Posted on May 27, 2009 by Roxanne Darling
Brian Solis, a truly forward thinking PR professional and co-founder of the Social Media Club, took the time and captured a lot of the same thoughts I had, yet was reluctant to post in detail when I discussed Google, the FTC, and paid links. I too am influenced by my friends and business colleagues, and am trying to influence the discussion of social media practices here in Hawaii as a long time practitioner and also a founding member of the Social Media Club. (Whose tag line is, “If you get it, share it.” sometimes people don’t want to get it though – they are more comfortable doing business in the old ways.)
Please read: This is Not a Sponsored Post by Brian Solis
My post now is in response to Brian and the discussion taking place over at WebProWorld.com – where the opinion of bloggers among web managers and SEO experts is not too positive.
On a blog you never know as there is no way to know. Google warned about this a long time ago, likely because they remember how the FTC reatced [sp] to sponsored links when Se’s tried to disguise they were paid advertising, It is the law… bloggers aren’t above it.
Brian’s post is long. Here is the case in a nutshell:
These new brand ambassadors are almost the perfect instruments for surreptitiously sparking and cultivating groundswell within desired and vital target markets.
Consumers look to experts and trusted peers for guidance and insight when making decisions.
Who’s to say that the information they’re receiving from their trusted sources is indeed truthful and honest, if they’re unaware that these authorities are actually directly or indirectly compensated for their opinions and insights.
Can you see the situation developing? Bloggers have worked for free for so long, have created an asset of tremendous value that is finally being recognized, yet alas they are human too and can easily fall for the lure of the dollar. (Even small dollars, as most advertisers still do not understand that the big numbers they are used to are meaningless, and these small targeted numbers truly are gold.)
To me, blogging has become a big enough industry that it now replicates behaviors that humanity has gravitated towards “naturally.” Some travel bloggers, like some travel writers for mainstream press, now receive paid fam trips. We all like to think we are free thinkers – but when we are being paid, that does change things. We are not as impartial. Nearly impossible for all but the crankiest among us.
When a beloved blogger gets laid off from her job and appears to serendipitously take a trip to Hawaii to get her life sorted out, her readers responded with support and compassion. How would they feel if they knew it was an all expenses paid trip, courtesy of the tourism industry?
The really good news is that all parties stand to gain more by tweaking this relationship a little bit, and doing business in a more transparent manner.
The agency should be proud to support aka sponsor bloggers and bloggers should stop pretending they are immune to editorial standards of disclosure. If a big company did this – like Walmart did with its fake videoblogger/RV across America tour a few years back – they would (and did!) get nailed for it in public.
There really is a win-win-win in here! But advertisers and bloggers have to remember one of the fundamental rules of the social web: TRANSPARENCY. We can move business ethics forward, support the companies and the bloggers and the audience. Really, it’s not that hard. I am confident it will get worked out sooner than later.
Category: Activism, Social Media, Strategy Tags: "brian solis", bare feet studios, conversation, disclosure, ethics, FTC, google, influence, nofollow, payperpost, PR, reviews, roxanne darling, socailmedia, tourism, transparency, travel