Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
July 28, 201110:18 PM

Not Buying What You're Shilling

Transparency and full disclosure don't mean much in the world of Social Media anymore.

Do you remember when the FTC got involved in Social Media (more on that here: Mashable - FTC to Fine Bloggers up to $11,000 for Not Disclosing Payments)? There was a lot of public discourse on the matter and my general sentiment can be summed up like this: if certain companies within an industry are doing something that requires government intervention to get them to stop, there's a problem. At first strike, penalizing Bloggers because they're not disclosing if they're being compensated by a brand seems somewhat petty in the grand scheme of things that the FTC should really be focusing on, but they may have been on to something.

Social Media can be very disturbing.

Social Media is pervasive. Just look at Facebook's statistics, the use of Twitter, Blogs and whatever else. Many people now command an audience and they are broadcasters (in some way, shape or form). There were two Twitter moments today that made me stop in my tracks and realize that many people are willing shills, not that clear about disclosing it and, ultimately, are quite boring when they are shilling. In one instance someone was discussing a food brand and asking people to retweet it (yawn...). In another, an individual was tweeting up an event they were attending as a paid Social Media spokesperson (but if you didn't know they were being paid, it was kind of hard to tell).

It fails because the brands have no Social Media credibility.

This is noting new. In fact, I Blogged about a similar topic in 2008 titled, Trust Is Non-Transferable. Brands get two major things wrongs when enlisting people from within the Social Media channels to do their bidding:

  1. Brands assume that they will be trusted because the person talking about them has a trusted community. Trust in non-transferable. It has to be earned.
  2. Brands assume that all tweets, Blog posts, YouTube videos, etc... are all created equal. Not true. There are hundreds of people who I trust. People I am connected to. All of their tweets and Blog posts are not created equal. Each one is judged independently from the others. The ones that smell like shills are shills.

What's a brand to do?

  • Embrace a Marketing mentality. When you engage in these Social Media activities, don't treat it like an advertising campaign. You're trying to build valuable and long-term relationships.
  • Trust takes time. Credibility takes even longer. Just because you've enlisted an evangelist, it doesn't mean that a brand has any semblance of credibility within that community.
  • Don't expect the evangelists' community to be your community. In the end, those tweets and Blog posts that you're compensating the individual for may be falling on totally deaf ears.
  • Don't make people your mules. There seems to be this "drug mule" mentality with brands. They figure if someone else can do their bidding, it will seem authentic and real.
  • Get real. Engage with Social Media because you have a propensity to have an authentic and direct relationship with your consumer. Don't do this as a thinly-veiled Marketing ploy.

It's alarming how many credible individuals are suddenly shifting their values and selling out their community (and their credibility) to the highest bidder.

By Mitch Joel