Thursday, January 02, 2014

Influence 101: Recognizing Bias and Influence

Whether you're a blogger or not, you're an influencer. We all are. Think about it. Every time we Tweet, post a photo to Instagram, or share an update on Facebook, we're influencing someone. And whether or not we'd like to admit it, we're all biased. This is the first in a four-part series about influence.
Opinion Leadership
With influence comes responsibility, especially when it comes to bias. Bias isn't a bad thing. Bias is our personal taste, our design aesthetic, our consumption philosophy.
Definitions of Bias and Influence
We're selective in what we share. This selection reflects our bias. What we choose to buy or not buy. What we choose to eat or not eat. Each decision we make defines us. How we make those decisions and whether someone else shaped those decisions (influenced us) is important -- especially if a decision appears to be counter to our image.
How do you make decisions about what to buy?
Where to travel?
What to believe?

Belief the Warrant is Obvious
Whether intentional or not, we're not always transparent in our decision making process or about how we were influenced. I'm not talking about lying where in the extreme case some bloggers have pretended items they purchased were indeed gifted to them. Lying is bad.
I'm talking about omission. And, I don't mean omission just in a blog post, I mean omission in an Instagram photo, a Facebook status update, a Tweet, and more.

Was it Purchased or Gifted?

A month or so ago a few of us were trying to determine which items we saw on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and so on were gifts. Many of us snap and share photos of the packages we get in the mail; items we've ordered as well as items we've received as gifts. Often times we'll thank whatever brand.
When my day is brightened by the arrival of one of my favorite brand's catalogs, I tend to Instagram it and to thank the brand. A catalog is a little different from a book or a necklace. No one is going to think a brand has paid for my social media update in the form of a catalog. But, a product that you've received for free from a brand you have worked with (sponsored posts, blog giveaways, and so on)? That's a little different. And we found with some online influencers it was difficult to distinguish authentic purchases.
How transparent do you want your influencers to be?
My Winnings from 100 Days of Alt Giveaway

Was I Influenced?

To make it easier for readers to know whether I've been influenced, directly or indirectly, I've recently updated my disclosure policies for the blog. If you're curious about all of the various disclosures you're going to start seeing, check out my Advertising page.
While I've tried to always comply with FTC Guidelines (16 CFR Part 255: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising (October 15, 2009) and dotcom Disclosures (March 12, 2013)), in 2014, I'm going to be going a little further. I'm going to be mentioning if I used a coupon to try a service or if I received a gift from a brand as part of my participation in a conference. And, in social media where there might be confusion as to whether I purchased an item myself, I'll be using the hashtag #notanad.
Just a quick clarification, the FTC guidelines for advertising actually apply to everyone -- not just bloggers. If you regularly Tweet about products or share products that you've gotten for free to try on Instagram or Facebook, you might want to review the guidelines. The fines for misrepresenting an opinion are hefty.
Ciao Bella!
P.S. Don't feel like commenting? Strike up a conversation with me elsewhere: Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, or Pinterest.
Credits: All layouts designed by and images taken by Eden Hensley Silverstein for The Road to the Good Life.
Disclosure: Items pictured in this post were prizes I won in the 100 Days of Alt Giveaway. The poster card (link to Instagram of giveaway) is by How Fab Paper Goods. The pig gift tags (link to Instagram of giveaway) are by Dawn of Not Just a Mommy Blog. The Alt luggage tag (link to Instagram of giveaway) was my first win from earlier in giveaway.