On December 1, 2009, the new FTC guidelines concerning product endorsements and testimonials goes into effect. For bloggers and social media users, it means that if you are promoting a product, you have to make it clear if you are receiving any financial gain (or “material connections”) for said promotion.
As I understand it, this includes if a advertiser pays you writing a review, gives you a free product to try in exchange for the review, or gives you commission when someone purchases the product after clicking on a link to it from your website.
It also affects the types of testimonials you can have about products. No more “results are not typical” testimonials that include how someone made millions just by following a strategy or lost a boatload of pounds in just months by taking a diet pill. The testimonials have to be about the average results.
Fines for violating these guidelines can go up to $11,000. That’s a hefty punishment for a blog review that may only garner a $50 payout if someone were to heed the words of a glorious review of a not so great product.
Do I agree with the new guidelines? Yes and no. I think that testimonials should include a mixture of average and above average results. I think that it will be difficult to include a full disclosure in one 140 character status update. I think it would be nice to know when people are doing reviews simply because they are being paid for it, but what is wrong with that if they have purchased the product themselves and have achieved great results (like my promotion of the 31 Days to Building a Better Blog workbook?
I also have some questions that have not been answered in the many posts I have read about the new guidelines…
- Does there need to be fine print disclosures under every affiliate link on a website if someone is going to be paid commission on a purchase originating at that website, or does this only apply to written testimonials and reviews?
- If I’m being paid to write blog articles for a company, and the articles are promoting the company’s product but from the point of view of the company and not the writer personally, does it fall under these guidelines? Like if a sunglasses company pays me to write articles on their blog promoting their shades? What about writing about products in general, and not about a specific product?
Other great unanswered questions can be found in an article CBS did back in October about the new regulations.
What are your thoughts about the new FTC regulations? Do they affect how you make money online with affiliate marketing or other programs?