BLOGGER'S GUIDE TO CONTRACTS, AFFILIATE LINKS & SPONSORED POSTS
So you have a blog/website/online presence and you're doing well. In fact, you have become quite the influencer and people are starting to take notice. Business and people are reaching out to you and want you to promote their products, brand, image, you get my drift. Or, perhaps you have honed your craft and now offer one-on-one coaching or services. Well, you need to protect yourself and your clients from what may go wrong down the road.
1. Client Agreement (Contract).
A client agreement or contract is the legal documents that sets forth the term & conditions of the relationship you have with the client or perhaps other business you are working with. You may not know it, but you pretty much agree to these every time you sign into Facebook or even the ticket to your local concert. But, it is so important to have one if you are offering any kind of service, coaching or class.
The agreement should set forth the program or course you are offering; expectations; cost and payment structure; refund/cancellation policy; governing law and dispute resolution; define any crucial terms; protect any IP rights; and be signed by both parties. This agreement can pretty much contain whatever you want as long as it does so within the confines of the law of the jurisdiction where you run your business.
2. Affiliate Links.
So, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) provides guidelines for endorsements and affiliate links. The FTC is the governing body for anything related to advertising and marketing (i.e., affiliate marketing and links).
The FTC Act is concerned with endorsements that are made on behalf of a sponsoring advertiser. So, of you are paid by or given something for free to mention a product, you must disclose this! If you receive free products or other perks with the expectation that you will promote or discuss the product or item on your blog, you must disclose this! Even if you sign up to receive free samples as part of networking marketing program, you must disclose this!
The point is, if you receive something or review something or mention it on your blog, website, facebook or Instagram because you received something of value in exchange, you need to disclose it. This is to protect the consumer.
The FTC wants consumers to know that the information they are getting is from a source that is either paid or unpaid. It is all about fairness and openness. It also about whether the credibility of the endorsement is at issue. So, if you have any relationship, connection or financial obligation to a company that you tag, promote, write about, etc... you are subject to the FTC Acts and need to disclose the relationship.
Now, if you are simply a lover of products or brands and have no relationship to them other than you like them, tag, blog, post away at your leisure. Target lover? Tagging Target is ok. Lululemon obsessed, tag that stuff without fear. But the moment you have gained or something to gain by recommending, posting about, tagging something, someone or somewhere, you are obligated to let your audience know.
You can find out more on about the FTC guidelines for endorsements here.
3. What Do I Need to Say?
So you were given a free product by XYZ to review. What do you need to say to comply with the FTC? You can simply say you were paid, or received the product for free. And the disclaimer must be conspicuous. Yup, that means you cannot bury it in the depths of the post or for Instagram way down at the bottom where someone has to click "more" to see that. And a one time "many of the products I review are free" does not work either. The whole point is to allow your audience to judge the credibility of the post or information based on how you acquired the item.
I know, its a lot to handle and cover. But, do not fear. Chances are if you just let your readers know at the top of the post the general info, you are covered.
If you want to know more, I am going to be offering a FREE Live webinar and Q&A at the end of the month. I will cover more topics and more in dept, including how you may considered a public figure and can be sued for what you say on your social media platforms. Look for more information coming soon!