Updates from January, 2009 Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • dbinkowski 10:30 pm on January 28, 2009 Permalink | Reply  

    FTC takes on blogger compensation, among other things 

    Brandweek has a heads up on some interesting developments going on at the FTC. As you know, the EU implemented some rules back in 2007 regarding fake bloggers and astroturfing, with fines and possible jail time as a consequence for engaging in devious practices. Don’t look now, but the FTC is looking to take actions regarding endorsements, including paid and earned blogger relations campaigns:

    For consumer testimonials, the general rule is that an advertiser cannot pay or otherwise compensate a person to give an endorsement without disclosing the material connection. Bloggers who receive compensation—or even free products from advertisers—may now have to disclose that connection with the advertiser if they provide a positive review of those products. Similarly, an employee of an electronic game manufacturer who posts messages promoting the manufacturer’s product on a third-party message board must disclose his relationship with the manufacturer. “Street team” programs in which members gain points every time they talk to their friends about a particular advertiser’s products could also run afoul of the FTC Guides.

    Comments on this issue to the FTC are open for two more days until January 30th. However, the debate can certainly rage on here as long as we’d like.

    Paid and unpaid placements

    As a long time proponent of the WOMMA ethics code, I’m in favor of full disclosure as it relates to paid placements. A recent Izea campaign for Kmart got Chris Brogan in some hot water with his readers, but as I’ve said before it’s not unethical as he did disclose that he was compensated financially.

    Unpaid placements, however are another story. If I pitch a product or story to a blogger and they choose to write about it then they clearly felt strongly one way or another about it. Does it matter that they got it for free? What about bloggers that pick up a press release, video, advertisement or other materials from a company’s web site? Are they liable for not disclosing that they found it on a company’s site (copyright issues aside)?

    Additionally, as someone who has tackled this issue head on through WOMMA the conclusion is simple: I don’t control a blogger’s blog nor control what they do or do not write. Now the government is going to try and mandate what bloggers write? I smell a revolt…

    Street teams

    Another matter that is clearly not cut and dry is street teams. Can this be expanded to anyone with a financial interest in a company? For example, let’s say that I’m an Apple shareholder and I convince a friend that they should buy a Mac. Technically I am being financially rewarded for doing so. Even worse, suppose we’re out in public. Too murky to regulate, IMO. You may recall this report from Dr. Walter Carl where consumers really don’t care about disclosure when it comes to offline agents — just 5% said there was a negative backlash when they found out someone was being compensated. I’m not going to say it’s all on the consumer. But the argument can be made that they really don’t care if someone’s being compensated and that they use their best judgment to determine that person’s credibility.

    So… what’s the answer?

    Clearly, there are several verticals online where transparency is not the policy. How many times have you looked at the reviews on iTunes, gaming and travel sites and wondered if they were real? What about the astroturfing I uncovered in the beauty blogosphere? Ultimately the companies engaging in unethical practices are those that suffer. Consumers lose trust with that company or brand and stop buying the product. That’s how you punish unethical companies, not through blanket government regulation over entrepreneurial individuals trying to run a web site.

    Similarly, if a blogger’s readers truly feel duped then their brand and business will suffer through decreased readership.

    digg_url = ‘http://digg.com/tech_news/FTC_takes_on_blogger_compensation_among_other_things’;

     
    • Shannon Nelson 5:42 pm on January 31, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      I am all for bloggers having a disclosure page where how they review products is laid out…but here is my 2 cents:

      Magazines don’t do this, yet we all know that we in PR are pitching them and that the editors are not just raving about something they truly love or stumbled upon themselves. Often times magazines have that unspoken rule that you get special attention if you advertise with them for that issue. Just pick up any beauty magazine and I can guarantee that if they are talking about the greatest new lipstick by Brand X, that Brand X has at least one ad in said magazine that month. When a beauty editor raves about the newest beauty find, I have never seen them disclose which PR firm sent it to them. So why as bloggers should we have to disclose that the brand or their PR firm sent us the product for free to review? Also, if you are being monetarily compensated…in which I would consider it an advertorial…there definitely should be full disclosure.

