New FTC Guidelines Regarding Bloggers, Advertising and Endorsements

There's been a lot of buzz amongst the WAHM forums and in my email box concerning the new FTC guidelines and what they mean for the pro blogger and internet marketers. If you are a professional / pro blogger, blogging for business or blogging for profit, then I bet you are wondering How will they enforce the new FTC guidelines you ask? After reading Yaro Starak's post covering this subject, I was compelled to share my thoughts with my WAHM and mompreneur family. Well, first let me tell you that I am very happy that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has enforeced some rules that seeks to protect the consumer when they go online to purchase a products or services.  With all the "get rich quick" schemes, long-winded squeeze/landing pages and false advertising messages and promises (not to mention the testimonials you see with broken URL links and audio playbacks that don't work), finding HONEST, TRUSTWORTHY products and services with good customer service practices to back them can be difficult.

So, I went to http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2009/10/endortest.shtm, read the 12-page article but focused more on Federal Trade Commission 16 CFR Part 255 – Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising. Here are the highlights as they pertain to us online marketers:

  1. All of your endorsements must be their honest opinions, findings, beliefs, or experience.  There must be full disclosure.  So all of your testimonials, affiliate links and websites or even your before/after pictures have to full state ALL of the factors that were involved with those results.  So, you can't just say "Lose 30 pounds in 30 days… guaranteed" UNLESS this is the norm and not the exception.  Too good to be true?
  2. When you offer testimonials, it has to represent what the average experience is overall and not just the above-average or exceptional experience.  So, in other words, don't just take the best and only 2-3 positive experiences from your best clients in order to promote or sell your product/service.   AND guess what?  There have been a lot of shady Internet Marketers and for profit bloggers that were taking royalty free pictures (and not the actual photo of the person) and matching it up with their testimonials (I didn't know that). NOT honest is it?
  3. If you have affiliate products that you want to share with your fans, followers and clients, make sure that you actually use it and just simply promoting it for the sake of getting a commission check.  The FTC says this is misleading… yeah!
  4. You must disclose what your commission or compensation is for any product you offer to the public.  Even if it is a free sample that you didn't get paid for, it still has to be disclosed somewhere can be referenced by the prospect.
  5. If you have multiple websites or blogs that you are either affiliated with or own, you must also be honest about the nature of your relationship with these URLs and why you are linking to them.

There is a new product and promise everywhere you look online.  Advertisers and Internet Marketers buying lists and playing on emotions in the name of profit.  But what happens when the product breaks?  What about real customer service?  and not just a forum that takes forever to get a response? There are so many mom bloggers and online businesses that need to have full disclosure about the nature of their relationships with their affiliates and partnerships.  

So, here is my disclosure about this article and any prior or future articles that I write. I was NOT PAID to write this article but rather wanted to follow up on a question that one of my subscribers asked about this topic and what our rights are as pro blogger looking to monetize our online businesses.

Please share your thoughts and this post.  Don't forget to Subscribe to my Social Media Secrets and Tips eNewsletter at the top right of this site.  I encourage you to keep asking questions, sharing your business and your knowledge with me as well grow successful, honest and customer service driven businesses, ok?

  • jenniferg

    Thank you for covering this topic and for pulling out the pertaining mom blogger information. Really appreciate it!

  • http://drivetheline.com/ Derek Alvarez

    Thanks for sharing this info — clear, concise, and to the point — and useful!

  • http://www.promomblogger.com ProMomBlogger

    thank you so much for commenting on this topic. Its very important that we as mom bloggers and business owners be truthful and honest about our intentions. Our goals may be different (some for community, some for profit, others for fame and glory) but lets always focus on integrity.

  • http://www.promomblogger.com ProMomBlogger

    Hi there Derek. I hope that this information was useful to you.

  • http://www.yourstarrstuddedevents.com BrandiStarr

    Thanks for sharing this, I had seen the regulations and reading the document has been on my list of to-do's that I just haven't gotten to. Your description was short and sweet. I've had a couple of vendors send me samples to review, I will make sure to disclose that I was not paid for them.

  • http://www.promomblogger.com ProMomBlogger

    Hi there Brandi and thank so much for connecting with me about this topic. I am actually VERY please to see that someone is looking out for the consumer, aren't you?

