9/02/2010

How Bloggers Get Bought Off and Why You Shouldn't Trust Social Media

Sometimes a legitimate-looking post is hiding something.
Blogs started as a way for people to share thoughts with friends. Today, social media spam is rampant, albeit usually obvious. Or is it?

Before you outright trust what you read in a blog, consider whether the blogger (or Twitter user, or Facebook profilee) is being bought off. I mean paid secretly for convincing you to buy something. Does that person really think thus-and-such a product is wonderful? Did they really try it and make money, get skinny, win friends? Would they tell you if they received commissions for every purchase resulting from their "honest sharing?"

Today I received this e-mail, a classic example of how bloggers get started misleading their readers. This kind of communication happens in the dark alleys of the blogosphere. Let's drag it into the light of day. Here's the e-mail, received shortly after midnight...

Hi my name is [omitted] and I'm a blog spotter. I basically
scour popular blogs in an effort to find great writers. I
loved your post on [first words of recent post title], nice job!

I'd like to get straight to the point.

Our client wants people like you to sponsor their products
and will pay you to do so.

They're launching an educational product on [date]
that teaches others how to make money on the internet by
using Facebook and Social Media.

We want to pay you for recommending that product to your
loyal blog readers and we will pay you up to $200 for each
person that you refer. If you make just one sale a day
you're looking at making around $6000 per month.

All you need to do is create a few blog posts that recommend
this product. You may also
use one of our nice banners and place it on your blog.

It's pretty simple, takes very little time (10 minutes or
so) and will be very rewarding.

All sales that you refer are tracked through your own
special link and you will get paid every week. Payments are
always on time and will be sent to you via Check.

This deal is totally legitimate and we will NEVER ask you
for any fee, or to sign any contracts.

What do you need to do if you are interested?

I have more details, a video and instructions for you here:

[URL omitted]

Regards,

Note that anyone could accept this offer and blog or tweet their hearts out about the "educational product." The sender of the e-mail doesn't suggest that the recipient hide their business relationship to the product.

Bloggers often simply leave their morals in a drawer, hoping to take more money to the bank. It's not hard to gush about a company. It's just too easy to leave out the part about "I get paid to say this" or "I stand to make financial gain when I 'Like' this."

People who write "social media" should adhere to a simple ethic: disclose the existence of vested interests and conflicts. The truth is, many do not.

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