      Another thing is that many of these PR press release sites have blogs set up to aggregate their press releases. Specifically speaking on beauty–they have the look of a beauty blog and the press release is posted as if it is a blog post, but there is no disclosure page saying they are connected to that newswire. The typical reader may not realize this just browsing the blogosphere, but obviously those of us in PR know who they are. Will there be mandated disclosure for this as well?

    • Timmy The Great III 5:23 pm on February 6, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      wow nice

  • dbinkowski 1:10 am on July 29, 2008 Permalink | Reply  

    Product reviews in 160 characters or less 


    Move over long form reviews, there’s a new player in town. Via TechCrunch, a new service launched this week called Blippr, which is a product review web site that limits reviews to 160 characters. When I first read about it I thought “there is no way it will work”, but after trying out the site there are several reasons it does work. Here are a few rules to success that they’ve followed:

    1. Be relevant. The categories they’ve chosen — music, movies, books and games — don’t require lengthy reviews, like, say, consumer electronics.
    2. Be portable. The site currently feeds into Twitter, FriendFeed and Facebook. Smart move. They also have read-only rights to their API right now, which means third party sites can pull the reviews for their site at no cost. Look out Buzzillions.
    3. Be WOM worthy. All of the categories they’ve chosen heavily rely on word of mouth. And, more importantly, the site itself is a “love it or hate it” deal – which, according to Guy Kawasaki is a rule for creating a great brand/product.
    4. Be brief. Blippr is setting itself up for success by not trying to bite off more than it can chew. 160 characters, short, sweet and to the point. Perfect for the web and quick blips of information.
    5. Be easy. The site’s sign up took me less than a minute and posting a review is as fast as leaving a Tweet — without the fail whale.

    Sure, you can make all of the jokes you want about the Web 2.0 name, but the site is actually useful. They also have fun emoticons to represent your review’s tone. Try it and post your take in the comments! 😀

    digg_url = ‘http://digg.com/tech_news/Product_reviews_in_160_characters_or_less’;

     
    • JC 3:26 am on July 29, 2008 Permalink | Reply

      David, thanks for the great review! We really appreciate it. Our opinions on WOM seem to align exactly, and we’re really looking forward to hopefully providing a true WOM platform that gives you the opinions of your friend as fast as possible. Look out for more great features that help spread WOM about various books, games, movies, and music soon from us. And keep in touch!

      Best,
      JC
      CEO of blippr

    • Don Martelli 12:01 am on July 30, 2008 Permalink | Reply

      It’s a simple concept. They are giving socialnet minded people another venue to “blog” without blogging 700 words. It’s the Twitter model, but instead of telling people you’re getting coffee, you’re actually providing somewhat of a service to those looking into purchasing, using, watching, etc. whatever it is you’re reviewing.

      It delivers it in a format people are now used to (short form) and it connects to other popular socialnet sites, which in itself, will help grow it’s popularity.

      So far so good.

    • kim@grabbinggreen.com 3:57 pm on July 31, 2008 Permalink | Reply

      Thanks for the review. I look forward to spending some time searching for some of my clients’ offerings to see what comes up. I can’t figure out whether shorter is better…yet…but it certainly might encourage more people to do some quick and easy searching.

    • Indy Blogger 5:02 pm on August 29, 2008 Permalink | Reply

      Neat but how do you make money doing that?

  • dbinkowski 4:25 pm on January 3, 2008 Permalink | Reply  

    Ethics, Social Networks and Make up 

    After watching Loren Feldman’s live show tonight, I’ve decided that I don’t want to bother discussing the Facebook/Robert Scoble incident. There’s nothing more to say than this – the site has terms of service and if you break them you can get your account deleted. Or in this case suspended and then reinstated. And Plaxo looks really really unethical and dishonest for asking bloggers to scrape data from Facebook on their behalf. Good luck with that auction, maybe the future users of Plaxo won’t mind turning over all of their information to skeezers.

