Friday, November 28, 2014

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Blogging for Dollars

by fouts

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?

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  • http://intensedebate.com/people/x10 x10

    I like how you pulled out the part about how the bloggers were transparent about how they were using izea. I think bloggers will need to stay true to themselves and their audience will be on high alert if posts start to feel like commercials. In my opinion, a blogger isn't "selling out" unless they are taking money to promote a product they don't believe in.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/jfouts jfouts

    x10, yes I agree, we need to be paying attention for flog posts and this just shows us how that *might* happen.

    Another point floated to the surface in an offline discussion about this. The bloggers above are bloggers bloggers. We listen to them for the latest on social media and our businesses, not necessarily their retail shopping experiences. Chris Brogan is an exception since he posted on Dadomatic, but really we found him because of his industry perspective. I wonder if Izea has any Twitter moms or mommy bloggers on their radar?

  • http://www.consumerqueen.com Consumer Queen

    What a wonderful article and very well written. I agree why can't we all just get along. Most of us Mommy bloggers have very loyal followers. They knew who we are from the very beginning. If we are approached to do a post like this they know right away what we stand for and that compensation will not taint our opinions. I think izea was very smart in getting bloggers and I think its time that people move on. Its kinda like how some people just do not like change right? Well change happens wether we like it or not so we can deal with it or dwell on it.

  • Jules

    There was a good wrap-up of all this noise here. Did you see it? http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00e00

  • Jules

    I guess I got the trackback wrong, try this one. http://jburg.typepad.com/future/2008/12/bloggers-

  • http://www.storyofmylife.com/antje antje wilsch

    I think part of it is also how often they do it. There is a judicious call between people who post to "spam" (sell) and throw in some tidbits in a futile attempt to not sound like a marketing department, and someone like them (above) who give a LOT of content and fully disclose what they're doing.

    The advertisers need to be aware of the audience too. One of the biggest problem with bloggers is that the audience make-up is laregly conjecture.

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  • http://www.brtrends.org Tom

    There's absolutely nothing wrong with that, they just have to make sure not to exaggerate on paid blogs, or their readers will go somewhere else. But I think the best idea is to attach the paid ad within one blog post itself, at the end of the post. So the readers will have the option to read an actual blog post and at the end of it, keep reading the paid ad or go elsewhere.

  • http://www.jobs-work-employment.com Sears Employment

    The retailers are catching on that bloggin is an acceptable form of advertising. They will eventually fine tune it and hire full time bloggers in their advertising departments.

  • http://rexkaufman.vox.com/library/post/more-information-about-chapter-7-bankruptcy.html Rita

    Hello, What enticed you to post this article. It was extremely interesting, especially since I was searching for info on this subject last Thursday.

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