Marketers Exploiting Blogs?

from the proof? dept

This isn’t a real surprise of course. Marketers have been trying (and mostly failing) to exploit the whole blog phenomenon for a while. However, this article reports that a new strategy is for a marketing company to hire “stealth marketers” whose job it is to infiltrate themselves onto blogs or discussion groups, making themselves a trusted member. Then, once they’re accepted into the community, they just happen to mention the product they’ve been hired to pitch. They don’t actively pitch it – but just mention it to get people talking about it. The writer of the article doesn’t name names, so it’s impossible to tell if anyone is really doing this – though, it wouldn’t surprise me. Of course, it does make me wonder just how effective it really is. While we’ve all certainly seen blogs pick up on random buzz for some reason or another – if a product doesn’t live up to its billing, it seems to get trashed pretty quickly. Besides, there are a few risks in this sort of program. First, it does take some time to establish credibility. Next, if the person starts blowing the credibility recommending bad products, they won’t get very far. Finally, if it’s discovered that a company is doing this, they’ll end up with an awful lot of negative publicity.

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Comments on “Marketers Exploiting Blogs?”

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thecaptain says:

this is getting so damn tiring...

Can anyone tell me WHY marketers feel they NEED to FOOL people to sell products?

Can anyone tell me WHY they feel the NEED to be less than honest?

Hearing about this stuff makes me sick, and they wonder why we hate them…

Glad you put this stuff up tho Mike, more people need to know about shenanigans like this.

Director Mitch says:

Re: this is getting so damn tiring...

I’m not biased or anything because I do (non consumer) marketing for a living, but it shouldn’t be surprising for marketers to try out new mediums to reach an audience. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t (usually it does), but ANY mass medium that reaches a large audience is a potential place to market, and the fact that marketers are looking to blogs could be seen as an indicator of their rise in stature.

Marketing isn’t about trying to FOOL people or the NEED to be “less than honest”. (Yes, there are marketing people out there who are, but that can be said about any profession). Marketing is about getting the word out on your company, product, brand, whatever.

I do think purposely dropping brands/names in blogs or paying for exposire is a big mistake, but there are proper ways to use blogs to market

This very blog you are reading – Techdirt – is a form of marketing. After stumbling on it some time ago I contacted Mike and found out about the various research and other services his company provides.

In this case, his blog raised my awareness of his services and gave me an indication of the caliber of his work, so the blog was an excellent tool to market. THIS is the correct way to use a blog to market.

thecaptain says:

Re: Re: this is getting so damn tiring...

I’m sorry, but what Mike does with THIS blog and what the article describes are night and day.

1) I KNOW this blog is there (to some extent) to market techdirt’s corporate intelligence services.
2) Mike does not pretend otherwise

Whereas the “marketing” described in the article is:

1) Insinuate a marketer into a blog and acquire a “trusted” status in that community.
2) Hawk a product once you’ve achieved #1
3) CONCEAL your identity as a marketer to achieve maximum effect when hawking a product (ie: get people to trust you because you’re “just one of the guys” rather than a marketer who’s goal is to sell the product)

The first tactic I mentionned that Mike uses is straight forward and HONEST.

The second, I’m sorry to say is becoming STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURE in your industry and is OUTRIGHT LYING!!!! Its not “a few bad eggs” its not “a few bad ones like in any industry”…this is an BAD characteristic of the industry these days…

I get the feeling that the only thing that STOPS marketers from lying (rather than twisting the actual truth out of proportion) is that its against the law to outright lie. If you look at it like a lawyer and as a point of law, they don’t actually LIE…but if you look at it from a consumer standpoint, we say you guys are full of sh*t.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: this is getting so damn tiring...

When a building burns down somewhere it usually makes the news. People will talk about it, see it on TV. The fact that millions of buildings don’t catch fire every single day pretty much goes unnoticed.

It’s sort of the same thing with the sleazy marketers that we’re all annoyed with. Millions of marketers didn’t email me today about heavy earth moving equipment or frozen shrimp by the train load. So I don’t notice that they’re out there, trying to tell people that they also sell a product some other guy is selling. Accusing marketing of being a “low profession” is fairly naive and uneducated. It’s kind of like saying that everyone hates peanut butter. It’s not really true, a lot of people like it OK.