    But I digress. This post isn’t about about public social networks like Facebook or MySpace. I was following, and later joining, a conversation between Chris Brogan and Christine Lu on Twitter about closed social networks. I think they’re the future now – engaging enthusiasts in a closed community makes a hell of a lot more sense, and is a lot more economical, than spamming around on MySpace or Facebook looking for “friends”.

    That’s what Benefit Cosmetics did. They asked people to join a private enthusiasts club to receive “special benefits”. No, this isn’t like the Sears thing; more like a BzzAgent thing, but on a micro level. And it was, by all accounts, a success: apply to be in the club, spread the word, get free makeup. One of the “Benefit Beauty Squad” tasks was to post videos to YouTube. Here, watch one.

    The title of the video is Benefit Beauty Squad (BBS). Fair enough. I get that you’re part of some group associated with Benefit cosmetics. I’ll give you a C for disclosure.

    What I don’t approve of, however, is this email that went out to the Squad:

    We know you love Benefit, now it’s time to spread the word. Your Benefit Beauty Squad project for December is to write Benefit product reviews and post comments about Benefit on as many blogs, makeup web sites, beauty forums, etc… as you can.

    Please note there wasn’t any mention of disclosure or respect for the communities in which Benefit asked people to essentially spam. Also attached to the directions was a list of web sites (boards, blogs, etc) where they would like to see them post. So, for all of the webmasters, bloggers and readers of the following sites — if you saw hype about Benefit cosmetics last month, you were duped:

    TotalBeauty.com
    Makeup Alley
    BellaSugar
    We Love Beauty
    BeautifulMakeupSearch.com
    Beauty and the Dirt
    Beauty Addict
    Beauty Blogging Junkie
    SheKnows.com
    MakeUp and Beauty Blog
    You Blog Like A Girl
    Deesse Magazine
    Her Fab Life
    Beauty Maverick
    SheFinds
    Hello Doll Face
    Girl Paints
    Glam.com
    Glam Blush
    Sephora
    Daily Beauty
    Makeup Bag.net
    Face Candy
    LA Story
    Beauty Maven Blog
    Product Girl
    Fashionista
    Raging Rouge
    Style Goodies

    Ethics? Who cares… as long as you look fabulous!

    digg_url = ‘http://digg.com/tech_news/Ethics_Social_Networks_and_Make_Up’;

     
    • LA Story 2:32 am on January 8, 2008 Permalink | Reply

      Interesting that you should post this. I will have to check my blog if I wrote anything about Benefit. I don’t remember. I am not part of the BBS (benefit beauty squad) . In fact, as a known member of the press/journalist/print&online beauty writer who has covered Benefit for years– they stopped even sending me product samples and have been asking me to write about stuff without me even being able to try it.
      Some things I know will be great — but not everything from every company is going to be hot.. and this is a case of not fair to those of us who aren’t part of BBS and also those of us who are legit journos of fluff (beauty & fashion). I can’t get a sample to save my life– yet the BBS can hit everyone’s site and do this?
      hmmmmmmmmm
      Stevie

    • LA Story 2:36 am on January 8, 2008 Permalink | Reply

      ps.. I am the LA-Story.com..
      just so you get the name connected to the correct blog. They asked me to write about something that I had seen and thought would be a great gift.. but when I asked for a sample, they ignored me.
      Do you think that makes me LIKE Benefit much?
      Do you think that I LIKE that you haven’t fact checked all of the sites you have listed as to whether they are part of the BBS or whether they have been spammed?
      Did you check with each site to ask if the people posting had gotten free makeup ? Did you ask if they were just contributors or legit writers (like online for a long time and/or in print?)

      That’s sort of important before you implicate my blog in some sort of plot
      Stevie

    • David Binkowski 2:42 am on January 8, 2008 Permalink | Reply

      Stevie,
      I was in no way implying that you wrote about Benefit Products without disclosing. What I am saying is that if your blog was commented on by BBS members in December that the odds are most of them were spam comments, directed by Benefit Cosmetics to their BBS members.

