Tag Archives: netiquette

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If we want to be taken seriously as bloggers, we must take blogging seriously.

I wrote that when I began If Emily Posted, when I found myself overwhelmed by the Wild West behavior online. Almost a year and a half after I began writing IEP, I still believe my initial hypothesis to be true:

Most bloggers want to do the right thing. Sometimes they simply need it defined.

I know I sound like a broken record at times, but most bloggers are running a solo show as writer, editor, photographer, publicist and agent. Most haven’t received a formal education in any of these areas. Especially the business end. (Hence the number of bloggers willing to do free PR, but that’s a post for another time.)

FACT: If you’re attempting to make a business out of blogging, or already are, you need to understand the FTC guidelines that concern bloggers who are monetizing their sites.

The guidelines are not new, but the March 2013 updates are important. We as bloggers, as professionals, need to keep up with this evolution. This homework is our responsibility. *

Attorney Sara Hawkins has written a wonderful breakdown of the FTC guidelines as part of her Blog Law series, and Blog With Integrity co-founder Susan Getgood wrote another great overview at BlogHer. The FTC booklet, which you can download for free, is good information to have on hand.

But I want to talk about what’s missing from the guidelines that many bloggers need.

You won’t find a section within the pages of that PDF that calms the fear that the word disclosure brings to many bloggers. A section that tells them not to be afraid of reader backlash for what can be an anxiety-provoking issue. (My friend Maegan wrote from the heart yesterday about misconceptions about paid content, and its strain on the blogger/reader relationship.)

Fear that readers will boycott keeps many bloggers from making disclosure obvious. They hide it in the fine print at the footer of their website or on their disclosure policy page or maybe they don’t say anything at all. Because they’re afraid of disappointing readers. It’s why bloggers post links to products in their posts or on their Facebook pages without disclosing “by the way, when you click this link it helps me make a living.”

FACT: When a blogger doesn’t disclose ads ethically, it hurts the rest of the blogging community that is playing by the rules. It promotes the notion that there’s something shameful in making a living this way.

IEP is primarily about social media netiquette and ethics for bloggers, but social media is a two-way street of content creators and content consumers. Sometimes readers need things defined, too.

Readers of the blogosphere, trust in the hardworking bloggers who create the content that inspires, entertains and informs you. Understand that your approval is taken very seriously. Also understand the hours, the days, the weeks, that can go into creating that content. (Paid or unpaid.)alexandra-wrote-rules-civility-disclosure-ftc

The new rules quite clearly tell bloggers to simplify disclosure. Make it clear. State it upfront and in each post where it applies.

FACT: For a long time, I place disclosure at the bottom of posts. I thought that was right. I was wrong.

If someone clicked through to check out a book I talked about before reading the affiliate links disclosure at end of my post, they’d have no idea. That’s why it needs to be the first thing they see, not the last.

It’s OK to make mistakes. The good news is this is all very fixable.

RULE: Don’t try to hide disclosure or bury it in fine print. Bring it to the top of your post and make it easy to read.

Bloggers owe it to one another to respect the rules. As I wrote in March of last year:

I’m not the first, and certainly not the last, to have referred to the web as the Wild West. The analogy works. But here’s the thing, the Wild West is not so wild anymore. It hasn’t been for a long time.

History has shown us that civilization can’t sustain itself if it isn’t, well, civilized.

Here’s to the rules of civility.

*My disclosure post from last November will be updated in regard to the #ad hashtag as per the new guidelines.

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A week ago Thursday, I took a break from writing to wander off to Twitter, as one does. A message came up in my feed, with an Instagram link, and I clicked to view. Without thinking twice, I immediately responded.

The tweet was sort of a social media snowball – Jonathan Adler’s company was tweeting an Instagram posted by ELLE magazine of one of his needlepoint pillows in their September issue. Ironically, both the new issue of ELLE and Jonathan Adler post-it notes sat on my desk as I was typing.

The pillow is one I have seen before. Stitched in a rainbow of sherbet colors are the words: Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels. A pretty boudoir pillow. An ugly message.

Kate Moss certainly wasn’t the first to say it, but three years after she called it her motto in a 2009 WWD interview, images of her with those superimposed words could be found posted across Tumblr and Pinterest and pro-ana sites that fill the web.

I have never myself had an eating disorder, but I know those who have struggled with them and those who’ve lost loved ones to them. I spent several years working for a renown ED author and first learned of the dangers of pro-ana sites – virtual cheerleaders for those with EDs, offering thinspiration through images, tips and tricks. Within the last year, any such images are now banned from sites like Tumblr and Pinterest. BANNED. And you know where else thinspo images are banned? Instagram.

As per their Terms of Use:

While Instagram is a place where people can share their lives with others through photographs, any account found encouraging or urging users to embrace anorexia, bulimia, or other eating disorders…will result in a disabled account without warning. We believe that communication regarding these behaviors in order to create awareness, come together for support and to facilitate recovery is important, but that Instagram is not the place for active promotion or glorification of self-harm.”

Where fashion, design and social media intersect, doesn’t a certain level of responsibility need to be taken?

Brands know the power of social media. It’s why they create Twitter accounts and Facebook Pages and Pinterest boards. My tweet was immediately noticed, and responded to, by others who shared my concern. Some I knew, others were strangers.

While I had some good conversations with other Twitter users, not a word was said in response by Jonathan Adler or ELLE. To each person who said they were concerned, found it irresponsible, knew the pain of a loved one with an eating disorder – no response. The Adler account has a lot of followers, but you’d think that a concentrated number of tweets in a row to with both Adler and ELLE’s handles would have drawn notice. Twitter accounts are monitored. I thought they might delete the tweet. Realize it was foolish. No big show need be made. Sometimes actions speak louder than words.

Speaking of action, this last May, the editors of the 19 VOGUE magazine editions published worldwide, in partnership with the CFDA Health Initiative, announced moves to “ban models under 16 or those of any age with visible signs of eating disorders.” In reaction to this news, the following statement was made by The Hearst Corp.:

“Good health is something we strive to promote in our magazines, both in our fashion and beauty stories and in our features. We make every effort to educate our readers and present images that reflect strong, beautiful women.”

Hearst publishes ELLE.

You lose credibility with your readers when you promote the very thing you claim you don’t promote.

With all the recent controversy over what makes a good social media manager, one has to wonder if the people running social media for Jonathan Adler and ELLE consider what they’re doing?

I’m an Adler fan. My home is filled with his designs for bed and bath, books, pottery and paper goods. It dawned on me that a visit to my blog or my Instagram feed or Pinterest boards and you’d find Adler in all those places.

I wish I could say the pillow is witty. Wit is a wonderful thing. Except some things aren’t funny. Some things are too easily taken at face value and the humor lost leads to something dangerous. Some truly believe that being skinny is all that matters. That to starve is to succeed. That the words stitched onto that pillow are words of wisdom.

It doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be able to sell the pillow. It just means their social media people shouldn’t be posting it to Instagram. People, brands, everyone, need to read the TOS.

I love fashion mags and have a stack of September issues three feet tall I’m currently wading through. I want to believe that these magazines are planning to do what they say and that designers understand that the power of their influence. Especially in social media.

The greatest irony, if you can call it that, is that directly above the pillow is an image of Marilyn Monroe. Though unrelated, the two images seem such a ridiculous contrast.