Over the course of the more than three years of blogging I’ve received a number of solicitations. Usually people just want me to link back to some site promoting their product or service. These I typically ignore. A couple of times I’ve helped out – or tried to – with product marketing campaigns, and in both instances I’ve been left with a bad taste in my mouth. This leaves me wondering if there is any good way for marketers to utilize blogs and social networks to advertise. Let me give my two examples, and then I invite you to share your own in the comments.
First, from time to time a marketing firm based out of California contacted me, inviting me to post a video or share a link about their client’s cell phone offerings. Sometimes I did share the video or link in the context of a post, and other times I ignored their request. Then, last Fall I was contacted by a fellow from this same firm with an offer of flash memory sticks in return for a post about a new product being rolled out. At that time I was still interested in the topic, so I easily wrote up a post and shared the link and video. I wasn’t trying particularly hard to “sell” the item. I just shared the info about its upcoming release and asked for feedback from readers. The guy from the firm checked my blog and e-mailed me saying the post was great and that he’d be dropping the memory sticks in the mail soon. A few months passed with no USB sticks. I sent several e-mails over the course of these months and finally, in January, sent an angry e-mail telling them I’d be blogging about the experience with them, naming names. To this the marketing guy responded immediately with a quick apology. A few days later the sticks came in the mail.
Second, on June 11 of this year I discovered that an evangelical publisher was offering review copies of a novel to bloggers. This author is one who had impressed me years ago with her non-fiction work about her departure from a particular religious group and transition into evangelical Christianity. I was excited to volunteer to read and review her new book. Everyone was expected to read the book and post a review on their blogs on June 30 (today, sadly), at which time the author would do a “blog tour” to comment on reviews. The shame of it all is that my review copy of the book didn’t arrive until June 27 (postmarked June 23), three days before the review was due. A working family man like myself can’t just sit down and read a 368 page book in that time frame.
Now, in the case of the marketing firm, I am convinced they had no intention of ever sending me the USB sticks. Considering that I had a history of blogging “for free” about products they were promoting, it’s difficult to understand why they made an offer of material compensation in the first place. As for the evangelical publisher, I’ve been given to understand that they believe there was some problem with the mail. This is entirely possible, as I have noticed that the postal service where I live is incredibly unreliable. Still, it points out a weakness in that online marketing campaigns may depend on traditional delivery systems that are untrustworthy.
As marketers and publishers seek an effective online model, it seems clear that banner ads and ad links don’t pay off as well as previously hoped. Social networking makes word-of-mouth possible, but there are drawbacks and risks. What do you think? Have you seen effective/ineffective marketing come your way? If you are a blogger, have you been misled, ripped off or just plain disappointed with marketers who have contacted you? Any good experiences in reviewing products? What can companies do to use emerging technologies and social networks to inform the public of their products, without annoying or offending? Any ideas?
Oddly enough, someone sent me an e-mail overnight with a link to “50 Lectures for Understanding Iran” in response to my post yesterday as part of the Bloggers Unite: Free Iran campaign. Another solicitation? I don’t see any harm in it, so I’ve included the link here.