    It will hopefully give those of us “honest” professionals with integrity to take advantage of communicating VALUE to our clients and customers. Not just hype and false methods of “tricking” them.

    Online shopping decisions can be tricky without a little guidance but we are slowly getting there.

    Thanks for commenting and I invite you to return and continue to share your knowledge/thoughts with me OK?

  • bull

    hye..Bull here..actually im still confuse about this FTC things. and of course i am a new marketer. and i hope you can help with this one.

    i just browse internet and find out this summary. is it true or not?
    1. dont use fake testi or old testimonial when promoting a products
    2. tell them you are going to makea profit also.
    3. or any else?

    plus..

    1. should I prompt a writen of disclosure like squidoo does? at the bottom of their pages shows “Copyright © 2010, Squidoo, LLC and respective copyright owners
    This page and all the pages on Squidoo generate income for lensmasters and charities based on affiliate relationships with our partners, including Amazon, Google, eBay and others. Have fun.”

    2. plus how about i just remove the testimonial for my affliate product that i not use at all?

    tq

  • http://www.promomblogger.com ProMomBlogger

    Hey there Bull,

    we first let me say thank you for leaving your comments and I will try my best to reply to each area of interest/concern ok?

    1.) NEVER use FAKE/FALSE/OLD testimonials when promoting your products. What you can do is “simply ask” your customers or clients to send you a review and picture (if you use this at all). That way, when the consumer does their homework and clicks on those website links or asks your for proof of your testimony (I can/does happen), you can rest assure that you've been totally honest about promoting your products and services to the public.

    2.) YES. You need to be honest about who your affiliates/partners are. I personally let all of my clients know when I speak with them about the products that I affiliate with and often tell them what my commission is. If they wanted to, the client/customer can simply click on the product site and see it for themselves so WHY lie right?

    3.) The whole point is that Honesty and Integrity will take you a long way. Internet Marketing is changing for the better as a lot of offline businesses and major Pro Bloggers are entering into article marketing and internet marketing.

    All in all, if you offer something of value, cater to the needs of your audience and provide quality content, services and aren't too salesy, you will be fine.

    About Disclosures… there should definitely be some sort of disclosure agreement somewhere on your website notifying all visitors the frequent your site that you do occasionally offer products and services that pay you and you will be totally clear and upfront about it when it occurs.

    If you have testimonials that are false, then yes, remove it.

    “Honesty is the best policy” is what I say. If your audience wants what you are selling then they will by it once you are marketing to that particular audience, and it is in line with their needs.

    hope this helps… please keep reading.

  • bull

    yes tq for complete questions. really appreciate that.

  • http://www.promomblogger.com ProMomBlogger

    Hey there Bull,

    we first let me say thank you for leaving your comments and I will try my best to reply to each area of interest/concern ok?

    1.) NEVER use FAKE/FALSE/OLD testimonials when promoting your products. What you can do is “simply ask” your customers or clients to send you a review and picture (if you use this at all). That way, when the consumer does their homework and clicks on those website links or asks your for proof of your testimony (I can/does happen), you can rest assure that you've been totally honest about promoting your products and services to the public.

    2.) YES. You need to be honest about who your affiliates/partners are. I personally let all of my clients know when I speak with them about the products that I affiliate with and often tell them what my commission is. If they wanted to, the client/customer can simply click on the product site and see it for themselves so WHY lie right?

    3.) The whole point is that Honesty and Integrity will take you a long way. Internet Marketing is changing for the better as a lot of offline businesses and major Pro Bloggers are entering into article marketing and internet marketing.

    All in all, if you offer something of value, cater to the needs of your audience and provide quality content, services and aren't too salesy, you will be fine.

    About Disclosures… there should definitely be some sort of disclosure agreement somewhere on your website notifying all visitors the frequent your site that you do occasionally offer products and services that pay you and you will be totally clear and upfront about it when it occurs.

    If you have testimonials that are false, then yes, remove it.

    “Honesty is the best policy” is what I say. If your audience wants what you are selling then they will by it once you are marketing to that particular audience, and it is in line with their needs.

    hope this helps… please keep reading.

  • bull

    yes tq for complete questions. really appreciate that.

  • http://www.promomblogger.com ProMomBlogger

    Anytime. Always here to help!