When does information become incentivisation?

December 3, 2009 at 2:44 pm | Posted in Ethics | 2 Comments
Tags: social media ethics, word of mouth ethics, disclosure, sponsored conversation, ftc guidelines, paid WOM

Back when the FTC’s guidelines on US bloggers’ disclosure of brand payment and gifting were announced in October, the controversy was predictably loud. The likes of CBS and Media Bistro highlighted the questions and ethical issues that the guidelines left unanswered, and the IAB published an open letter warning that they posed a threat to the Constitutional right to free speech. Search Engine Watch in particular said what many others were feeling: that opinions are different from fact, and the guidelines will be near-impossible to enforce.

Well, we’ll soon see. This week the guidelines finally came into effect and the continued debate around their usefulness will almost certainly have implications for future UK, European and global legislation.

The Boston Globe has collated a number of opinions from US bloggers. Most agree that there is a need to protect the independence of social media word of mouth, but there is also a strong sense that the guidelines ignore the subtleties of the space. Particularly interesting is the view of Ryan Spaulding, of Ryan’s Smashing Life music blog, that certain assets given to him by brands simply facilitate his opinion-making, without obligation: “I don’t look at it as payment. It’s what it takes to get the job done. To me this whole thing is a wide-cast net that doesn’t make a lot of sense.”

In some ways the hostility of the blogosphere has been surprising. Communities are fiercely protective of their independence and any attempts to astroturf, flog or conceal paid WOM have historically been met with vigilance and animosity. As blogger Dan Brown has asserted, the guidelines do have a necessary and positive role to play in maintaining trust. But it’s also evident that developing a relationship with a brand – which may bring certain assets, trials and exclusive information, events or opportunities – is a very different thing to being paid to talk. Bloggers who do the former, with the benefit of their readership in mind, do not want to be tarred with the latter’s brush.

What do you think? if you want to explore these and related issues in more detail face to face, join us at the FREE WOM UK/IAB debate Should social media be paid for? next Monday 7th December. Click here for details and to register.

WOM UK and IAB debate: Should social media be paid for?

December 1, 2009 at 12:48 pm | Posted in Ethics, Events | 1 Comment
Tags: IAB, paid advertising, social media, sponsored conversation, wom uk, word of mouth

We’ve teamed up with the IAB to create a lively and provocative panel discussion. On Monday 7th December, 5-7pm at the IAB offices, 14 Macklin Street, London, WC2B 5NF, Molly Flatt, President of WOM UK and WOM Evangelist at 1000heads; Kate Box, Head of Social Media – Sales at Microsoft Advertising; Steve Filler, Commercial Director for Unruly Media; and Ciarán Norris, Head of Social Marketing at Mindshare will be debating:

Should social media be paid for?

Social media is not a marketing tool; it’s a public platform for conversation. So how does paid and sponsored advertising fit into the space – if at all?

At this debate we will be discussing the many issues that arise around paid-for marketing in social media. Is there a place for incorporating paid-for advertising and distribution? Does sponsored conversation have any real value for brands? Or does the true value of social media for marketers lie in independent peer-to-peer word of mouth and advocacy, inspired by passion not cash? Where do we draw the boundaries with incentivisation and transparency? Should we incorporate all of the above?

Our expert panellists will be looking at where social media fits into earned, owned and bought media, and where it should lie in the marketing planning mix. So join us for what will undoubtedly be an informative, entertaining and ever-so-slightly festive affair.

The event is FREE to all and there will be Christmas drinks afterwards while we continue the discussion, so register with [email protected] asap – we look forward to seeing you there.

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