Affiliate Links: How to Legally Use Them on Your Blog and Social Media
Affiliate link are specific URL that contains the affiliate's ID or username. Advertisers use affiliate links to record the traffic that is sent to the blog or website4 min read
2. What do you have to disclose?
3. How to disclose
4. Special Rules for Social Media
4.1. Pictures4.2. Videos4.3. Live Streams4.4. Hashtags5. Should I take this seriously?
It is common for social media influencers or people running online businesses to share affiliate links on their site and social media. Affiliate links allow you to create additional streams of income from promoting products or services you like.
But what many people do not know is that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requires you to tell your audience you have a material connection to the brand you’re endorsing.
The FTC says a material connection can be a “personal, family, or employment relationship or
a financial relationship – such as the brand paying you or giving you free or discounted products or services.”
This article will explain who, what, how, and where to share affiliate links on your blog and social media.
Who needs to disclose?
Any business using affiliate links or getting paid for promoting someone’s product or service needs to make affiliate disclosures.
If you stand to make money or receive a benefit in any way by recommending a product or service, these rules apply. It does not matter how big or small your business is or how much money you made.
What do you have to disclose?
You must let your audience know that you receive commissions or other benefits if the person clicks on a link and makes a purchase.
Keep it straightforward, to the point, and be honest.
For instance, do not recommend a product or service and say how much you love it if you have no personal experience with the product or service. If you’ve never used a product or service but think it would be useful for your audience, then be transparent about it.
And even if you are giving a product or service a negative review while sharing an affiliate link, you still need to disclose the potential for making affiliate commissions or benefits.
How to disclose
The FTC wants these disclaimers to be clear and conspicuous.
You do not have to taint your site or social media with boring legal language. Feel free to use your voice and authenticity to make these disclosures. The FTC says you should use “clear language and syntax and avoid legalese or technical jargon.”
You should also make affiliate disclosures as close to the claim as possible. That means if you have affiliate links in a blog or on your site, an affiliate disclosure should be within that article or on the webpage. The key is to place the disclosures so it’s not easy to miss.
On your website or blog, the disclosure should be above the fold, meaning a reader would not need to scroll down the webpage before seeing the disclosure.
Many bloggers would like to place the disclaimer at the end of the article but that is not good enough according to the FTC.
On social media, FTC typically does not like to see affiliate disclosures at the end of posts or videos or in places that require someone to click “more” to see the whole post.
On Facebook, for example, you can create a long post that prompts your readers to click “more” to see the rest. Your affiliate disclosure would need to come before the “more” option (unless the actual endorsement is made after clicking “more”).
Special Rules for Social Media
Since social media posts come in a variety of forms, the FTC has shared guidance on how to make affiliate disclosures.
Snapchat, Instagram Stories, or any other similar feature are often platforms people promote products or services. If the promotion is in a picture, overlay the disclosure on the image and make sure viewers have enough time to notice and read it.
If you use images on other post types, you can simply include the affiliate disclosure in the post text.
On Pinterest, if a pin leads directly to an affiliate product, then you need to make an affiliate disclosure in the pin description. However, if the pin leads back to a blog on your site, follow the rules above for placing the affiliate disclosure.
If you’re using a video to make an endorsement, the affiliate disclosure should be in the description of the video (before any “more” options), in the audio of the video, and text or other graphics in the video. This way you’re hitting all the mediums that people consume content. The FTC has said it’s not enough to include an affiliate disclosure in the description because videos are often embedded in places where the description isn’t visible.
When you’re using videos in a format such as an Instagram story, and the video includes a link to the product or service, the affiliate disclosure should be made either on that video or before the video. Adding the disclaimer to the next story won’t suffice according to FTC guidelines.
If you’re using live steams to promote a product or service, the FTC wants you to make affiliate disclosures repeatedly throughout. This way, people hopping on the live stream at various times have an opportunity to hear the disclosure.
You can identify an affiliate relationship in hashtags but the FTC says not to bury the affiliate disclosure in the middle of a group of hashtags or links.
Hashtags are a popular option for Twitter since a tweet is limited to 280 characters. But on other mediums like Facebook and Instagram, a hashtag alone might not be enough.
The FTC prefers non-abbreviated hashtags like #advertisement #sponsored, #promotion, #affiliatelink, #paidad, or #ad. Avoid using confusing tags like #sp, #spon, #collab, or #aff.
Should I take this seriously?
Even if you think your business isn’t big enough to get noticed, this is something every business should take seriously.
Recently, a few organizations banded together and sent the FTC a list of 100 social media influencers with examples of violating disclosure rules. The letter urged the FTC should bring enforcement actions against these influencers. The FTC sent cease and desist letters to many of the influencers on the list.
If you promote affiliate products or services on your blog or social media and need assistance ensuring your disclaimers are up to FTC standards, I would be happy to assist you.