Today’s web audience can smell bullshit a mile away. And I thank them for it. Companies are lucky to have them for so many reasons outside of being paying customers. Their low attention span and ability to talk to their trusted friends before making a purchasing decision can squeeze the accountability out of companies like a ripe grapefruit in a vice. They help make our world and the companies that run it, a better place. My opinion of course.
At the core, my philosophy on social media/marketing (and in life really) has always been: “Be unapologetically genuine, truthful and transparent.” I’ve really tried to stay true to this my whole life, in all my business endeavors and I try to keep those traits as mainstays in everything else I do.
The challenge with social media is that it’s so vast and enormous and noisy. Because it’s so huge, we need to get more calculated and efficient. As we grow our efforts and things start to take off, new opportunities and scenarios are unearthed.
I’m sure this scenario sounds familiar: You are trying to maximize your ROI with a big campaign push. You are trying to pull out all the stops by seeding relevant key influencers, implementing a solid social media strategy relying on the most extensive outreach and syndication plan possible with the budget and manpower you were given. You realize you are ready to go bigger. You are ready to step up your game and numbers on a grander scale. Unfortunately, the size of your golden revolutionary game-changing campaign vision is WAY bigger than your allocated tangible means.
So how do you go big with way less headcount and budget than your vision requires? There are a number of ‘services’ that exist out there now that would like to help you. But while their technical abilities are sound, I’m concerned that the needle between real and ‘payola’ will get pushed too far in the wrong direction.
Here’s what I’m talking about……
I was approached recently by an agency recently about hiring them to do ‘targeted, sponsored outreach’ utilizing paid blog posts, tweets, et al. The process is pretty simple. You have a kick off meeting with them to discuss the following:
- Your product or service and brand
- Your business objective with the particular campaign or initiative you are hiring them for
- The demographic(s)/market segments you’re trying to proliferate
- Known subject/demographic (and very specific) key influencers (so they can research all of their conversations, posts, etc.)
Once you establish some of these basics with them, they then move forward with profiling bloggers, tweeps, and others from a pool of hundreds of thousands (so they say) of authorized content creators that have gone through a review process. This process interviews bloggers to find out what they normally write about, their hobbies, their focus, knowledge level, etc.
If you were selling a new camera for instance, they would work with the bloggers they’ve profiled that are photographers, or are at least enthusiasts on some level. Then, they would orchestrate a blog post idea/concept by each of these bloggers that would all go out at the same time (roughly), mentioning your product, your company, with all positive commentary when the launch happens. There would be a HUGE amount of link love, exclusive content, and thousands of people that were advocates of your company and this new camera……………at least algorithmically.
If you were to go down the path of basically the modern day payola version of social media, and savvy consumers saw or recognized the pattern and sudden onslaught of blog posts/tweets about you that came in at a volume that was NOT part of your track record, would they lambaste you for it? Would they start to write their own blog posts about your company paying for synthetic blog posts instead of ones that were written organically by people that actually do know/follow/buy your company’s products or services? Would it turn into a PR nightmare and make your company look shady?
Would you be the coveted winner of the “Social Media Used Car Salesman” award?
I’m curious to know what others’ experiences have been with sponsored outreach, blogs posts in particular. Maybe hundreds of companies are doing this and no one notices, or even cares for that matter. I already know why it *works* from a technical and human behavior level, but is it the right thing to do or is it better to just continue to grow everything organically….or a combination of both? Did I leave the iron on?