Mom Bloggers and the Federal Trade Commission

Mom Bloggers and the Federal Trade Commission

Mother and baby in home office with laptop and telephone

If you’re a mom blogger or any type of blogger for that matter and you have not heard about the Federal Trade Commission and what is happening right now – climb out from under the rock and listen up.

Two years ago when I started Green and Clean Mom I did not start out with the intention of advertising, monetizing, reviewing products for companies or even talking to companies but rather talking to moms like myself. When fellow blogger and friend Colleen of Classy Mommy described the blogging and social networking world as a “digital playground for moms” I had to smile. I started the blogging the same way I would start going to playground. To find other moms like myself because I was isolated at home and when I started talking about healthy cleaners for my family I looked like I had a third eye.

I guess you could say that I moved from the playground into a more grown up professional cocktail party where I wasn’t just talking about my kids but about business. I say cocktail party verses another description because I still feel it is more casual but that I have to be on my toes. The leap from the digital playground to digital cocktail party happened quickly when companies started emailing asking for me to review their products. I was honored but also smart in knowing that if I reviewed their product and something legal happened they weren’t going to back me because they sent me some cloth diapers. Oh, no a company wants you to talk about them but will they support your hind end if it gets in trouble? Nope. This is why I get concerned about some big sponsorship I see happening and wonder about endorsement and legal issues. Are we as mom bloggers being taken advantage of?

Yes, I believe to some degree we are or some of us are or could be. I believe that we don’t take ourselves seriously and when some people throw in the word mom they assume we can be taken advantage. Ha! Guess you don’t know this mama! For those thinking about starting a blog, those that have one already and those that think that product reviews are so much fun and that because you have a personal blog and there is freedom of speech you are sitting in the clear of all and any legal trouble I suggest you think again and maybe start taking yourself seriously.

First off, take yourself serious because the Federal Trade Commission is. Take yourself seriously because mommy blogging isn’t what it used to be three years ago and companies aren’t going to stop emailing, asking and wanting reviews. Think twice before starting a review blog because a) it is a lot of work b) you need to realize that you are a business if you review products because it is compensation that you should claim on your taxes.

I’m not one for living in fear or thinking that every time I write something or read a blog post I need to see this big long disclaimer so I know what I am reading or to protect myself. Come on, lets get real! I do think that we aren’t protected by the words: “Mommy Bloggers” and need to start thinking more seriously about what we do and what we write. Responsible blogger verses running off at the mouth with little to no research or time spent on a subject matter.

So here is my advice and I’ve been at this awhile to have something to give to other bloggers:

1)    Decide why you are blogging, what you will do with your blog and who will read what you write. Just your family and friends then don’t submit your site to Google and buy your own domain and tell the world about you. Keep your blog private and maybe even give a password and have subscribers.
2)    Get a disclaimer regardless of why you blog. It’s transparent and easy to do for anyone who is reading your website…friend or stranger. A great post for writing your own disclaimer was easily found at the Blog Herald. So now you just have to go do it. If you have one, make revisions and see if it still holds up. I know I’m going to do this. Mine can be found at the bottom of each page of my blog in the footer. Is your disclaimer easily found?
3)    Want to to do reviews, have advertisement and be “professional” then I suggest forming a company. I’m no lawyer (disclaimer) but I am a mom and I have to separate myself from my family for protection. I do not want someone suing me and my family suffering. My LLC is separating me from my family.
4)    A company isn’t enough you need a separate company checking account and liability insurance. Keep everything separate and keep track of everything.
5)    Use e-contracts and complete agreements with companies that state where you live and whose state and law the agreement will fall under. Set the terms and agreement and stick to them and hold the companies you work with to the contract.
6)    Stop sitting on this mommy blogger title as though you don’t have to be accountable and it is just fun to review a new cleaner or product. No. No. No. Take what you do serious, do some research, as the company questions and be transparent. If something changes and you find out something about a product or company tell your audience and readers. Be professional about your blog. Even go through old posts and make some revisions just to be on the safe side.

I’ll be on Blog Talk Radio discussing this and some green paretning issues with Colleen of Classy Mommy Tuesday at 8pm EST. More details to follow.

Poquette is a K12.com 3rd grade teacher, a social media and marketing consultant (in her free time), blogger and children’s book author. She has a knack for vetting bloggers, creating blogger campaigns and connecting brands and bloggers. She speaks locally, regionally and nationally on blogging, social media and education. She’s worked with top name brands and has been mentioned and featured in the New York Times, ABC News Online, The Wall Street Journal and several others.

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  • http://www.thesmartmama.com/bg Jennifer Taggart, TheSmartMama

    Great post. As a mom, blogger, consultant and attorney, I hope that all bloggers will evaluate the issues raised by this post. Of course, I can’t give specific legal advice to any particular blogger, but each blogger should evaluate why he or she is blogging, whether it is a business, whether he or she should be incorporated or do another business form, whether insurance is required, etc. I am especially concerned about those bloggers that review products and declare them to be “non toxic” or “peanut free” or other similar label without having independently verifying those claims OR disclosing the source of the information. Look forward to the Blog Talk Radio discussion.

    Jennifer Taggart, TheSmartMama’s last blog post..Earth Day Giveaway!

  • http://www.greenandcleanmom.org greenandcleanmom

    Thanks Jennifer. I agree we need to really figure out what we are blogging for. For me personally, I’m going through and revisiting posts and just making sure everything is legit.

  • http://www.classymommy.com ClassyMommy

    Sommer – Excellent post and very good advice (disclaimer – I’m also not a lawyer!) as I think you raised very good points that “mommy bloggers” or any “blogger” needs to consider. And if you are beginning to monetize your website in any form or fashion, I agree with the view that you need to consider yourself a business and all that comes with it. Talk to you on Tuesday evening!

    ClassyMommy’s last blog post..Fox News Morning Show: FTC Considering Regulations for Mommy Blogs

  • http://www.thesoftlanding.com Alicia @ The Soft Landing

    I’m so grateful for the info you’ve put together here!

    You lit a fire under my butt and I finally beefed up my disclaimer/terms of use for both my blog and store website with the resources you offered. I will also be revamping my use of the “non-toxic” descriptor based on Jennifer’s valuable input.

    Thanks again!!

  • http://Eco-OfficeGals.com Jen @ Eco-Office Gals

    Great point Gal! I recently did the whole creative commons license after a twitter chat, but this was not even on the radar. Threw one together and gonna email some of my other clients with a link to this post!

    Jen @ Eco-Office Gals’s last blog post..Coca Cola Promotes Use of Plastic for Earth Day?

  • http://www.greenandcleanmom.org greenandcleanmom

    I would hate to see any of us get in trouble. We all mean well and have no intention of doing harm. I think we have to help one another be protected.

  • http://www.whateverebay.com Laura-Whateverebay

    Great post, this is the kidn of information we need to pass around. Its time for bloggers to seriously figure out if they are a business or not. I will be sharing this with my readers. Thanks for sharing this valuable information.

    Laura-Whateverebay’s last blog post..Welcome to FeedBurner

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