      Dave

    • Stevie 2:52 am on January 8, 2008 Permalink | Reply

      Nope. No comments from anyone on the Benefit Cosmetics line. I watch my comments and the ones that get them are the odd ones- not the typical stuff — unless it’s smoking hot.
      I have found that Benefit has been very quick at sending emails and asking for posts.. but not so quick on providing product to TRY. While I have had a great relationship with them in the past, I don’t want them spamming or using my blog for their purposes when they counter what is journalistically fair. Not everyone’s blog is a journalistic effort. However mine is and they know that.

      thanks for the 411 though. It’s given me something to think about
      Stevie

    • David Binkowski 3:10 am on January 8, 2008 Permalink | Reply

      I appreciate the return visit and info on Benefit. We should connect via email outside of the blog!

    • Chris Brogan 2:10 am on January 28, 2008 Permalink | Reply

      My thought here is that our trust levels are what are at stake. It’s not that social networks will go private, but that we’ll close down the trust networks long before we actually start sliding behind new ice walls.

      Interesting post, and I applaud your information here. : )

    • Shannon Nelson 5:50 pm on January 31, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      I was on the receiving end of those overly enthusiastic praiseworthy comments by the BBS (otherwise known as Beauty BullShit…can I say that here? Oops I just did.) Anyway, what brands like Benefit don’t understand is that bloggers talk–to each other. We are all part of some sort of network be it Total Beauty, Glam, The Beauty Blog Network, etc. and we have internal message boards. When something doesn’t seem right, we ask each other about it and I remember when the question came out “Anyone else getting bombarded with positive comments for Benefit?” And the overwhelming answer was yes. It left a bad taste in our mouthes and I didn’t want to work with Benefit for a very long time because of that.

      If your product is good people will say so…no need to “hire” people to do that for you. Any brand that thinks of doing this, should be aware that there is always talk going on behind the scenes and bloggers are definitely watching what is going on. Don’t underestimate us.

  • dbinkowski 3:11 pm on November 2, 2007 Permalink | Reply  

    Congratulations 2007 WOMMIE Award Winners! 

    The Word of Mouth Marketing Association announced the second WOMMIE Award winners the other day leading up to the 3rd Annual WOMMA Summit taking place in a few weeks in Las Vegas. What’s a WOMMIE? The WOMMIEs are given to “reward amazing word of mouth campaigns and the smart people who create them.” We were one of the inaugural 2006 winners, and it’s nice to see that there were no repeat-winners from the year before because there is so much great work going on out there and IMHO others should be recognized as well.

    Here’s the list of the 2007 WOMMIE Award recipients and their winning case studies:

    • Affinitive — “American Skiing Company: MyA41.com Passholder Community”
    • Converseon — “Second Chance Tree Project Takes Reforestation from Virtual World to Physical World”
    • Fanscape — “Clear Channel NEW! Populating Site with Musicians Campaign”
    • Quicken Loans — “How Quicken Loans Became a Yahoo! Answers Knowledge Partner

    I’m especially proud of Clayton Closson and the team at Quicken Loans for several reasons. First, they’re from the D. Second, I sat next to Clay C while he was an MS&L’er — so it’s great to see alumni continuing to do great work (plus he contributes to my blog!). Finally, and most important, Quicken is the only brand to win a WOMMIE this year. The others are agencies specializing in community marketing, virtual worlds and youth marketing. All niche and notable practices, but after talking with the guys from Quicken at the New Orleans WOMMA Basic Training they are committed to tying WOM efforts to the bottom line. Yep, for Quicken, WOM is right up there with SEO on the ROI measurement scale — which, in my mind, is more impressive than any award or accolade.

    You can check out the full library of submissions in the WOMMA case study library.

    Side note, I won’t be seeing you in Las Vegas this year as I will be presenting at a private client meeting in Paris. I know, I know — Who wants to see the real Eiffel Tower when there’s a giant fake one in the desert? Bon jour!

    digg_url = ‘http://digg.com/business_finance/Congratulations_to_the_2007_WOMMIE_Award_Winners’;

     
    • Melanie Seasons 5:09 am on November 4, 2007 Permalink | Reply

      You forgot to mention the most important part: who *is* going to womma in your place… 😉

      Sucks about Paris, though.

