Social Media Basics: The Importance of Transparency When Blogging

Being transparent a.k.a. open & honest when it comes to blogging is absolutely imperative in order for your readers to trust you & keep coming back. Recently I was reading a post someone wrote about a protein shake diet. I commented & asked: "how did you feel after the 7 days of trying the shake?" They responded that they hadn't tried the diet. It made me question why they were posting about it at all. Was it sponsored? Did they just want to give people information? Was this just an affiliate link? Was this a fad they were in trying? Either way, it left me confused & skeptical about the validity of this blogger.

In the United States it's required by law that you disclose whenever you are being sponsored or receive money or free items in exchange for posting. If you want to read up on the .com Disclosures, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has a whole guide concerning the use of endorsements & testimonials in advertising, which basically addresses endorsements by consumers, experts, organizations, celebrities, & bloggers.

social media basics


Disclosing isn't shameful - Bloggers need to support themselves somehow. However, the reader needs to be able to know whether you received something for free or you were compensated in some manner to write about a specific brand. It needs to be clear from the get go. There's nothing shameful about admitting that you were paid or received the item for free. Think of it this way: a brand wants to work with YOU because your blog rocks & fits their market!

Disclose before & after - All too often do we read an enormous, positive, glowing review only to see that there's an asterisk at the bottom disclosing it was a paid post. There's nothing wrong with being sponsored or receiving products, but your readers should understand that you are being clear & conspicuous. It's recommended to mention something at the beginning of the post & then once again at the end. 

Respect your brand - For example, say in the beginning "This is a sponsored collaboration between myself & *X Brand*" & then have your disclosure once more at the end. If you want to be taken seriously, you must be open about where you're getting your products, whether you paid for it or you got it for free. It's better to respect the integrity of your brand rather than losing readers who don't come back because they're not sure if you're a reliable source.

Be transparent - If your makeup haul sounds like a giant ad with no disclosure, I may be less inclined to stop by your blog again. Are you known to not disclose? Can I trust you? This is simply because I can't discern whether or not you're being truthful. If you genuinely love a brand, that's awesome. If you're writing a review because a company gave you product & you tell us you received money, that's awesome. If I can't figure out whether you're being paid or got it for free, that's fishy. Be transparent.

Use certain words/phrases - Using words like "I bought" vs. "I received" can help your fans easily understand how you obtained your products. In my, Bath & Body Works Wallflower Review, I use words like "I spent" & "I scored a really good deal" so you can establish I paid for them myself. In my Aroma Naturals Review, I said "I received" early on, so you can immediately figure out it's not an item I personally paid for; I also add a disclaimer at the end of the post for clarity. 

Readers love reviews, hauls, & knowing more about brands you enjoy. Just be truthful & your readers will love you & come back for more. Disclosing is something I've learned with time & I'm still working on perfecting it. Have you ever had/seen a questionable disclosure incident? What are your thoughts on blogger disclosures (or lack thereof)? :]


You may be interested in reading more from my Social Media Basics series:


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45 comments

  1. this is a great post,
    i have learned a lot.
    thank you for this.
    :)


    Ms. Kei

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  2. This is a great and informative post, I think it's better to be safe than sorry. I have a disclosure at the side of my blog and if sent anything, I mark within the post an asterisk *, as well as mentioning I was given the item. Have a wonderful day, Carmen! :)

    Gabrielle | A Glass Of Ice

    x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's a great way to do it, Gabrielle. A side disclosure is available to see on ALL posts which is great. To top it off the asterisk & mentioning it's free is spot on. You are 100% transparent. :]

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  3. Awesome advice here and so very true!!! You can so easily discredit yourself if you aren't being transparent. That shake story!? Hilarious. And sad!!

    Thanks for sharing these awesome tips!

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    Replies
    1. Haha, indeed. It's hard to gain trust once it's lost. Thanks for reading, Courtney. :]

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  4. Lovely blog dear:)
    These are some nice tips,too!
    Would You like to follow eachother via GFC or google+ ?
    Let me know on my blog so I can follow back. ;)
    http://nessielicious.blogspot.com

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  5. I completely agree with you. Great post and thanks for sharing.

