Flogged to death…

26May08

Sock PuppetThe world of blogging has plenty of contrived language to keep itself distanced from Mr Average man on the street. In fact, I read something recently arguing that even Harvard Business School isn’t quite sure what a blog is. Add sock-puppets, flogs, and astroturfing into the mix, and there’s enough geeky jargon to scare away some of the most open minded consumers and marketers! But as of today, all of those activities become a criminal offence in the UK.

“But how can I be a criminal if I don’t understand the crime?” I hear you ask. Well, ignorantia juris non excusat as they say, but as a crash course in staying on the right side of the law, here’s the low-down on the do’s and don’ts.

Astroturfing: Using the web to create or stir up an impression of grass-roots support under false pretences.
Sock puppetry: Contributing to online conversations on behalf of made-up personas in order to make something look more popular or positive than it actually is.
Flogging: The creation of a blog which appears to be an organic site, but is in fact a vehicle which is sponsored or backed by the organisation looking to communicate a marketing message through its existence.
At the root of all three of these newly outlawed activities is one principle – dishonesty and non-disclosure. All three practices look to exploit the web for one’s own purposes by hoodwinking the audience into believing something that’s simply not true. Whether it’s a full blown marketing tool, or a simple comment which bigs up your latest YouTube video, the online community has had enough.
We want to trust social media, we want to believe that a blogger is writing for his own reasons and not for corporate back-handers, we want to be able to build networks online without the concern that our newly found connections are company shills who will try and pitch us the latest products when the button is clicked.
So if you don’t want to be a criminal, there are two easy steps to getting the best out of social media:
1. Don’t try and play your audience – the collective mind of the web is smarter than the most creative and cunning evil-marketers; you will be found out, and when you do, all the goodness that you milked while you were flying under the radar will explode in your face and you will most likely lose your job.
2. Genuinely try to engage – this brave new world of social media presents countless opportunities, check out a few of them here. The trick is that social media isn’t always about making a quick buck or a big bang. Think of it in terms of a commitment, not just a campaign – be transparent, be consistent, and be willing to open your brand up to situations when you’re taking part in the conversation, not necessarily driving it.
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One Response to “Flogged to death…”

  1. 1 Darika

    Hmm, can’t decide what’s going to be more under-policed; “naughty” bloggers or those drinking alcohol on the tube.



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