If you follow me on Twitter you will see that I interact frequently. I have found and shared a lot of resources there and made and connections that would have taken much longer through just blogging and commenting.
It's a great tool, but it also can fuel controversy.
The Twitter Mob
Over the past few months there have been a number of controversies that have sprung up through Twitter that have led to interesting discussions, but may have been overblown in their black and white knee-jerk reaction.
The format allows anyone to quickly post an opinion that can be virally spread across multiple networks very quickly. The short format doesn't allow for much nuance either.
The most recent dust-up was over Chris Brogan's post on his Dad-o-Matic blog about a shopping spree at K-Mart in which he bought a bunch of gifts to donate to Toys-for-Tots. Chris writes two blogs, his very popular Community and Social Media blog, which is written in his role as a new media consultant with his company New Marketing Labs. He also writes his less popular but respectable blog Dad-o-Matic, on which he writes “views, news, reviews, and advice” about parenting for Dads.
It turns out that Chris serves on the the board of Izea, which arranged for the shopping spree. He was testing a new concept for Izea.
I have to admit that I have strenuously advised my clients away from purchasing Pay-per-Post campaigns. I think that the resulting posts are almost always inauthentic sounding (more like a press release) and I worry that eventually Google will penalize them for it. Izea is headed by Ted Murphy, who behind the original Pay-per-Post and its offspring Social Spark – both of which were very controversial upon their launch.
The popular Forrester analyst and blogger Jeremiah Owyang asked a few questions of Chris about his post, and suddenly Twitter was ablaze with accusations about Chris' credibility. Jeremiah has been clear that he does not question Brogan's credibility, but just wanted to dig into his motivations.
Chris gave his thoughtful response to the criticism, and about the idea of sponsored posts overall.
Why Paid Links Are Ineffective
I have to admit that I have strenuously advised my clients away from purchasing Pay-per-Post campaigns. I think that the resulting posts are almost always inauthentic sounding (more like a press release) and Google has already penalized blogs that carry the links.
The main problem I see with pay-per-post campaigns is the wholesale goal of getting as many links as possible, with quality being little more than an afterthought.
Matt Cutts, a Google engineer and head of its web spam team addresses posts written for pay and how to report them here.
I still really don't like this model.
Why Thoughtful Giveaways are Different
However, a new model has started to arise, which is where a “sponsor” or a company offers the blogger a sample of the product to get their feedback, good or bad. They are also usually offered a similar package to give away to their blog readers in a contest.
Parenting bloggers will be particularly familiar with this model. In the interest of full disclosure, I just won a recent contest through this model as a participant.
As a consultant, I have run a number of campaigns for clients using this model over the past year and a half. It is generally a win-win for all involved. What I have found as we have worked this model is that people like to hear about relevant experiences from bloggers, and they also like the opportunity to have the same experience. It also mitigates that main problem of pay-per-post campaigns since disclosure is required by default.
The giveaway/contest model helps to reduce what I like to call the “envy factor,” which is the backlash to certain bloggers getting special treatment over others.
Consider the Culture
The feeling that the Internet has flattened influence is within the common culture of most bloggers. Even though it is the case that some bloggers are clearly more popular than others, the overall feeling, by even top bloggers, is that anyone can break in. You can see a comment by well-known blogger Robert Scoble on this topic here and another article here.
It is critical to keep this culture in mind when you design outreach campaigns or it can backfire in negativity, especially if the bloggers chosen for the experience are especially high profile.
Standardization Holds Hazards
Clearly Izea sees a profit opportunity in standardizing these types of campaigns and possibly leveraging its already impressive network of top blogs that participate in some of its other programs.
while Izea's standardized method of outreach is tantalizing for companies looking for a way to approach social media, I feel it carries a number of hazards.
Often before embarking on any such program I have reached out to bloggers in that segment to ask their advice before stepping out of the gate. I am not sure Izea's model really allows for that level of standardization, but I will be interested to see.
The most important consideration is that outreach must be tailored to fit the segment. What is permissible in the parenting segment would be sacrilegious in the Technology side. Public relations, marketing and social media bloggers are very sensitive to authentic communication and will raise an outcry, as was the case with Chris Brogan's post. Add the mixing pot of Twitter to the fray, where all these segments can mingle, and you can get a potent cocktail.
I applaud Chris for wading in so publicly to demonstrate this with his own blog properties, I certainly have had a lot of my thoughts reinforced about how to approach such experiments for clients. I consider Chris Brogan a colleague and friend and realize that he took some major risks here.
I would love to hear your thoughts. If you are a company have tried the Giveaway campaign or if you are a blogger have you participated? Why or why not?
Credit: I found the photo of the custom-made glove used to illustrate this post on Flickr. It was made by Bug Eater's Knit Knack Shack on Etsy. This was NOT a sponsored post but I thought it was a good analogy.