Monday, February 04, 2008

Why I Don't Do Karaoke

Tonight I spoke in Dr. Felicia Lassk's MBA-level Marketing Research class at Northeastern. Dr. Lassk is a colleague in the business school and I've had the chance to speak in a few of her classes over the past couple years and I'm honored she keeps inviting me back :-)

The topic tonight was how to measure WOM online and offline. The students, who were very receptive and participatory (especially for a night class when the day after a disappointing loss by the Patriots in the SuperBowl), will be reading the Harvard Business Review case study on Intelliseek next week, so I was sure to talk about some of the work their company does (now part of Nielsen BuzzMetrics/Nielsen Online). I also discussed the diary-based syndicated research from the Keller Fay Group. And she also asked me to talk about my own research on the generational spread of WOM and the new company ChatThreads. All of which I was happy to do.

Owing to the fact that it was a night class I wanted to provide a little bit of relevant entertainment early on and so I showed the "A Comcast Technician Sleeping On My Couch" YouTube video as a segue into discussions about social media monitoring and analysis. Unfortunately, though, the audio in the room wasn't working. The Brian Finkelstein video is set to "I Need Some Sleep" by the Eels, and missing the audio is a bit of a bummer. I tried to sing it, but after the first few notes I employed my well-honed skills in audience adaptation and decided I should stop abruptly (the look of horror on their faces was the give-away).

So, I told them I'd pass along the links to Dr. Lassk so they can watch the video, and one of my favorite spin-offs ("Cancelling Comcast") that illustrates a humorous take on how companies are training their call center employees in the age of social media.

Thanks to Dr. Lassk and her class for a great evening!


Yikes! How To Write A Pay-Per-Post Blog!?!

While I was doing some research online yesterday I came across a "How To" website ( about how to write a Pay Per Post blog post.

As background, Pay Per Post's business model is to match bloggers and advertisers together: advertisers who want people to write about their products on their blog with bloggers who want to make money doing so. The blogger's deliverable is the post with a brand mention that conforms to any guidelines that the advertiser sets up.

This has been quite a controversial practice since its inception, as it represents a form of shilling. Further, Pay Per Post's initial policy was not to require, or even encourage, disclosure that the person was getting paid to write about the product. Pay Per Post's policy has since changed, coincidentally timed, it seems, with discussions by the FTC and disclosure.

Anyhow, the author sets up the article by saying "This article will help you learn how to rise above the competition and produce higher quality paid posts that your sponsors and readers will love."

Point #1 is to think long term and write a quality post since the advertiser will rate the quality of the post behind-the-scenes: "So while it may be easy to write a quick post for $5, it's better to invest a bit of extra time to understand what your advertiser wants out of the deal." This is concerning because then your endorsement is more for the advertiser than for the other people you are talking with (though the author suggests that you can still write a post your readers will enjoy).

Point #2 is to "Be Honest" about your opinion with the product ("If you lie, they are paying for a false testimonial. This can hurt their company, ruin your reputation as a writer and can get you banned."). OK, fine, honesty of opinion (which is WOMMA's second point in their Honesty ROI guidelines). But nothing about honesty being the ethical thing to do. The author adds the point about being relevant: "Instead, think about reasons why you might use their service or product. How would it help you? How can it help your visitors?"

But then the really strange part is point #3. The blogger says that writing a Pay Per Post blog is "secret" and that "If you want future work, don't tell your readers that you are writing paid posts. This includes filtering the posts into a "paid post" category, or tagging them as such. You are basically telling your sponsor that you are embarrassed to write about them."

I was shocked to read this. I'm not sure if my surprise has more to do with the logical inconsistency between point #2 (be honest) and #3 (don't tell people you are getting paid), or because just point #3 on its own being unethical.

I thought maybe this post was written a few years ago because people don't still think that hiding their identity is the way to go. But no, the post date is January 14, 2008.

Anyhow, folks if you are thinking about participating in the Pay Per Post or similar programs please check out the WOMMA Ethics Code as part of your decision to participate. And if writing a post about how to do it, please consider this.