A great little article showed up today in a sample magazine, describing the experiences of author Bonnie Staring as she tried being paid to buzz about products.
It dealt with a question I'd been wondering about for a while, namely, what is it like to be part of one of these paid networks of influencers?
Initially, it feels kind of cool getting new stuff, especially a toothbrush that she really liked herself. But later, she thinks she may be overdoing it with people.
Some of my closest friends have asked me to stop talking about the fall shows. And the toothbrush. And the vacation-planning website... They didn't need "the sell", they said (although they were happy to take the coupons and free samples). Huh. I hadn't thought of what I was doing as selling. I was just sharing my opinion, wasn't I? I asked my husband. "But before, you used to wait for someone to ask for it," he answered.
The author concludes that she is not really enough of a trend-setter to enjoy this type of thing, and that overall, she was "trying too hard".
One thing I learned that I did not know before is that legitimate word-of-mouth (WOM to insiders) networks insist that their agents disclose their participation in a paid network. Sean Moffitt, a WOM expert interviewed for the article says transparency is essential to avoid a very negative backlash to the brand.
Word of Mouth Marketing: Smart or Sneaky? Homemakers Magazine, April 2008
Bonnie Staring's blog
Sean Moffitt's blog -- Sean is our local buzz marketing guru, and the founder of the Influencers network