    Eye See Euphoria | http://eyeseeeuphoria.com/post/sweet-wilson

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  6. Good tips :)

    http://shareasecretmag.com/

    xoxo

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  7. Great post! I hate when I can't tell if a post is sponsored or not. I review both product I love and just want to talk about AND sponsored posts and I try to make it abundantly clear which is which. It also makes it hard to buy product on Amazon when every single 5 star rating is a "received free product" post.. ugh! - www.domesticgeekgirl.com

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    Replies
    1. That's definitely something to think about, Gingi. We're out here buying items & someone may have given it 5/5 for the wrong reasons! :]

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  8. Couldn't agree more with everything you have said! It does seem to be quite a controversial topic within the community though!

    Hayley-Eszti | www.hayleyeszti.com

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  9. Totally agree! It gets a little confusing when the person isn't really telling the truth it is great to let the reader know :)

    http://floralsandsmiles.blogspot.ca/
    twitter.com/floralandsmies

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  10. I totally agree! There's nothing shameful in admitting it's a sponsored post but there's something decidedly off when you don't admit it.

    bombshell-to-be.blogspot.com

    xx

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  11. Great post; I don't understand why it is so challenging for bloggers to admit that they were given products to review... Transparency is best, just as it would be in real life.

    www.LUXESSED.com

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    Replies
    1. Glad you brought up real life. My friends know when I received items too, especially if they compliment something. :]

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  12. Yes!!! Bloggers who receive items for review should definitely be transparent about it. Love this post, Carmen!

    <3 Daisy
    Simplicity Relished

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for stopping by Daisy. Hope all is well. :]

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  13. I totally agree with your post anf the points of view you shared with us! Disclosing definitely isn't shameful unless you are advertising the brand for the wrong reasons. I disclose everything in the beginning of my blog post, usually I will say that the item X was sent to my by representatives of X brand and I always disclose everything at the end of the blog post with c/o.
    Every blogger should read this post and understand that disclosing items actually welcome rather than hiding it!

    www.callmemaddie.com

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    Replies
    1. Awesome job, Maddie! Especially great because I'm not entirely sure if you even need to disclose in Latvia. Thanks for looking out for the rest of us. :]

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  14. There have been lots of chats on Twitter about this recently. I haven't been involved in them as I was busy but read all the comments afterwards.
    I can't even imagine writing about something that I hadn't tried, it just doesn't make any sense. I think more laws will come into place over this year and next regarding disclosure on posts and youtube videos
    Reinventing Neesha ♥

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    Replies
    1. Laws occur for a reason. Clearly people were being duped & it needed to become a law. Dang! :P

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  15. This is a such a great post...I totally agree with everything you said! :)

    http://ourruins.com

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  16. I agree, Carmen. I have previously seen a few blogs which did the same, the swatches and pictures of the products are from the company websites and not their own. There was no disclosure, nothing and I felt sceptical about the whole thing and in the end I just stop following them.
    It's important to be completely honest, the readers are not a bunch of fools.

    Shireen | Reflection of Sanity

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    Replies
    1. Oh yeah. Those are terrible. It's like anybody can take photos from a site & write a couple words. >.<

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  17. This is so true, Carmen! Great points. I actually didn't know that it was mandated by law in the US - I'll have to check what the case is for Canada. Either way though, if/when the time comes for me to be doing sponsored posts, I plan on disclosing it and being fully transparent.

    I like that you pointed out saying "I bought" vs "I received". Especially for beauty and fashion bloggers, as a reader, I'm often wondering "How the heck do you afford that??!" And then I realized it's because they're being sent that stuff for free. Which is great for them - they deserve it! But it makes me feel like inadequate and like I'm not keeping up, if that makes sense.

    x Kathryn
    Through the Thicket

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    Replies
    1. Yeah, that's definitely something you should look up. You don't want to be breaking such an easy law to fix! Like you said "and then I realize." It's not until you're done reading that you're like..."oh so you didn't buy that." Don't worry, Kathyrn. Keep working at it. :D!!!

