Sewing Influencers: Part 1 Advertising is Everywhere
Reminder: I am not a lawyer and you should not consider the contents of this post to be legal advice. Please seek out a qualified legal expert if you need to pursue this topic with more depth in relation to your own business. Thank you for reading and I hope we all learn something!
Recently on Instagram, I posted a (frustrated) reminder to disclose affiliate programs when sharing a pattern company or specific pattern. I stated that the affiliate relationship should be disclosed every time, in every location, that the person shares that pattern or company with the intent to direct traffic to their own affiliate link. This was followed up by a huge influx of engagement from my account followers who themselves had BIG questions about this topic. In general most of us (me included) are unclear on the actual regulations related to disclosure. Since I’m not an expert and may have been totally and completely wrong, I volunteered myself to do the research for all of us.
There is so much to cover and we all have so many questions that I need to break this into a multi-part series. Currently I have four parts outlined with the intent to add at least two more. This series is going to focus on advertising and influencers specifically in the sewing community in the United States. If you have information about other crafting communities that you would like to share, you are welcome to leave a comment.
Why am I interested in influencers and disclosure?
My interest in advertising began when I watched the television series Mad Men. An entire department in the fictional advertising agency was devoted to product placement on television shows. I can’t recall the specifics of the episode but I remember being so surprised when the agency was trying to secure a featured spot for a household good like a laundry detergent in a scene of a television show. Suddenly I began seeing advertising everywhere! Back in the early days of American Idol, the judges were always sipping Coca Cola out of giant red cups.
Television advertising has only expanded from there. How many times during your favorite drama series does the camera zoom into a feature on a brand new car? Advertising is not just during the commercials! Apologies to my TV watching companion, my husband, who tolerates my audible groans and complaints about the not-so-subtle advertising during our favorite shows. I do realize that advertising revenue pays the network TV bills so I accept it, but that doesn’t mean I don’t notice it everywhere.
Now that we’ve established my sensitivity to product placement, you might understand why my advertising radar (imaginary, of course) goes off when I’m browsing blogs, Instagram, and YouTube accounts. If I notice that a sewer that I follow has written articles in the past about a certain fabric brand or sewing tool, I often wonder if they have sought out that brand for a partnership.
Perhaps I am a cynic, but an unbiased opinion is very hard to find these days. Sometimes I am looking for a pattern review and it is hard to know if the poster is being very honest. In a small community like the online sewing community, we KNOW each other. We often even know the pattern designers personally, or maybe we feel like we know them because we’ve watched their business grow online. The more involved a sewer becomes in the sewing community, the more opportunities to turn their sewing hobby into a little bit of a business may become available. Pattern testing, blog tours, sewing competitions, and sample sewing are just a few of the ways that anyone—even YOU—could begin to develop more business-like relationships. This is when the information shared between us gets a little muddy and it’s harder to know where personal opinion and advertising (whether paid or unpaid) meet.
Illuminating that fine line where these two meet and clearing up confusion about the responsibility of disclosing our business relationships will, I hope, create more trust amongst the sewing community because the veil of misunderstanding will be lifted. I am not claiming to be able to provide the answers (see my own disclosure about this NOT being legal advice) but instead share with you what I am learning about advertising, influencers, affiliate sales, and disclosure and how I interpret this information in my own future interactions with businesses and my own online platforms (this blog, my Instagram, etc).