Disclosure and social media

166086716_4102608908_m.jpgRecently, I had the pleasure of sitting through a meeting that Boxbe was being pitched for “buzz marketing” marketing services from a third party. This company proceeded to show us pretty graphs and charts that illustrated how social media marketing can help small companies grow more quickly. Hmmmm…

Social media, it turns out can also help spread word of mouth more quickly. Having popped into this meeting a little late, I didn’t get to introduce myself, but largely, I kept my mouth shut to see where this company was going with their presentation.

Then they started talking about how they have many “agents” that post on their own blogs as well as comment on message boards, other blogs and in social networks without disclosure of their interests. They then proceed to detail out how they use dial up accounts, coffee shops and IP masking to obfuscate their IP addresses so their “marketers” can have conversations with themselves.

Now, staying silent in this meeting proved to be more and more difficult. Finally, I asked if they used Pay Per Post and the guy pitching us said, “No, they disclose who they are marketing for.”

Not exactly the answer I was looking for.

After this meeting, which didn’t last too long, I felt like I needed a shower.

It’s pretty easy to see companies today using tactics like this, but somehow it still surprises me. Maybe Scoble’s book had a lot of influence on me. Maybe, just maybe, I have morals, but somehow even beyond that, maybe I’m just not that stupid.

I’m sure that in the short run, they could have helped us get more users for Boxbe, but in the long run, I have to think that this kind of sleazy marketing just comes back to haunt you.

Just ask John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods.

photo by Flickr user amy_kearns

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