The blogging community was shocked this week when the Federal Trade Commission announced on Tuesday an update of its guidelines for advertisers, which now extends into the realm of social media. In an effort to maintain full disclosure, honesty and transparency among brands and consumers, bloggers and other social network users must disclose their affiliation with a company for any product review, advertisement, or endorsement, whether it be a paid review or compensation in the form of a product. Failure to do so will result in an up to $11,000 fine for each instance.
While the FTC looks down on pay-per-posts and sees it as “payola blogging,” the majority of the Internet community sees it as social influencer marketing, or the use of bloggers to promote products and brands. Many companies develop relationships with popular figures in the blogging community, and offer products or compensation in return for a review — positive or not. However, many bloggers already disclose their relationships with companies, whether it’s by running an ad in their sidebar, or stating it directly within the post.
The Internet and blogging communities already run a “checks and balances” system, regulating themselves by holding influencers to high standards, especially if their popularity is notable. If a popular blogger failed to disclose something, and it was later found out, they would most likely face criticism by their peers, hurt their credibility and reputation, and see a significant drop in readership. Knowing the consequences beforehand is what keeps them from holding anything back. Bloggers thrive on honesty – it’s why they blog in the first place. Sharing and open communication is often what compels users to the medium in the first place.
A notable example of this comes from Chris Brogan, a well-known social media guru who, last December, faced criticism from his readers following a sponsored post he had done for Kmart. His readers and followers felt a sense of betrayal, and questioned whether he could be trusted in the future. Brogan maintained that he had fully disclosed the relationship, and that it in no way should it affect any of his past or future work. Though he most likely still lost readers, he also gained…
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