Why Are More And More Marketers Paying For Blog Posts And Tweets?

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Simply put: because it’s working.

As usual, eMarketer comes out with some new data that will – more than likely – rattle some cages (mine included!). From the news item, How Valuable Are Social Media Sponsorships?, published yesterday: "In Q2 2011, social media advertising company IZEA surveyed marketers and publishers about their preferences for such practices and the value they place on certain sponsorships. The survey found that 48.8% of marketers have used a sponsored blog post, while 32.5% said they would use it, and 39.4% have sponsored a tweet, while 35.6% said they would use that social media sponsorship. Additionally, only 23.2% have sponsored an online video, but 50.2% said they would use such a social media sponsorship."

What’s easier: to start a Blog and build an audience or to buy your way into an existing/popular one?

That’s not a trick question. It’s obviously easier to "pay to play" and (sadly), Marketers have a reputation for doing whatever is faster, easier and cheaper (which could mean both money and time). While the eMarketer news item nets out with this thought: "Social media sponsorship can be a controversial practice, particularly if bloggers and other publishers do not disclose when they some type of compensation for a product or brand mention. But as marketers continue to measure success and see the value in these mentions, doing social media sponsorships the correct way will become a more accepted practice," there’s a bigger thought that I would urge Marketers to think about: don’t make this type of marketing act like that type of marketing.

New is not old… so don’t make it old.

Personally, it’s not a question of whether or not buying tweets or paying to have a Blog post placed on a popular destination is ethical or not. If it’s clear that it’s a paid placement and the author of the content is not a mystery, I’m fine it because the audience and community will decide. If a Blog is littered with posts that are all paid for and this maintains readership and people enjoy it, you won’t see me raining on that parade. People are grown-ups and they can make their own choices about which types of content they find relevant. I’m sure that I follow a ton of Blogs that most people would find completely useless to their daily lives – much in the same way that I, personally, don’t have an appetite for paid Blog posts. I’m fine with the concept of "different strokes for different folks." To me, the disappointment comes from trying to make these very new and interesting ways of connecting with our consumers so boring and traditional.

It’s called New Media because it’s not traditional media.

Content, conversation, engagement, measurement, extended connections and beyond. There’s no doubt it’s easy to pay a media company to write some content and plunk it somewhere, but there’s just so much more that brands can do these days. It’s not supposed to be a pain… this is an opportunity. I’m often reminded of what Seth Godin says about this, precise moment in time for Marketers. He constantly reminds us, "not to waste it," and he’s right. Call it an evolution… call it a revolution… it’s an opportunity.

Let’s do more than just use it as an advertising opportunity. Let’s not waste it. What’s your take?


  1. I have the same issue with ghost writing and advitorials. Nothing pisses me off more than people paying to place non-authentic content ins a space where being authentic is the currency. This issue is the same. I agree, if companies want to put up this kind material its got to be identifiable as such and the author needs to be noted. As someone who creates content most working days, and thinks about it the rest of the time it bugs me that the wallet of someone elses company. Real creation is painful and exhusting. You are right “different strokes” just has to be clear what stroke a folk is consuming

  2. I think it should be about what is most effective, hits your target market, and creates meaningful impact. Re-creating a wheel just to piss in your corner is meaningless.

  3. When these first started appearing in social media, I was annoyed but I soon realized nothing is sacred. It just meant that the medium has hit enough market penetration to warrant advertising.
    In similar fashion to sponsored content in magazines and infomercials, companies have the right to try to capture the attention of their target audiences in creative ways; and I, as you mentioned above, have the right to ignore it as much as I want.
    But no one wants to feel duped. And that’s the trouble with blogs: inexperienced bloggers with a lack of business experience often do not realize the level of disclosure required. Their content comes off as being genuine and yet they received a sample product and a stipend for their review of the product.
    It’s frustrating as a reader and more so as a blogger; whenever an article is written about the practice, the resulting sweeping generalizations the public makes about bloggers can be hurtful to those who don’t allow sponsored content on their blogs.
    I agree with you that disclosure is should be mandatory. At least infomercials and magazine articles are clearly identified as being sponsored. To that effect, it would be great if standards emerged (disclosure in title or summary, a graphic) to inform consumers about the sponsorship, much as those that have emerged for other media (“this is a paid advertisement”). Maybe it could start with: Who are you and what do you sell? 😉

  4. It has been a loooong time since magazine articles have declared their product placements. Humble apologies, but just about all – if not all – magazines accept money to mention products. This is done overtly (“reviewing” the latest lipstick) and covertly, in editorial columns, opinion pages, etc. And before you ask, yes, covers are also sold, both via products featured and increasingly, via straight-up ads. Ask any magazine salesperson and he/she will tell you, all ads are sold with the the promise of politely named “editorial mentions”, code for product placement and editorial.

