We all knew it was coming. Even the Federal Trade Commission is adding bloggertising (undisclosed blog advertising) to its hit list. But this morning when I came across the Forbes article “Ted Murphy engages bloggers to write on behalf of corporate sponsors. Marketing genius–or payola pimp?” I couldn’t help but be annoyed.
According to the Forbes article, Ted Murphy, founder of Izea Entertainment – a so called social media marketing company – gave popular bloggers a $500 Kmart credit to shop at the store and in exchange, Kmart received rave reviews on the participating bloggers’ web sites. Now certainly their experience could have been sincere; however, knowing that a nice fat carrot was dangled in front of their noses, it is hard to consider those reviews credible.
But that really isn’t what set me over the edge… it’s the $3,000 Murphy’s agency pays bloggers to write reviews for major brands like SeaWorld, Sears, Dirt Devil and Hewlett Packard. Kudos to these bloggers that are brining in the cash and tisk tisk to the marketers and companies buying into this pay for blog model. Not to toot my own horn, but Sweeney could have gotten better, more credible results at a lower investment.
I realize that Izea Entertainment is not the only agency or company participating in these types of activities. But unfortunately, it only takes one incident like this to give marketing and public relations a bad name. And whatever happened to social media marketers preaching that it’s all about transparency?!!!
When we conduct blogger relations for consumer clients, we gladly send bloggers products to test and include additional product for giveaways, but this isn’t any different than how we approach the media. We actually stay away from bloggers that request compensation for reviews. Although, I’m not sure consumers can tell the difference and this is precisely why the FTC is getting involved.
With the FTC blogger regulations, it will soon be necessary for bloggers to disclose that they received a product for free or were compensated to write about their experience. What is unknown is will bloggers be required to completely disclose the amount and/or form of compensation. Will paid trips to company headquarters to test products be considered compensation?
Regardless of the FTC regulations, I’m sure there will still be gray areas and bloggers not disclosing the required information. And agencies like Izea Entertainment will still make money and corporations participating in compensating bloggers will still get excellent reviews. Our only hope is for true and ethical marketers and bloggers to take a stand against bloggertising.