On a different point altogether, sure, if you pitch a bad product people will badmouth you. But what if you’ve got a great product? Or what if your stuff is cheaper than what everyone else is using, but just as good. Will anyone complain? Some of the stuff people are trying to sell actually doesn’t suck. So, for marketers, posting on a blog is only a bad idea if their stuff is actually crappy.

thecaptain says:

Re: Re: Re:2 this is getting so damn tiring...

Thats a pretty simplistic view of things (or using your own words, naive and uneducated):
sure, if you pitch a bad product people will badmouth you. But what if you’ve got a great product? Or what if your stuff is cheaper than what everyone else is using, but just as good. Will anyone complain? Some of the stuff people are trying to sell actually doesn’t suck. So, for marketers, posting on a blog is only a bad idea if their stuff is actually crappy.
It DOESN’T matter if a product is good or not. I’d get pissed off if it was the second coming if I was lied to about it! That’s the problem. If you’re product is so damn good..then why do you HAVE to be SNEAKY and DISHONEST about it?

The fact that millions of buildings don’t catch fire every single day pretty much goes unnoticed.
That may be true, but I somehow doubt that the “unburned buildings” of the marketing industries are the ones making the big bucks. As I’ve said before, watch commercials, what claims being made at you every hour of the day, the majority aren’t “strictly accurate” right? Its rare I’ll see an ad, that simply shows a product in all its glory without some twist in the truth somewhere.

Joe Baderderm says:

Sleaze Marketing

I am just finishing up my MBA with a focus in marketing and we are talking about ethics this week (yes some schools actually teach ethics!), and this article fits in perfectly. I think that sleaze marketing isn’t as effective as actually getting consumer evangelists on your side. TiVo has a dedicated following because the people actually like the product and tell their friends and family about it.

The person’s summarization of the process seems to easy :

“Here is what they do: they insinuate themselves into a blogging or chat community. They hang out in the community until they become trusted contributors and likeable personalities with some expertise. And then they ?mention? a product they?ve just ?tried?. They don?t pitch it ? oh no, that would be too obvious ? they just mention it kindly with a bit of excitement. Just a bit.

And, the deed is done! Now there is a whole community that is going to go out and buy or trial the new product. Yessirree. Viral marketing at its best. Get lots of people in a group to become your tipping point, and you?ve just go a whole lotta cheap marketing.”

Is anyone just buying anything a blogger writes about? Or are these lurkers just able to get people to click on a link once? For real viral marketing, see: (not a paid advertisment!). The author of the article should have said who the company was. That would truly show the power of viral marketing.

thecaptain says:

Re: Sleaze Marketing

Is anyone just buying anything a blogger writes about?
That depends and I wouldn’t discount the idea the way you SEEM to be. I participate in a few technical forums such has LinuxQuestions and such and if I’m shopping for a piece of hardware that would work with my setup and a user that is part of the community (and hence is “trusted” as in the article) mentions that a particular model or company is very good, I’m likely to take a closer look and even buy it…
Mind you, if the hardware sucks (it’s happened) you can bet I’ll complain loud and long to anyone who can hear me.
The fact is, this IS bad marketing, YES…we agree on that…but it seems that most people in the industry follow the “all publicity is good publicity” axiom and do not care. Yes, I’m SURE there are good guys out there we don’t hear about…but do you ever sit down and watch commercials? Ever weigh out their claims? See how often the truth is skirted (hint: ALL the time)? What about spam? What about the companies who keep insisting that people want MORE marketing thrown at them, when everyone says it ain’t so? C’mon.

The fact is we’re flooded with this stuff every hour of every day, and it seems that marketers KNOW we can’t check every single line of fine print (Ever see a car commercial? Or a credit card commercial? Or a diet product commercial? I love that line “results shown do not represent typical results”…how can ANYONE say that’s honest marketing?)…and they are fine with that..they know they’ll get one past the goalie and it seems people KNOW they’ll get taken whatever they do, so they care less and less.

Some of us still care tho.