  5. Thanks a lot, Mitch.
    This has been a frustration for me. Most PR agencies don’t understand why they should pay for a blog post. As long as it’s clearly disclosed, and it’s a high-quality one, you’re right; adults can make their own minds up on whether or not to support the brand, and even the blogger.
    I do several pots a year that are part of a marketing campaign for franchisors, and none of my readers have ever complained publicly or privately.
    The Franchise King® Joel Libava

  6. As someone who declares even the teensiest affiliate link, the whole paid posting thing doesn’t sit well with me.
    As far as I’m concerned, consumers are intelligent, informed, and have short attention spans. Once your readership twigs on that you are promoting posts, they’ll quickly switch off, unless those posts are offering valuable, relevant content to them.
    That’s the key – valuable, relevant, content.

  7. Really? Do you think all consumers are that sophisticated to see “innocent” posts that are really promotions? I can think of many blogs and YouTube channels that the originator has gotten big enough to garner marketer attention. Their fan base still buys into the blog even when these “casual” mentions are really sponsorships.
    I don’t believe consumers will switch off. Consumers don’t always see the marketing.
    I’m still surprise that everyone doesn’t understand that the internet is not free and that most sites are somehow monetized. Even hosting little Google Ads count as monetization.
    I personally consider ever blog and every site as an attempt to “sell” me on something. Yet, I still consume social media.

  8. I have seen many blogs fall victim to the over abundance of paid spots. Honestly, I don’t mind the occasional paid review, IF, it is an honest assessment of the product/service. The review needs to be truthful and show the good with the bad, and must reveal that it is a paid placement of content. Without these components present in the post, the blog and writer are sure to lose credibility with their audience.

  9. I also feel it is the way that humans interact. we hold our ‘influencers’ on such a pedestal that regardless of their intention, the message they pitch, gets held to the chest with such a deathgrip, that it has no other choice, but to influence decisions.
    As often mentioned by countless influencers, some of the best and brightest minds are often stowed away in blogs with little traffic and ‘klout’.
    The perceived value is greater then actual value. As sad as it may seem.

  10. Regardless of the medium, it’s always about money. This is true for film, tv, print, online and in all business everywhere. The first time I saw an athlete sell the space under his eyes, I knew the standard for integrity had changed. Since blogs, tweets, mags, film, tv, and all other content is for sale, including your information, I don’t know where the new standard is located. I only know the old one is gone.

  11. “Simply put: because it’s working.” But Mitch, is it really working? The data provided by IZEA and emarketer indicate that marketers seem to BELIEVE that it is working (hence the investment), but is there any evidence that sponsored tweets and paid blog posts are actually yielding any results at all? Isn’t it just an expression of wishful thinking?
    Could it be that all the study is really telling us is that old media companies are still simply approaching the new opportunities presented by the social web with an old media buyer mentality instead of refining their understanding of paid, owned, earned? Isn’t this just a reluctance to let go of shifting business and revenue models? I don’t see “it’s working” in the study. What I see in it is “we still have no idea how to make money any other way.”
    Good stuff. Cheers.

  12. I have a blog and have both paid ads and sponsored posts. My sponsored posts are clearly delineated as sponsored, and are not even 5% of my posting overall. In this context I think sponsored posts are completely credible and are working well for me and my readership.
    As far as if it’s working, I know that in the last year after my baby was born, almost everything I bought online for her was a find through an ad on a blog or in a blog post. Not on purpose, but that’s just the way it ended up.

  13. I’m not a fan of anything that calls into question credibility and ethics. That said, there are shades of gray here and just because something doesn’t conform to my standards doesn’t make it ‘wrong’.
    How is this different from the practice of advertorials? As you said, they are simply repurposing an existing tactic onto a new medium. I’m regularly called by print media with a pitch of “We are going to write an article on x, you are an expert in x, you should buy space which will be displayed next to our article and write a ‘article’ that refers to your company”. These advertorials are *intended* to trick the reader into thinking it’s official copy and not a paid ad, because of that I refuse to do them in that format…yet I’m certain it works. Because something works does not mean that it should be used, I’m not a big believer in ‘success at all costs’. In this case I’d argue that the short term gain isn’t worth the long term loss given the churn they’ll experience bypassing the ‘relationship’ part of the equation.

  14. It’s wack, and a bummer for all involved. Call me old fashioned, but readers will sniff it out long term. You can’t pay for BoingBoing coverage, for instance.

  15. Disclosure is required but even then I find sponsored posts make me question other posts on that blog. Since attention is scarce, I tend to stop reading.
    I just had a bizarre experience. A LinkedIn connection regularly posts links to his blog posts. That’s fine. I skip them because I don’t like the writing style or content. Today, another connection posted a link to his blog post. Same title. Same content. The only difference is the blog template yet both claim to be the author. Someone is writing for them (and others). A few months ago, I saw this same insert-your-name-here trick used for a book (http://bit.ly/FakeBook). So much for trust.
    Tip: If you’re going to pay for a blog post, make sure it isn’t resold. With Google, we are tougher to fool.

  16. They pay more because it coast more and more. This days harder and harder to be on first page of Google. So, companies use new media and social media sites to promote business.
    They are doing it wrong or right but it worth to try.
    Even creating account with twitter, Facebook and just keep it not a bad idea.
    Otherwise spanner will register it.

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