    • Clay C. 2:50 pm on November 19, 2007 Permalink | Reply

      Yo Dave

      Thanks for the props, brother. I tried to leave a comment last week a few times and it didn’t go through. Anyway, the conference was great.

      WOMMA is really an awesome organization and I hope Quicken Loans stays a memember and more brands join. There was so much energy at the summit. It was amazing.

      The keynote lunches were outstanding. Both Richard Tait and Andy Sernovitz put on electricfying presentations that engaged the audience.

      I really appreciate your kind words on winning the WOMMIE and for urging me to join WOMMA in the first place.

  • dbinkowski 3:15 am on October 25, 2007 Permalink | Reply  

    PayPerPost censors bloggers 

    Reading a recent thread by a mom blogger on the PayPerPost message board has revealed a shocking revelation: PayPerPost will not let it’s employees, or “Posties” as they’re called, write about anything they don’t purchase. Full disclosure: This was brought to my attention because a colleague worked on a recent campaign and was emailed by a blogger whose post was yanked by PayPerPost due to “violating the terms of service”.

    You might remember my other takes on PPP: paying for blog posts isn’t word of mouth marketing and they’re unethical. But I digress…

    The explanation from a PayPerPost censor, errr “reviewer”, cited their terms of service:

    A sponsored post is any post for which you received something (cash, goods or services) in exchange for writing the post.

    To clarify, we don’t send out products in exchange for a review. Bloggers are asked if they’re interested, we deliver the product if so and if they choose to write then so be it. There are never strings attached, unlike what PPP does.

    There’s also another thread here where bloggers are complaining about “reviewers” from PayPerPost censoring posts for similar reasons. As someone who wrote the WOMMA Blogger Relations Ethics Code, I have to say that I am completely dumbfounded with PayPerPost censoring bloggers.

    The real kicker is that PPP says that, instead of disclosing if they’ve received a product, PPP bloggers should purposely not tell readers that they received a product for free from a firm. So, essentially, bloggers should flat out lie about disclosure in order to help the paid postings “blend in”.

    In the era of transparency, authenticity and credibility, PayPerPost is clearly not interested in participating in the aforementioned values but instead asking bloggers to destroy their credibility through nondisclosure and controlling their content.

    digg_url = ‘http://digg.com/tech_news/PayPerPost_censors_bloggers’;

     
    • Tonja 12:07 pm on October 25, 2007 Permalink | Reply

      Our agency and clients are getting bombarded by companies who say they’ll get us on sites, create fake sites, comments, etc. Some are using PPP. Ugh.

    • Melanie Seasons 4:30 pm on October 25, 2007 Permalink | Reply

      Oh, PPP, how you are the bane of my existence.

      Dave, I’m worried that as the blogosphere becomes over saturated with product reviews (whether paid, sponsored, or opt in), the idea and uniqueness of online outreach will eventually become so cheapened that readers will eventually learn to ignore reviews just as much as they do ads. I know that we’re all trying our best to get ahead of the game. That’s the only way to stay on top.

      That said, if a blog reader can’t tell the difference between a PPP or spam or a legitimate operation or if a blogger doesn’t disclose where they got said product, it ends up making us look bad too.

    • David Binkowski 3:36 am on October 26, 2007 Permalink | Reply

      Tonja,
      Let them take it out of the ad budget if they’re going to pay for it. 😉

      Mel,
      Product reviews will never go away, because people will always look for advice before spending disposable income. The issue is going to be, as you’re implying, the reader’s questioning of the integrity of the reviewer — especially as the general public becomes more savvy and starts to ignore the ads, err, reviews.

  • dbinkowski 2:54 pm on July 4, 2007 Permalink | Reply  

    Word of mouth and the internet go together like peas and carrots 

    Anyone who’s anyone in this industry knows the power of the internet and word of mouth. This is more than just a YouTube video being passed around, however clearly the dollars, attention, campaigns, user, jeez – it looks like this whole internet thing is popular and measurable.

