Wednesday, 30 January 2019

Why I welcome the new government guidelines regarding disclosure for social media influencers


I will begin this article by saying that I'm not actually a fan of blog posts like this. What a hypocrite eh? I ALWAYS think bloggers should visit the original and official source for guidance and not rely on what other bloggers say or what they've read online. The official guidance is what matters which is why I'm linking to the CMA guidelines here and ASA guidelines here. If you're a blogger/'influencer', please check these articles out and if you're unsure about anything, get in touch with them yourselves. Today I am going to share my own opinions on the guidelines which are just that - opinion. Not fact. Let me know what you think too.


Why I welcome the new government guidelines regarding disclosure for social media influencers


1 - You should be clear if you have any relationship with a brand INCLUDING gifts 

The CMA has made it crystal clear that your need to let your readers and followers know if you have been sent something and not paid for it yourself, even if there are no requirements to post. I think this makes complete sense and your readers deserve to know if the product you're talking about is something you've chose to buy yourself/spend your disposable income on OR if it was something you were just randomly sent through the post. You don't need to use #ad but the ASA also say that #gifted is too vague (and I agree). In these cases I'd probably go for long-form disclosure - usually AD (gift) at the start of the caption and then 'thanks to xyz for sending me this gift' later in the caption.


2 - Clear disclosure should always be at the top of your blog post or social media post and not buried in hashtags at the end 

How often do you see an #ad hashtag buried at the bottom of a social media post or disclosure in tiny writing at the bottom of a blog post? Again, the rules are crystal clear on this and state that disclosure should be at the top of any blog post and clearly visible (in the same font size or in bold or even larger font style) and that your readers need to know if something is an advert before they click your link (so you should say this in any Social Media text before linking to a sponsored blog post). Readers deserve to know if they are being advertised to from the offset so they can read your post objectively AND they deserve to be respected. Clear disclosure at the start of any posts does this.

3 - You don't need to use #ad as your disclosure - you just need to be clear 

The ASA advises against the following terms as they aren't clear enough:
  • Sponsored, Sponsorship, Spon, Sponsored Content, #Spon, #Sp 

The way I see it, using the above terms could land you in trouble as the ASA has specifically advised against their use.

The ASA advises using the following terms:
  • Ad, Advert, Advertising, Advertisement, Advertising Feature 

Personally, I would 100% recommend using the above terms as they are what the official guidelines say you should use so you won't get in trouble if you stick with these. However, finding something that works for you is important. I often use longer form disclosure eg - 'we have not paid for our tickets today in return for sharing our day on Instagram Stories with you all' can work. I do find #Ad to be quicker and easier though - mixing it up works well for me (ie longer form on the first slide and then #ad on subsequent slides).

4 - Affiliate links should be declared as such 


I still see bloggers (and press now too) not declaring affiliate links. How would you feel if somebody recommended something to you, you went on to buy it and they then found out the person who recommended it to you had earned a commission from that sale? It leaves a bad taste in the mouth and really goes a long way in causing dis-trust amongst readers and bloggers.  You will gain readers' trust if you are clear from the outset and declare affiliate links. Just do it. 

5 - Social media links featuring a link to blog posts/sponsored content should be marked as an advert (eg with #ad) at the start of the Social Media text before the reader clicks the link. 

This needs to be every time. I will hold my hands up and say I'm not great at doing this but it's something I'm working on. When I first publish a sponsored post, I'll use (ad) at the beginning of any social posts featuring the link. BUT the problem for me is 5 years down the line if I then re-share the post. Should I still use (ad)? I'm not sure as my relationship with that brand is no longer valid. I do think Social Media posts featuring sponsored blog posts do need some kind of declaration though so I think I'm going to move towards 'In 2014 I worked with Center Parcs to create this post.....' or something like that. I think this makes it clear it's an old post and also clear that there was a relationship at the time and that it's not a new advert. 

