Social Media Rules: Ethics and Disclosure in Blogging
I recently read an article on SocialFish about FTC rules relating to publicists and social media managers and bloggers. Basically, it puts the onus on these publicists and anyone in social media representing a company to require that bloggers disclose an freebies. "The difference between honesty and sleazery is disclosure." A good quote from the article, it goes on to say that it is all about trust and you can't gain that if you don't disclose that you as a brand have given something to bloggers for free.
But what about us bloggers? We have the responsibility as well to disclose when we get anything for free, whether the restaurant / manufacturer asks us to or not. I wrote about an experience where a company explicitly asked us bloggers NOT to disclose that we had gotten anything for free. It left me with an icky feeling, and the result is that I never wrote a word about t them.
Has this ever happened to you? You are approached by a company that says they will pay you to do put a sponsored post on your blog. There's just one catch - they don't want you to disclose that it was a sponsored post! The reason is of course they want it to appear as if you are truly endorsing this product, restaurant, etc. The other reason is search engines discount anything that is labeled as a sponsored post. But the fact remains, if you were paid, then you need to disclose that to your readers.
The bottom line is that besides it being ethnical to disclose freebies and sponsored posts, it goes back to trust and your reputation. If you fake it, your readers will be able to spot it. The best thing we as bloggers can do for ourselves is to protect our reputation at all costs and be as transparent as possible to our readers.