There is a lot of false information floating out there on blogland about what disclosures are and how they should work. This is a topic that’s incredibly important to both American brands and bloggers, which are both legally required to make sure the FTC guidelines are being followed correctly. If you do not follow these guidelines, you could have legal action brought against you by the FTC – scary! There’s really no reason not to do these simple steps to protect yourself.
Let’s be clear – if you ever receive monetary compensation, a free service (like dinner or a hotel), or otherwise complimentary item, you must include a disclaimer at the beginning of your post. If a brand ever asks you to not include a disclaimer, do not work with them. Start by politely explaining the FTC requirements and that they (and you) could have legal action brought against you if they don’t. If they still say no, refuse to work with them. It’s unprofessional and just not worth the risk. Disclaimers are something we take very seriously at my social media marketing job, so I know them inside and out. We tell bloggers up front that we will require disclaimers and will be unable to work with them if they don’t comply.
The basic idea behind disclosures is to make it clear to the public what content is unpaid and what is advertising. Think about it – don’t you want to know when you’re flipping through a magazine whether a mascara is loved by the editor without any financial compensation vs. sponsored by the brand? The general rule of thumb is that the disclosure must be “clear and conspicuous.”
These are the exact requirements laid out by the FTC as of 2013:
1. The disclosure must be up front at the very top or first thing in the blog post
Disclaimers must always be at the very, very top of the post before you write anything else. You are not permitted to bury it at the end of the post or put it somewhere on the side. It should always be the first thing your readers see (after the title).
2. There must be a disclosure at the front of social media posts, even if there’s a disclosure in the link
Blog posts aren’t the only type of sponsored post that require disclaimers. You absolutely must include a disclaimer at the front of your social media posts, like tweets and Facebook posts. That means you should always begin the post with the words “Ad” or “Sponsored.” Note that the FTC has specifically said that “Spon” is not good enough. You also are not permitted to put “Ad” at the end of your post. Here’s how a good tweet should look:
3. Free items sent for review count as sponsored and must include disclosures at the start of the post
Yes, if a brand sends you a free item to review, that post is still considered to be sponsored. Even if you’re sharing an entire outfit and only one item was sent to you, you must still include a disclaimer at the top of the blog post and in all of the social media posts. It is not enough to just write “c/o” next to the item name in the middle of your post.
4. Even videos must include disclosures at the beginning if an item was gifted or if the video is sponsored
If you’re lucky enough to do a sponsored YouTube video, you also must begin the video with a clear statement that the video has been sponsored or you’ve received compensation. It is not enough to include a disclaimer in the text description – it must be in the beginning of the video itself either in text form or verbally relayed.
5. It is not acceptable to asterisk, write c/o next to items, or otherwise mark posts that are compensated
As I mentioned above, when you receive a free item, it is not enough to just write “c/o” next to the item name or include an asterisk sign next to it. You must write out, clearly and at the top of the post, that you have received a free item for review or have been otherwise compensated. Sometimes bloggers say “any post that has a star next to it has been sponsored” – that is not legally acceptable according to FTC guidelines. It is also not enough to just tag the post as “sponsored.”
6. The disclosure must include the fact that they are speaking on behalf of a brand, any compensation received, and the fact that it is an honest opinion based on a real experience
You must include these three points in every disclaimer. Here are few examples of acceptable disclaimer language:
- This post has been sponsored by <brand name> but all opinions are expressed here are my own.
- I have received a complimentary pair of shoes to review from <brand name>. The opinions here are 100% mine!
- This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of <brand name>. All opinions are my own.
Have you ever written a sponsored post? Were you already aware of the FTC disclosure laws?