Is it ok to buy credibility in the social media world?

by Tony Fannin, president, BE Branded

I recently read in an article that Armani paid Kim Kardashian to tweet about their purses. I’ve heard other stories that are similar. Marketers paying celebs, bloggers, and the like to talk about their product. In the social media world, is that ok or is that seen as fake and disingenuine? I don’t know that answer, but I does raises a few points about social media credibility.

• Myth: social media is a pure form of expression – I’m not saying that everyone is paid. The vast majority isn’t, but marketers are reaching out and leveraging the social media landscape more and more. Ford is introducing their Fiesta by utilizing social media first then following up with a heavy duty marketing campaign. They gave 100 people a Ford Fiesta and they were instructed to tweet and facebook their travels and experiences every week at regular intervals. Though Ford isn’t giving them cash, the use of the car for 6 months or a year is a substantial payment. Ultimately, marketers don’t leave very many tactics up to chance, they do understand the pitfalls and how playing the social media game can backfire and are ready for them. They have a lot of resources at their disposal.

• Many of the social media stars have PR or marketing backgrounds – In my brief experiences in blogging and social media, I’ve had the opportunity to meet, communicate with, and read some wonderful social media colleagues (Jeff Jarvis, David Meerman Scott, and Holly Buchanan) Most of them have great followings and are very smart people. And most of them have “old school” media or marketing backgrounds. They’ve told me that their approach isn’t any different, it just takes a different form and they’ve adapted their message to that form. This is further evidence that excellent marketing principles don’t change because the technology changes.

• Paid buzz isn’t new – Think of it as Tiger Woods endorsing Buick. They leverage his image and reputation in TV spots, print ads, online media, and in promotions. There are companies that are in business of paying people to tweet, blog, or facebook about their clients’ products or services. It’s not much different than sponsored media in the advertising and PR world.

• Paid media and social media work great together – As someone smarter than I said, “Paid traditional media and social media go together like peanut butter and chocolate.” In fact, together they  are more powerful than if they stood alone. According to Keller Fay Group, a word-of-mouth research company, says that having experience with a brand is most important ingredient in the effectiveness of word-of-mouth, increasing the propensity of someone else trying the product by 20 basis points. Add in marketing and advertising campaign at the same time, that percentage goes up another 20%. Nearly half of all conversations (online and water cooler) include some type of reference to paid media or advertising.

So is it ok to pay for your social media buzz? I guess it’s up to the individual marketers and the community of social media. But, as I think about it, it’s really up to the consumer. They will get their information how they want it and will believe what they want to believe. Because the consumer is in control.


About Be Branded

Tony Fannin is of President of BE Branded, an integrated marketing firm who helps clients BE Somebody to their customers. If you aren't somebody, then you are commodity.

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