What Does the FTC Have to Do With My Travel Blog?

The FTC requires all U.S. bloggers to disclose material that has been traded for a review or article or that has been paid for by a company in trade for a review or article. This means sponsored posts, freebies, media trips. Anything you have been given and did not pay for must be stated on the specific post or page that includes the product, location or service.  You must also disclose this information in social media. You can check out all the details on the PDF from the FTC; .com Disclosures.  These are the requirements for disclosure of endorsements, sponsorships and other payments from online endorsers, including bloggers.

According to the FTC, compensation happens when you:

  • Receive a free product and review it
  • Link to the product’s website and receive a commission (called an affiliate program)
  • Receive money, product or services for posting about a product (media trip)
  • Review a product or service that comes from an advertiser on your site.

The primary reason for the disclosure requirement is to assist your readers in determining whether a blogger or endorser has a material connection to the brand about which they’ve produced content. It seems pretty obvious (to me, at least) why this is important to know.

The FTC can fine both the blogger and the company for not disclosing an arrangement where the company compensates the blogger for a review, positive mention, or sponsored post. Wouldn’t that be a bummer to not mention your arrangement in the post and then find it costs you money instead of making you money? So not worth it.

What Travel Bloggers Need To Know About FTC Guidelines Tweet this 

YES: Include a brief disclosure at the top and if necessary, provide additional details at the bottom.

NO: Do not put your disclosure solely at the bottom of your post. (As far back as 2009, the FTC was publicly recommending that disclosures not be buried at the bottom of a post or on a separate page).

Note that the FTC also states the disclosure needs to match the content. If you created a blog post, the disclosure needs to be in writing, not a video or sound file.  The exact words you use to disclose is up to you. My suggestion is to visit a few travel blogger websites and look for their disclosure statements and then craft your own based on the research you completed. Below is an example I used on my resources page “Recommended Tools & Resources for Travel Writers, Bloggers and Photographers” page.

FTC Disclosure example for travel bloggers



What Do Disclosure Requirements Mean for Travel Bloggers on Social Media?

Bloggers should be labeling all tweets, Facebook updates, sponsored Pinterest pins or Instagram photos, as well as videos and Vines, with the appropriate clear-language disclosure verbiage such as “Ad” or “Sponsored”. These requirements will change the nature of what influencers will tweet and post in short form and possibly long form as well, and quite frankly, I think that’s fine.

The .Com disclosures have a series of terrific examples of the wrong and right ways to disclose on Twitter. Key points:

  1. The disclosure must be in every Tweet. You can’t tweet a single disclosure that covers the whole conversation; there is no guarantee that readers will see the disclosing statement.
  2. The hashtag #spon is not sufficiently clear.
  3. The word “ad” is sufficiently clear, but needs to be in a prominent place. The FTC also suggests not using a #ad hashtag after a URL or shortlink as it could be overlooked.

Recommendation for a best practice:

  • The FTC suggests using the hashtag #ad at the beginning of your Tweet or post

This only touches on the FTC disclaimer policy. Do your own research and make sure you continue to look for updates on their policy’s and rules!

What Travel Bloggers Need To Know About FTC Guidelines via @writetotravel Click To Tweet

The FTC’s Endorsement Guides: What People Are Asking

DISCLAIMER: I am not an attorney (Even though my mom said I’d be a great lawyer). The information provided above is not legal advice and is based on my own research and experiences as a blogger and podcaster. None of the above should be considered a substitute for consulting your own legal counsel who could guide you (and your blog) to manage disclosures and endorsements.

FTC Disclosure Guidelines for Travel Bloggers

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