LET’S DISCUSS: Disclosing Advertisements and Paid Endorsements on Your Blog

how to disclose paid promotion and gifted items on your blog

Disclosures. Ironically, one of the simplest “do’s” for any blogger can also be among the most confusing. Yesterday, I enjoyed reading this post from Garance Doré on how she’s choosing to approach sponsored content, and specifically, how she will indicate when content on her site is promotional. It was a great essay that made it clear to her readers what they could expect from her over the long haul. And after all, that kind of publisher/reader trust is theoretically why a brand would want to compensate you to talk about them in the first place, no?

Inspired by her post, I thought it would be a good opportunity to talk a little bit about disclosures — how everyone handles them, what’s required of you, what’s not, and where the gray area is (and actually, in writing this post, I learned a lot of new things!). Also included below is an excellent FAQ section that I’ve re-purposed from the FTC website, and it even covers how to disclose affiliate links (um, rewardStyle anyone?).

Lucky for American bloggers, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has two guides to help navigate these sometimes tricky waters. The first is .Com Disclosures: How to Make Effective Disclosures in Digital Advertising, which was just updated last year. The second is Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising. This second one is especially pertinent for bloggers, since many times, we serve as endorsers more than we do direct advertisers.

Here’s the most important point to take away (this one’s from the .Com Disclosures guide):

Disclosures that are required to prevent an advertisement from being deceptive, unfair, or otherwise violative of a Commission rule, must be presented “clearly and conspicuously.”

  Read more »

HOW TO: TAKE A VACATION BUT STILL POST ON YOUR BLOG (BUT NOT WHILE YOU ARE ON VACAY!)

coney island beach by mina teslaru

Coney Island Beach by Mina Teslaru

Blogging and vacation. Working during your vacation sort of defeats the purpose, no? So what do you do when you are leaving on an extended vacation? I’ve got a few trips coming up, so I’ve got this concern on my own mind! There are several options you can do depending on what you have time for. Not all of these options will help you keep your traffic consistent, but sometimes you just need a break and that’s ok.

Ideas for Blogging Around Vacations

1. Do all posts the week before and schedule them to post while you are gone. You can of course work double time before you leave and schedule regular posts for each day while you are gone. This requires the most work, but it won’t even be like you are gone.

2. Point your followers to your Instagram. Do a post before you leave linking to your Instagram if you plan on posting a lot of photos to Instagram while you are gone and tell your audience to follow you there while you are gone. This might not keep your traffic on your blog steady — but it could help you grow your Instagram following.

3. Just take the time off. Isn’t that what vacations are for!? Do a post before you leave telling your audience that you are taking the week off, and to come back on a specific date when you’ll be back up and running. You’ll be so refreshed and inspired after some time off.

4. Put together a guest post series. A few weeks before you leave, send an email out to a few of your blogger buddies and see if they will do a guest post for you while you are gone. Have them submit it to you a week or two before you leave, so you can design/write the post and schedule it for while you are gone. Victoria actually did a great series like this when she went to wine country for a week. She asked some of us to pick out what we’d take to wine country — boom! Easy guest post series while she’s gone that related to her trip. Here’s an example — my picks for wine country.

5. Repurpose old posts. What does this mean? If you have a few posts from a year or so ago that were just really good and aren’t season specific, you can repurpose the content. I wrote a really funny post about Thin Mints (the cookies) in 2009 that still applies to my readers today. Five years ago I probably had different readers than I do now, so I could easily shape up the post (do a little rewriting or add to it) and use the same content with a few tweaks.

6. Write a follow-up post. Similar to repurposing an old post, if you wrote something a while ago and now you have a new take on it, write a follow-up to it. It doesn’t have to be long or complicated. Something simple, honest, and inspired is always a good way to go.

And while you are on vacation — if you want to — document it (don’t we all do that anyway) and use the content to share with your readers when you get back.

meg sig

6 Ways to Manage Your Inbox

tools to help you manage email

Ohhhhhh email. How I both love you and despise you. If you guys are anything like me, you’re in a constant struggle to keep up (or rather keep down) with your Inbox. In addition to using tools like Gmail’s canned responses (Meg has a great tutorial on that here) and learning to be okay with using the delete button judiciously, I’ve come across a bunch of great tools that can help anyone manage their email. I’m a big fan of Unroll.me (listed below!), but a few of these other ones look like they’d be really effective too. Check it out:

SaneBox

What it is: SaneBox determines the importance of each email based on your past behavior within your Inbox.  It will move messages you care less about right out of your Inbox into a separate folder, then summarizes them for you in a digest. In addition to a one-click unsubscribe feature, you can also set up reminders to respond to emails you’ve received or follow up with people you sent emails to. There’s also a nifty “snooze” feature so you can ignore emails that don’t need an immediate response. And, I love that SaneBox allows you to seamlessly move any email attachments to Dropbox!

Recommended if: Your email is really, really out of control, but you rely on it for literally every aspect of your personal and business life.

