook messages, chat or posts on profiles.
While it is a little more difficult now to hold promotions with Facebook, it's not impossible!  You simply stick to announcing winners on your site, keep your Facebook and Twitter follow entries to your "extra entry" section and you won't have to worry about losing your Facebook Fan Page!  


Remember if you have any tips about FTC Regulations or about Facebook just comment below!



All of the opinions and interpretations in this post are mine.  For my full disclosure policy please see the Contact Me section of my site.

4 comments:

  1. Great tips, thanks for sharing!

    heyimamy.blogspot.com

    Any advice for my blog?

    xoxo, amy

    ReplyDelete
  2. Great post! This is all certainly helpful to me!

    I'm a new follower from the Super Sunday Stalker Blog Hop! Following you on GFC and Twitter. Please stop on by and follow me at http://www.mommydigger.com and say hello :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. This is a really good post for helping to sort everything out.

    I'm stopping by from this week's Super Stalker Sunday hop! Thanks for participating! I hope you'll join us again next week and I hope you'll stop by and visit me if you haven't already!
    Mariah, Formula Mom

    ReplyDelete
  4. I was just partaking in the ‘Relax and Surf’ blog hop that is being hosted by Rylie and Bryce Too. I noticed your blog and thought I would stop by.

    Blimey, I didn't realise how sponsored posts were dealt with by Google - seriously, they de-rank your site? It's a good job that no-one is willing to pay for me to blog! He he!

    Anyway, I am now following you – it would be cool if you could come and visit me at my place too!

    http://www.thedayafteryesterday.co.uk/

    ReplyDelete

 
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