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  18. These are all really great points, Carmen! I definitely need to read more about disclosure requirements. When you note that the post is sponsored, does it mean that they're literally paying you X amount to write the post? What if they just give you an item to wear and write about, can you just note it as "c/o" or would that still be considered a sponsored post? Would love to get your thoughts around this!

    Tina
    www.justatinabit.com

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    Replies
    1. Hi Tina! Yes, sponsored post is normally a post in which you get paid some amount of money to write. If a brand gives you product, that's a review (with no paid income), but you do need to disclose that the brand gave it to you for free. Writing "c/o" is not super transparent, unless you have a disclosure somewhere on your blog (be it in the end, a particular "Disclosure" tab/page, or somewhere in the side bar. As Gabrielle mentioned above: "I have a disclosure at the side of my blog and if sent anything, I mark within the post an asterisk *, as well as mentioning I was given the item. "

      Hope this helps. :]

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    2. Thanks so much for responding and answering my question, Carmen!! This was very helpful :)

      Delete
  19. This was an excellent post. I have never been asked by a company to talk about their product or probably will I ever be. However, if one day I am this post certainly was very useful :)
    Another Teen On The Web

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  20. Great post. Every time someone will ask me to blog their products I review it first before I accept it. I want to make sure that I'm reviewing a great and useful one :)

    Have a nice day! :)

    xoxo,
    SHAIRA
    http://www.missdream-girl.blogspot.com

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    Replies
    1. Definitely. It's important to stick to your guns & things you genuinely enjoy. ;]

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  21. Wonderful advice! The last tip is very important!

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  22. Amazing and really helpful tips! =)

    NEW POST on http://whattostyle.blogspot.com/

    xoxo,
    Jessica

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  23. Love these tips! I agree-- it's extremely important to be open and honest with readers. There's nothing I hate more than people who lie or hide the fact that they are working with companies.

    Connie | Sponsored by Coffee | Bloglovin’

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  24. Hahaha whats up with not trying the shake and writing about it?! This is so great and so helpful! Bloggers should never have shame disclosing the post is sponsored! We work hard and deserve it!


    <3 Shannon
    Upbeat Soles

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  25. Really solid advice. I don't understand what so many bloggers are afraid of. Losing readers? I can't imagine too many people walking away from their favorite blogs just because the author admits they make a living from what they love.

    V
    Life+1

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  26. Lovely post. Sometimes when a post is sponsored, I always wonder if people actually like it or not! I wonder if people have actually posted something they truly like. I will turn down offers for certain things if I am not sure about the product or site I would have to review. I will not take every free offer. These are such great points you addressed!

    Denise
    www.fashionloveletters.com

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  27. This is a great post, I agree that it is really important to be truthful to your readers! I feel like readers can tell when something is true to you or not!

    xxx
    Camilla
    http://avenuecamilla.com

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  28. I totally agree with you, dear, I also do sponsored posts sometimes, but I don't accept all of the propositions, I'll receive. Firstly, I check if this webstore suits to my blog and suits to me. And I also think that honesty to readers is the most important thing in writing sponsoring posts.

    http://crafty-zone.blogspot.com/

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  29. This was a really great post and I agree with everything written here. I've come across a few posts from bloggers/vloggers that are clearly ads. It takes away from the experience but I also understand that they have to make a living. Reading the rest of your series that you linked now.

    Ashley Udoh

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  30. Great post Carmen :) I think it is so important to be open & honest in the blogging world. Like you say, if it looks like someone is trying to hide something or is promoting something they clearly haven't tried, it makes you doubt the validity of that blogger xx

    Brenda BusyBee | Bella & Bear Pro Makeup Brush Set Giveaway

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  31. I really enjoyed reading this article! I think it's very important for bloggers to be honest when they receive a free item or write a sponsored post. As you said, bloggers need to support themselves somehow, so there's no need to be sneaky.

    -Helen
    Sweet Helen Grace

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for reading & writing. :] // ▲

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