Cost: $7-$36 depending on the plan you choose; for most of us, the lowest plan would probably be fine.

Unroll.me

What it is: After signing up, Unroll.me displays a list of every single email listserv you’re subscribed to. Add the ones you want to keep to your “Roll Up”, unsubscribe from the ones you don’t. From then on, all the subscriptions you want to keep will arrive via a single email in an easy to follow daily digest. It’s as amazing as it sounds.

Recommended if: your email newsletter subscriptions are out of control, but you want to stay subscribed for the occasional sale or promotional code.

Cost: Free!

Mailbox

What it is: Mailbox is a redesigned inbox that you can add to your mobile devices. The app allows you to quickly work through emails, swiping and slashing to move things to archive and trash. It also has snooze functionality, and you can set up push notifications to receive new emails on your home screen.

Recommended if: You hate both the native iOS or Android Mail app, and can’t get behind Gmail’s mobile app either.

Cost: Free!

Emailga.me

What it is: Basically what it sounds like. With Email Game, you set a timer and compete against yourself to make it through your Inbox!

Recommended if: You’re super competitive by nature. And have a lot of emails you’ve been avoiding.

Cost: Free!

Boomerang

What it is: Boomerang allows you to control when you send and receive messages in the Chrome, Safari and Firefox browsers. You can set reminders for yourself to send emails, as well as to follow up with people when you haven’t heard back, and you can automatically schedule messages to go out whenever you want!

Recommended if: You need a way to pace when you’re receiving responses. For me, I often find that if I get on an email kick and clean out my Inbox, sending all those emails usually results in responses back…which defeats the purpose of the clean out session entirely! If you work in a position where you have clients, it’s also a great way to remind yourself to follow up with new leads.

Cost: Free!

Taskforce

What it is: A nifty app that integrates into your Gmail and allows you to turn emails into tasks. With Taskforce, you can even share those tasks with friends and colleagues, regardless of whether they use the app!

Recommended if: You find that new emails result in you adding new items to your To-Do list. Taskforce allows them to be one in the same.

Cost: Free!

Have you tried any of these? What do you think? What are your favorite ways to manage your Inbox?

victoria sig

HOW TO: The Top 5 Ways I Get Inspired

5 ideas to help you get inspired - from the b bar

As a follow up to Meg’s post last week at not being boring, I wanted to share a few ways that always help me get inspired when I’m in the creativity doldrums. While you’ve probably heard a few of these pointers before, I also wanted to share specific examples of how each one influenced a post on my own blog – the main idea being that one little spark of inspiration can lead to lots of other ideas!

READ A BOOK OR A MAGAZINE

This advice is constantly dolled out, but I have to say that for me, it’s one of the easiest ways to come up with a new post idea or topic. With magazines especially, I find that some always have content or art direction that really resonate with me. For example, the print version of Harper’s Bazaar is always a source of design inspiration for me – their layouts are one of a kind, and always get my creative juices flowing when it comes to thinking about how shapes and type intermingle with one another. As another example, I love to read Vanity Fair for the content. One of my favorite things is discovering random cultural tidbits to share with my readers, and VF is full of interesting topics to share and discuss.

Post example: Several years ago, I discovered the concept of this “cocktail bus” in Vanity Fair, and loved it so much I immediately went to the bus website to learn more. I knew it was something readers would love!

USE A DIFFERENT MEDIUM

Sometimes if I’ve been staring at a computer for too long and nothing is happening, I switch mediums. This could mean I work on a client project and physically draw ideas on paper. Or, maybe instead of looking at digital lookbooks, I actually flip through a catalog – or, even walk down the block to a store and go in just to browse. I’m no neurologist, but I somehow think that changing what your eyes are focusing on changes your perception, thus changing how you’re thinking about and analyzing things. Once you get different synapses in your brain firing, I swear, new ideas seem to materialize out of nowhere.  Read more »

PLEASE, DON’T BE BORING

boring

Boring. I find myself saying this word a lot lately, especially when it comes to blogging.

Because a blog can be something set up for free, literally anyone with a computer and an Internet connection can do it. Which is good and bad. It’s good for obvious reasons. It’s bad because now everyone and their mom has a blog. The unfortunate part is that so many of these new blogs are just copying the ones they read and love. Whether they copy the look, the type of content, the style — they aren’t providing new ideas and content for the world to see.

Obviously I am generalizing here, and there are lots of new and amazing blogs out there with great concepts and content — but there are also a lot of blogs that don’t offer anything new to the conversation — whether that be the fashion conversation, the interior conversation, or otherwise. Because almost anyone can start a blog now, it’s a lot harder to make it successful (monetarily), and grow a large audience because there are just so many blogs (and content websites) out there to choose from when consuming content.

So how do you NOT be boring? How do you make your content stand out from the sea of other bloggers in your category?

DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT. Come up with original ideas, original columns, original photography. Think about what isn’t being covered on blogs. What do you wish you were reading about? What’s missing? What are your true passions and how can you create new and fresh ideas around them?

Start there.

 

meg sig