Joe Baderderm says:

Re: Re: Sleaze Marketing

I meant it more in a random/spam buying sort of way. I always look for the “experts” online when buying something. I wouldn’t just buy something (i.e. a piece of software or a hat or a bag of potato chips) because Mike posted it on Techdirt. Wasn’t there the whole milk incident with that company paying bloggers to write about their product? I agree with you that marketing and customer realtions is about TRUST and this technique does nothing to help that.

thecaptain says:

Re: Re: Re: Sleaze Marketing

Well in that sense I agree. I wouldn’t buy something on the single recommendation of any weblog (sorry Mike).

Also, a weblog that’s made by/for marketing purposes that tries to conceal this fact does not last too long (nor becomes too popular)..and that is as it should be.

However, a person insinuating themselves into a blog community is a LOT harder to “unmask” so to speak because you simply don’t think about it (although now I will…its sad that this technique is eroding the trust I did have with people)…its very insidious and VERY dishonest.

The person who came up with this idea and thought it was a good one is scum of the lowest of the low…

I agree very much with how you put it, consumer relations SHOULD be about TRUST..sadly tho, companies no longer believe that. They’ve come to convey the impression that they have a god-given right to our spending money rather than having to earn it by providing good value.

Dave Cotovsky says:

Marketer Infiltration: A Big Surprise?

Marketing is a low profession. It requires you to insinuate your presence in contact with people who overwhelmingly have no desire to be harrassed with false enthusiasms, generated and driven by crossing a marketer’s palm with a coin.
We are creating laws to protect ourselves from these mercenary bastards. We develop electronic appliances to thwart marketer invasions of our homes and privacy.

Marketing has not changed from the days of the encyclopedia salesman jamming his foot in your door, to deliver his message. The problem is this culture of cold-blooded bastards who, for a very few coins, will assault the public on their master’s bidding.

So when a marketer is spotted, he should be exposed for what he/she is: a public nuisance.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Marketer Infiltration: A Big Surprise?

Dave, you’re pretty funny, and perhaps a marketer yourself? You’re participation in this comment thread is a form of marketing after all since if you keep commenting under the same name you will start building a “brand”. You ever go on a date? That required marketing? Get a job? Ditto. Perhaps you should read up on the definition of marketing, since you seem rather confused on what it is (besides confusing it with sales).

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Marketer Infiltration: A Big Surprise?

Uh… don’t you think that’s a pretty broad brush you’re painting with?

True, good, marketing is nothing of the sort. What you’re describing is bad, lazy marketing – which is far too common.

A good marketer’s job is not to sell products. A good marketer’s job is to figure out what people want, and then get his or her company to deliver that product. That’s what real marketing is – and, unfortunately, there isn’t enough of it around. Also, the so-called marketing most people see is the bad kind, and that’s where this impression comes from.

djspicerack (user link) says:

Re: Marketer Infiltration: A Big Surprise?

There’s a big difference between Marketing and Advertising. When unscrupulous advertisers are ruining experiences for everyone else, real marketers are trying to figure out what their customers want, and how to deliver it to them. Marketing encompasses everything from what shelf your favorite spaghetti sauce goes on to doing research to figure out what ten colors a car should be. Think it’s strange that the Volvo only comes in two or three colors, and everything else is a special order? It has nothing to do with the fact that they were too lazy to make them in ten colors and put them on the lot, you know.

And you’re confusing sales and marketing in the worst way. Typically marketing supports sales’ efforts.

Joe Baderderm "Public Nuisance" says:

Re: Marketer Infiltration: A Big Surprise?

Wow. You are totally confusing marketing with sales/telemarketing/spamming. Open up an Intro to Marketing text at your local library. Honestly, think about all the marketing that was involved in your posting of your comments. You had to be on a computer with an Internet connection and find Techdirt. If somehow you managed to do that without the public nuisance of marketing being invovled, I’d like to hear your explanation. Trash bad marketing all you want but don’t lump the whole profession of marketing together. That you can save for lawyers…

John Dowdell (user link) says:

products, like politics?

“…job it is to infiltrate themselves onto blogs or discussion groups, making themselves a trusted member. Then, once they’re accepted into the community, they just happen to mention the product they’ve been hired to pitch.”

This reminds me of a lot of the off-topic political advertisements that are in blogs today, excep the payoff for them seems to be social acceptance rather money. There are some techies I don’t read anymore because I don’t wish to cause them embarrassment when they keep sticking something stupid in my face. Do you see the same? Are Presidents different than Pepsi in this case…?

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