FTC Guidelines: Mom Bloggers Report Not Much Has Changed

by , Feb 10, 2010, 9:56 AM
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In our post on Jan. 13, "Responsible Blogging and FTC Guidelines," we shared our take on where the Federal Trade Commission guidelines fall short. We wanted to find out how the guidelines may have influenced the blogging practices of leading Mom Bloggers so we surveyed 130 Influential Mom Bloggers to find out what has changed and what's stayed the same.

While the FTC now requires all bloggers to disclose any products or services given in exchange for a blog post, we found that the guidelines have not really changed behavior as Mom Bloggers in our survey have already been incorporating disclosures. Furthermore, the guidelines don't seem to dissuade Mom Bloggers from accepting the same number of sponsored product reviews: They report that the number of brands or agencies pitching sponsored product reviews has remained about the same.

Asked about the detail of their product disclosure, 78% of Mom Bloggers said they rely on general disclosures for product reviews, and 68% disclose the value of giveaways when applicable.

Where Mom Bloggers do voice some concern:

  • Half of those surveyed believe that the guidelines seem to single out Mom Bloggers while outlining fewer disclosure guidelines for journalists (68%) or celebrities (82%).
  • Nearly all believe it is ethical for Mom Bloggers to receive samples, giveaways and compensation. However, Mom Bloggers expressed anxiety about vulnerability to IRS audits, with 75% believing that they may be at risk for an audit if they disclose specific dollar amounts of the product value or compensation. Overall, 60% feel anxious about potential tax issues in general.

Authenticity of Mom Blogger Product Review

Because blogs offer the potential of powerful first-person brand ambassadorship, they have emerged as a key way to ignite consumers. More and more brands want to expose bloggers to their products and services in the hope they will post favorable reviews. Critics of Mom Blogger and general blogger product reviews have voiced concern that a blogger's receipt of free products or compensation may influence a writer to post more favorable reviews versus balanced reviews.

Only 15% of Mom Bloggers believe the value of the item impacts the ethical nature of the review. In general, Mom Bloggers strike a balance in their posts with 47% posting neutral reviews without negative language.

Mom Bloggers can, in fact, provide an "early warning" mechanism for brand managers. Among those surveyed, 72% said that they would send negative critiques to the brand/agency directly before posting a review.

This finding has important implications for marketers. Marketers may want to consider Mom Bloggers as front-line brand ambassadors who can alert them to any potential product or service concerns that can be addressed before the issue gains a viral buzz and becomes a larger public relations management crisis.

With their adherence to disclosure guidelines and willingness to share upfront constructive feedback directly to brands, Mom Bloggers can be a trusted resource to both their brands and their readers.

0 comments on "FTC Guidelines: Mom Bloggers Report Not Much Has Changed ".

  1. Michael Rubin from Fifth Third Bank
    commented on: February 10, 2010 at 10:52 a.m.

    In my experience, Mom Bloggers have definitely become savvy and sophisticated when it comes to disclosure and ethics. Many now post badges or have separate content areas where they clearly outline what they will and won't do, accept and won't accept.

    As a marketer who executes blogger outreach, I welcome and embrace this level of transparency as a positive and very welcome contribution to the annals of social media best practices. On the flipside, bloggers have been very appreciative of any effort to respect their efforts to be transparent. I've been very up front the need to disclose where a product comes from, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive.

  2. Kevin Burke from WholesomeOne
    commented on: February 10, 2010 at 11:17 a.m.

    I feel that "Blog with Integrity" http://www.blogwithintegrity.com/ was instrumental in helping understand the approach the FTC is taking.

  3. Steve Lundin from bigfrontier
    commented on: February 10, 2010 at 12:55 p.m.

    One of the most interesting aspects of this article is the fact that was as marketers have now formalized our approach to mommy bloggers - and are spending much more time figuring them out then we do on actual reporters. As reporters represent a conduit to customers and consumers - we've spent decades crafting techniques to curry their favor. Now we're doing the same with MB's - and they seem to be loving the attention. Whether this means that the bar for MB's has been raise or the bar for reporters has been lowered is a matter of how you look at things. One thing seems clear - the MB phenomena seems yet another indication of the commoditization of news and data. We may have moved beyond the time when the question is asked: what qualifies (FILL IN THE BLANK) to review products? What experience do you bring to the table that validates your opinion. It's almost as if mad magazine has supplanted Consumer Reports as the go to source for buying advice (that's a joke - so don't flame me!)

  4. Krista Parry from Park City Mountain Resort
    commented on: February 15, 2010 at 10:51 a.m.

    Sarah, this is a well-written article. I agree with Michael that Mom Bloggers are highly savvy and sophisticated about disclosure and ethics.

    Personally, I think that this should fall on the brand to ensure disclosure. They should require all bloggers, journalists, etc to disclose when they've received products, etc. It maintains transparency and authenticity across the board.

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