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Take the Time to Learn the Ropes for Your Mom Blog

The general population has the perception that blogging must be really easy, cushy work — and that all you have to do is set up shop, and the freebies will start rolling in.

For example, a blogger with just a few months under her belt put together an experiment in the hopes of building her brand-relationship experience. She decided to put up her own money and solicit written positive reviews for a car company from other mom bloggers. She hoped the experience would open doors to paying opportunities in the future.

Unfortunately, this woman knew very little about what she was getting herself into. Her e-mails to other bloggers were unprofessional and presented very unrealistic and inappropriate expectations of participants for a rather meager $10 gift card.

Even though she wasn’t officially representing the company, she made it seem as if she was, and nobody would have expected a blogger with so little experience to act on her own accord in this manner. The unfortunate outcome of this situation was that the large car company got blamed for being unprofessional and inappropriate in a highly visible way.

Its official representative on Twitter had to refute the claim that it was involved, and suddenly it had a very bad PR experience on its hands that it didn’t create. Even worse, the story grew so quickly that large websites such as TheConsumerist initially ran the story as if the car manufacturer had tried to “bribe mommy bloggers to bury bad press.”

Had the woman in question really learned what it takes to run a professional blogger-outreach campaign, she would have been well aware that her requests were in violation of the FTC guidelines regarding social media marketing campaigns.

She would also have known that acting as a representative for a company would bring a significant amount of legal liability upon herself. And she would certainly have known that her request was exceedingly inappropriate, especially as a violation of the Word of Mouth Marketing Association’s code of ethics.

The other unfortunate outcome of this situation was that the blogger who initiated all this brouhaha had a lifelong dream to run her own business. But in less than 24 hours, she decided to pull down her website and get out of an industry she knew far too little about.

She posted an immediate apology and admitted she hadn’t taken the time to learn about the laws and the ethics code that govern the industry. And since she had no marketing experience, she had no way of knowing she was in over her head until it was too late and the damage was done.

You wouldn’t try to design a building without going to architectural school, or represent someone in court without taking the bar exam first. Okay, blogging and social media are not rocket science, but they do have real effects — and it’s important to understand the industry thoroughly before you participate at a professional level.

Here are some of the blogging minefields that you really need to find your way through; be sure you understand before you jump in headfirst:

  • Know the FTC disclosure guidelines and ensure that you have a process in place to disclose in the manner they require (putting up a disclosure page isn’t enough).

  • Know the laws governing sweepstakes and contests in your jurisdiction. Just as important: Make sure you comply with those laws, especially the ones regarding winner selection, notification, and tax liabilities.

  • Know the CAN-Spam requirements for running legal e-mail marketing campaigns.

  • Know the tax implications of accepting free products, services, and travel expenses. These things need to be declared as income.

  • Know that if you buy or sell text-link advertising, you could get banned from Google.

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