6 - Past relationships with brands should be declared when necessary 


This is the bit of info which seems to have created the most fuss. If you've worked with a brand in the last year and then go on to buy and share a different product from that brand yourself, you need to let your audience know there's a past relationship there. For me as a days out and travel blogger, I think this is sensible and it helps to ensure brand relationships are always crystal clear. If I visit a local farm park in Spring and use #ad on all of my posts as it's a collaboration and then visit in winter but don't use #ad, I think most of my readers would still assume I was working with the brand and just hadn't disclosed it. I think using something like 'I worked with xyz farm in Spring and loved it so much that we're visiting again today and I've paid for this trip ourselves' works really well and is actually a step in the right direction. Again, you do not need to use AD - nowhere in the official guidelines does it say this. You just need to be clear.

Common sense needs to be applied too. If I was working with Tesco to promote their new toys in the run-up to Christmas and then shared an Instagram story feeling stressed out with the kids doing our regular grocery shopping 9 months later without tagging Tesco in the post (but you could probably see we were there), I do not think this needs to be declared as it is pretty clear, the two campaigns are not related and I'm not advertising or recommending a product to you in the new post.

It's really important to remember that labelling something as an advert, when it's not can also land you in trouble with both the brand and the law so sticking AD on everything just because it has something in the background that you paid for yourself with a brand you worked with 9 months ago isn't going to work for me. I don't think this abides by the CMA guidelines which say you need it to be clear. Sticking AD on everything does not make it clear and we need to be careful not to overuse it or just use AD to 'cover ourselves'. 

7 - Long form disclosure is fine 


I'm a fan of long-form disclosure and will often use (AD) at the start of my caption or 'This is an advertisement feature' at the top of my blog post and then go into more details in the post or at the end and explain exactly the nature of our relationship so it's clear. 

8 - Disclosure needs to be on every piece of content 

If you're reviewing a restaurant and are not paying for your meal and post on Instagram stories while you're there (even without being asked to) - you should let the reader know you didn't pay and you have a relationship with the restaurant in question. Again, your reader deserves to know whether you have gone out and booked/paid for the meal you are sharing a photo of OR if you haven't paid and have been invited along by the restaurant in question. There is no such thing as too much disclosure - if you work with a lot of brands and have problems with every post featuring disclosure, maybe it's time to look at your content. You should feel proud of your content and that you're working with a specific brand. If you're not ready to disclose relationships with brands, maybe you need to look at if you should be working with brands at all. 


I do still have some frustrations: 

  • Why is traditional press not held to the same high standard?
  • Still some confusion and bloggers are often told different things
  • The ASA don't clamp down on rule breakers enough - there is no deterrent
These are for another post though as I could go on forever..... 


How I'm going to disclose moving forward..... 

The way I disclose is constantly changing. In my early days of blogging, bloggers acted exactly like the traditional press and didn't disclose at all. Then over the years, more and more official guidelines have been put into place and I have changed accordingly. It's tricky to get it perfect all of the time and there will definitely still be times that I get it wrong or even forget to disclose but I think as long as we try our best and when we don't disclose, it's a genuine human error that we can rectify, that's all we can ask for. Moving forward, I'll be using the following disclosure across my Social Media channels at the start of every brand post:
  • AD (unpaid review)
  • AD (paid post) 
  • AD (press tickets) 
  • AD (affiliate link) 
  • AD (paid press trip) 
  • AD (unpaid press trip) 
  • AD (gifted product placement) 

Then I may use longer form disclosure at the end of the post too. For me, I think it's important to make a distinction between paid and unpaid posts as I often feel like it looks like bloggers are earning lots through ADs when in reality, a lot is unpaid and I want to make this distinction.

Feedback 


I talk about disclosure a lot. I'm sure many are sick of me banging on about it but it's a part of blogging I really feel passionate about. I often ask my readers and followers if I'm doing a good enough job/ I'm clear enough and their general thoughts and it always comes back that readers really appreciate clear and honest disclosure and are distrustful of bloggers who don't disclose properly. If you're looking to grow your blog, I think clear and transparent disclosure is imperative to success and the only way readers are ever going to trust you (which coming full circle, is one of the things brands look for when looking to work with bloggers or influencers).

What do you think? I'd love to hear your thoughts on this. 

Pin Me For Later
Why I welcome the new government guidelines regarding disclosure for social media influencers

No comments

Post a Comment

© SamanthaRickelton.com | All rights reserved.
BLOG TEMPLATE HANDCRAFTED BY pipdig