Five ways to be a responsible blogger…

To be a responsible blogger, or not to be…

In a rather timely post, it was reported in the news recently that a number of celebrities and influencers in USA have been criticised. What for? Well, their lack of transparency on social media.  The Federal Trade Commission targeted a number of marketing agencies and individuals asking them to clearly identify when they are promoting products. This is specifically on Instagram, in return for money.

And lets be clear about this, they aren’t on the breadline. In fact Forbes (click here)  recently reported that some influencers can earn $300,000 from a YouTube video.

On this side of the pond, we’re a little bit more relaxed. But having learnt through trial and error, there’s a few things I’ve picked up on the way. Some of them are rather obvious, but worth a mention I hope…

  1. Pay – then display

If you’re one of the lucky ones who is approached to post content for cash, be sure it fits with your brand and audience. Make sure you are happy with the products. For instance, I always turn down gambling and tobacco products

If it’s a good opportunity and you agree, then before accepting to share the content, have a conversation about how you will promote it. It might just be your blog, or it could be your Instagram or Facebook page.

If you’re being paid to promote content, here’s some hashtags you can use to be transparent:

  • #Spon
  • #Sponsored
  • #Ad
  • #Advert
  • #Promo
  • #Promotion
  • #SponsoredAd

If you are writing a paid for post, then the same applies. I tend to use ‘Promoted’ or ‘Sponsored Post’ – but as long as it’s clear you can use what you like.

If you’re lucky, you will work with a switched on agency that knows its online onions. But, you may also come across the occasional rogue trader, who is just after the traffic, grrrr.

Ogilvy are one of the best agencies I’ve worked with and really get the importance of transparency. Whenever I work with them, they are clear that posts should include a ‘no follow’ link and provide a list of hashtags to pick and use. It’s good practice, and alarm bells should go off if this isn’t in the brief.

  1. Hang on what are no follow links?

In a nutshell, Google does not approve of third parties using bloggers to drive traffic to their site by ‘do follow’ links. This is when you are paid to post on ‘anything’ from the brand, as long as it mentions them and a URL link to their site, which they insist is a ‘do follow’ link. A professional brand or agency will be fully aware of this and will agree to a ‘no follow’ link.

A ‘no follow’ link is where you add a few bits of data in the background (html) of the URL so that it doesn’t count as ‘bought’ traffic.

  1. Being transparent is no bad thing

Look at it this way, only the best bloggers are invited to work with brands. It’s a privilege and mark of your authority to show you have collaborated. Plus, it drives loyalty and respect from your followers.

  1. What about testing free products though?

Again, the rules in the UK are more relaxed than USA.

Here, bloggers are treated in a similar way to journalists – if you accept something to ‘review’ then it is considered ‘editorial’ content and not advertising. This means that you don’t have to prefix your post with ‘ad’ or any other similar phrasing, since it’s not considered advertising or transactional.

But, and here’s where bloggers differ to journalists, sometimes it’s nice to mention that the product was comp’d.

You can either have a disclosure somewhere generic on your website (here’s mine), and/or you can include a sentence at the end of the copy – or both (I do both where possible). Here’s an example of my disclaimer – see bottom of this post.

Personally, I would not extend the caveat to social media posts though, especially if they link through to the post.

  1. Which celebs and influencers can I trust then?

There’s a little corner of cynical in all of us, and it’s a healthy feeling to exercise now and then. I always question the authority of someone banging on about a product without prefixing it with a ‘I was asked to test this’ or some sort of honesty. But not all celebrities are born the same.

In a quick sweep of tweet using #ad it was refreshing to see Matt Johnsons, Holly Willoughby and influencer @freddyamazin had all used it. While on Instagram influencer Janni Deler and Gemma Styles are upfront about their #ad support, while TOWIE stars including Joey Essex and Megan Mckenna had used the right hashtags too.

Well there you have it. Was this helpful, did I miss anything out? Get in touch or leave a comment.

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