Blogging for Dollars

A couple of posts popped up lately in which the blogger has been paid to blog about a particular retailer. Twitter was all a Twitter about it with some big name bloggers getting drummed with Tweets and emails accusing them of damaging their own credibility

by selling out and on and on. It also put the company behind the idea (Izea) front and center in the controversy.

The first one I heard about was when Chris Brogan wrote his post for Kmart on Dadomatic and the second was Chris Heuer for Sears. Then I saw Liz Strauss’ post, also for Sears.

All three are highly respected bloggers and so the prominence of the whole thing in the first place. Both fully disclosed they were paid to participate immediately, and frankly neither post sheds a whole lot of radiantly positive light on either shopping mecca. Both posts are getting a huge amount of visibility for both the stores and Izea, which was the point. It’s actually probably been more successful for Izea than either Kmart or Sears as far as visibility goes.

It’s pretty clear from the two Chris’ posts that neither of them had experience with the stores or were seldom shoppers there. Was the point to introduce these stores to a new market? Liz Strauss clearly does know the store and her experience was quite different. Being a midwestern kid who also drooled over that wishbook I can relate, and I think of the three her post was probably more what Izea and the retailers were looking for. If you read the comments on her blog the feedback is quite different too.

  • Here are the key points in my book:

    All of these posts had transparency and then some. We knew the whole story up front.

  • The bloggers in the spotlight are all well known with large followings
  • The stores are making the effort to reach out with social media and do it “right” rather than sending a pile of free shwag to review as many companies do.
  • Izea’s got a new model and people are watching it to see what happens

It’s not about whether we trust these bloggers or not. Each fully disclosed what they were doing and I trust them for their business and marketing savvy online as much as ever.

It’s not about the stores paying bloggers to write about their $500 gift. It’s actually a pretty savvy marketing idea, and bloggers get paid (not much) or recompensed with merchandise to post all the time. Heck, I’d take it, wouldn’t you?

For me it’s about how the bloggers were chosen that shows maybe there’s still a little learning curve here. Sure, you want bloggers with a following or your $500 will take longer to see a return. It takes longer for a post on a less trafficked blog to get around, but it still does eventually get there.

In my opinion they should have qualified the bloggers differently. Did they ever shop there? Who are the people listening to this blogger and are they likely customers? What were the goals of these campaigns?

Connecting with potential customers was probably much more the goal than poking a stick at the credibility monster. I expect that the folks at Izea are collecting a huge amount of data to use in their future campaigns.

We cannot expect social media to stay pure and free and unfettered by capitalism. It just ain’t gonna happen. So how can we all get along?