Mar 13, 2013

FTC Updates Disclosure Guidelines for Blogging and Tweeting

The Federal Trade Commission released new guidelines this week for better disclosure in online ads, and social media marketing. The update to the 2000 "Dotcom Disclosures" guide is primarily focused on online advertising and markers, but there are clearer guidelines for bloggers and users of sites like Twitter.

Example 21 in the updated guide takes clear aim at bloggers who get free products to review. In the example, "Katie Krafty," a wife and mother, who blogs about remodeling her fixer-upper home in Pittsburgh, is shown as an example of blogger who was not transparent.

The text accompanying the above example reads:

"The blogger in this example obtained the paint she is reviewing for free and must disclose that fact. Although she does so at the end of her blog post, there are several hyperlinks before that disclosure that could distract readers and cause them to click away before they get to the end of post. Given these distractions, the disclosure likely is not clear and conspicuous." 

So the Feds are saying that tucking away the disclosure at the end of the post after you've "paid" back the company for the free product you’re reviewing with links in the body of the post is not transparent enough. That's interesting.

Examples, 14, 15, 16 and 17 cover "space-constrained messages." And while they don't specifically call out people on Twitter, the example images look an awful lot like tweets. Paid spokespersons on Twitter who are tweeting about a product should include "Ad;" at the beginning of their tweets to succinctly disclose their financial ties.

Aside from some garden celebrities, the only spokespersons I can think of in the garden blogging world would be Proven Winners' Garden "Gurus" and Troy-Bilt's "Saturday 6." It will be interesting to see when, if, and how gardeners on Twitter who are spokespersons start complying with the FTC disclosure guidelines. 

Will the suggestions for properly disclosing product reviews make you change how you disclose your freebies? What changes will you make to your product reviews to ensure you’re being transparent? Read the rest of the updated "Dotcom Disclosures" guidelines in PDF.

Update/related: Across the pond there is an interesting discussion that is related to blogging dealing with advertisements and disclosure in garden blogging.

(Via Paid Content)


  1. Thanks for the link love :)

    This post gives much food for thought over on this side of the pond too. I've updated my post with a link to you!

    On a related note have you seen what happened with Interflora and their Google PR penalization after a particularly noticeable advertorial campaign in the UK's online press? There's much food for thought there too.

    I really must join Google+ so I can join in with your community...

    1. I did see some of what happened with that. Most of it was snark on twitter from SEO/website types who were saying Google was making the web safe from florists instead of addressing bigger spam.

      You should join G+ there are a couple of Brits who are members.

  2. Huh. Guess I'll have to title any posts "review of product I got for free" if I do reviews in the future. I think the word "ad" implies that I actually work for the company and the post may be biased. But a simple and honest review of a product is a different story, and I'm more inclined to read those. The whole thing sounds like someone is trying to be sheriff of the online wild west...good luck with that.

    1. I don't think you have to use that kind of title. I think the titles we've been using all along will be just fine. It is only in the body of the posts that we have to be more diligent.

      And the thing that gets me about these "rules" they put out is that I haven't seen anyone get punished for not following them. What's the point of having rules if there's no punishment for breaking them?


I hope you find this blog a useful garden blogging resource. Sometimes I may reply to comments with my MrBrownThumb account or I may reply with my Garden Bloggers account. Hope this isn't confusing. If you're looking for gardening information check out "Google For Gardeners"

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.