    Via BazaarVoice, eMarketer published a report yesterday saying that more and more consumers are turning to the internet for advice on products and services. I’ve been saying this for years, but after looking at communities that were built back in the 90’s during AOL’s boom, human behavior, and how online friendships have evolved, to today’s influence of site like Digg – people turn to people they trust for advice – both offline and online.

    I’ll take this a step further and interpret — Even past those you know on a first name basis, those who are perceived as credible can be seen as influencers online. This also explains why the Pay Per Post model really throws a monkey wrench into the equation because it forces readers to determine if their favorite authors or long-term friends have been bought and paid for or if they’re giving their honest opinion.

    And according to our friends at BIGResearch, I was right: “91% of US adults regularly or occasionally seek advice about products or services”. Even higher, over 94% say they regularly or occasionally give out advice about product or services online.

    My favorite stat from the research is that even though spends on online advertising, such as banners, those stupid ads that hover over the page and the like, soars, people hate them:

    Want a quick way to save face or gain a few points with your audience online? Drop the banner ad buys and put it toward credible word of mouth campaigns. Your customers, brand managers, customer service folks and sales people will thank you for it.

    All images in this post are from eMarketer.

    Update: Where are my manners? Happy 4th of July to my fellow American readers!

    Correction: It was brought to my attention that BzzAgent does not pay their Agents to review products, therefore I owe them an apology and the previous reference has been removed from the above paragraph.

    digg_url = ‘http://digg.com/business_finance/Word_of_Mouth_and_the_Internet_go_together_like_peas_and_carrots’;

     
  • dbinkowski 10:14 pm on February 15, 2007 Permalink | Reply  

    A handy-dandy WOM chart for your organization 

    Courtesy of Dr. Walter Carl of Northeastern University comes this great chart to align Word of Mouth activities with objectives.

     
  • dbinkowski 10:14 pm on February 15, 2007 Permalink | Reply  

    A handy-dandy WOM chart for your organization 

    Courtesy of Dr. Walter Carl of Northeastern University comes this great chart to align Word of Mouth activities with objectives.

     
  • dbinkowski 6:43 pm on February 12, 2007 Permalink | Reply  

    Is the future of WOM "Connected Marketing"? 

    Want to know where it’s headed? Just read this interview with Dr. Walter Carl, Assistant Professor at Northeastern University. Here he’s been asked by the authors of a new book called “Connected Marketing” to comment on their predictions for word of mouth marketing. Walter is on the Advisory Board of WOMMA, of which I am a member.

    I agree with his take on their “missing” predictions (ethics, commercialization of WOM and working with minors). Go read his take to get the full story.

     
    • Walter Carl 2:08 pm on February 21, 2007 Permalink | Reply

      Hi David,

      Thanks for mentioning your post. For your readers I just wanted to clear up a potential misunderstanding that some readers may have taken away from my post: Justin Kirby does discuss the matter of ethics in his final chapter to the book Connected Marketing. In my blog post I was just highlighting that ethics wasn’t specifically listed in the predictions. I’ve added an update to my post.

      Thanks for allowing me to clarify this on your blog.

      Cheers

      Walter

  • dbinkowski 6:43 pm on February 12, 2007 Permalink | Reply  

    Is the future of WOM “Connected Marketing”? 

    Want to know where it’s headed? Just read this interview with Dr. Walter Carl, Assistant Professor at Northeastern University. Here he’s been asked by the authors of a new book called “Connected Marketing” to comment on their predictions for word of mouth marketing. Walter is on the Advisory Board of WOMMA, of which I am a member.

    I agree with his take on their “missing” predictions (ethics, commercialization of WOM and working with minors). Go read his take to get the full story.

     
    • Walter Carl 2:08 pm on February 21, 2007 Permalink | Reply

      Hi David,Thanks for mentioning your post. For your readers I just wanted to clear up a potential misunderstanding that some readers may have taken away from my post: Justin Kirby does discuss the matter of ethics in his final chapter to the book Connected Marketing. In my blog post I was just highlighting that ethics wasn’t specifically listed in the predictions. I’ve added an update to my post.Thanks for allowing me to clarify this on your blog.CheersWalter

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