You’ve probably realized that your dream launch to-do list cannot be your actual launch to-do list. And the reason they aren’t one in the same is to maintain your sanity.
For me, one of those cuts to my dream to-do list for the artist’s Courtyard launch was an affiliate program. I liked the idea of paying back to members of our community and allowing them to earn a free membership. I even got as far as picking a WordPress plug-in. But when push came to shove it wasn’t necessary for the launch so it got dropped.
Fast-forward six months and I feel like I’ve established a routine. I’ve gotten systems and sales funnels in place. I’ve gotten into a groove allowing me to create enough content a week. And things are starting to feel less stressful on a day-to-day basis.
So I’m again debating adding an affiliate program for the artist’s Courtyard members. (Psst…if you are an active member of the artist’s Courtyard and would love one, let me know!)
But projects like this are when my lawyer-brain is a blessing and a curse. Because in a quick brainstorming session, I can see dozens of potential legal pitfalls. And I know that I’ll need things like:
- educational materials to make sure my affiliates understand their legal requirements
- affiliate manual
- affiliate contract
- swipe copy and graphics to help my affiliates
I’m not sure if I’m going to make the leap. But you might be all in.
So how can you avoid the legal pitfalls my lawyer-brain imagines?
When your affiliates promote your product or service, they must follow a set of FTC guidelines. So as part of your affiliate materials, you should explain these guidelines.
The FTC rules are pretty common sense when you think about them from the consumer’s standpoint. Your affiliates just need to make it clear that they are getting something in exchange for promoting your product or service.
They’ll need to do this with their:
- social media followers
- website visitors
- newsletter subscribers
And they do this by adding a notification to their content that the link an affiliate link.
- add the text [affiliate link] after any text or image link
- have a standard blurb that goes at the top of each blog post
- might add #ad to the beginning of any social media post
To follow the FTC rules, they need to meet all four of these requirements:
- Placement: Your affiliates cannot hide the disclosure in the footer. It must be conspicuous and obvious.
- Action: Your affiliates can’t require viewers to take extra steps to read the disclosure (e.g. no click-through links).
- Clear: Viewers must easily know that your affiliates are getting paid in exchange.
- Timing: Your affiliates can’t just tell viewers once. Disclosures must be on every post, social media interaction, email, link, or comment.
(My trick to remembering these four elements is that your affiliates make a PACT with viewers to disclose when they are getting something in return.)
A good place to include this educational information is in your affiliate manual. (And if you want to link to this post, I highly encourage it.)
Sure, if your affiliates get in trouble, you aren’t the one liable to the FTC. But, I’d rather over-disclose and have my affiliates ignore me. Rather than feel guilty when one got in trouble because she didn’t know the rules existed.
You should either create a PDF document or a web page that will function as your affiliate manual. This can serve as your affiliate agreement or you can add your formal affiliate agreement to the end.
The one important thing to keep in mind is that is you need them to agree to the terms by signing it and returning it to you. (I love HelloSign for things like this.)
You need to make sure there is a way for them to agree to the terms by signing it and returning it to you.
An affiliate manual is a perfect place to put the answers to all those FAQs you get from your affiliates. So include information like:
- how to sign up
- how it works
- how long the affiliate system tracks cookies
- common reasons they might not get credited for a sale (browsing on one device but purchasing on another, cache clearing)
- what you need to pay them (PayPal email address, W-9, signed affiliate agreement)
- what they will be paid per sale
- when they will be paid
- how they will be paid
- what documentation they will get with payment
- how they can check if they have earned any commissions
- how to create text, social media, and image links
Some affiliate manuals include screenshots from within their program to help affiliates. Another great idea is a private video that walks them through your affiliate program.
While this is work up-front for you, it’s less work over time. Because it gives your affiliates a one-stop shop for questions. And in turn, makes it less likely that you’ll end up with question after question in your inbox.
Finally, you should wrap up your manual by explaining your ground rules and boundaries.
For example do they:
- always need to use your images or can they create their own
- need to include a specific hashtag on social media
And how you will respond if they violate them.
Providing Swipe Copy and Graphics
Your swipe copy and graphics will probably exist in your affiliate manual and your affiliate program. Allowing them options to cut and paste from. You can make it much easier for your affiliates to keep their PACT by including:
- [affiliate link] in the sample copy
- a notation on the image that the image is functioning as an affiliate link
- #affiliatelink, #ad, or #sponsored in your social media copy
Now, I know that this isn’t the prettiest thing. But just ask the Kardashians why it’s important to disclose this stuff to your followers. So you might include alternative language that they can use at the beginning of a blog post instead. Maybe something like:
These are affiliate links, but I wouldn’t be promoting PRODUCT/SERVICE NAME if I didn’t believe that it could help you.
This section is a perfect place to tie in the educational materials about why you’ve included this information and the PACT they have with their audience.