One of my "real" (pre-bakery) jobs was with an Internet start-up in the forest products business. In the beginning there were only four of us, plus the founder. We had absolutely NOTHING in terms of an advertising budget. The goal was to get noticed without spending any money. To help us out, the founder paid us about half of our former salaries so we were always hungry and struggling, with promises of profits and stock options. We quickly learned to be creative, think outside the box, and find free (or extremely inexpensive) ways to create a presence on the web. Oh yeah, I remember those days.
Fast forward several years and I realize how much I learned from that struggle.
Now that I am on the other side of the fence however, I feel violated when someone uses my blog for blatent commercial gain. There is a thin line between "creative" and "unethical" and it gets crossed every day.
Paid Advertising on Blogs
I have no problem with ads on blogs. These are paid messages. Everyone knows they are paid messages. You can click or not. Advertisers may try to trick you into clicking but it's usually pretty obvious.
Advertorials and Testimonials
Usually on corporate, shopping, or directory websites, and forums. Again, obvious advertising, nobody REALLY believes ALL those positive reviews on Ebay and Amazon.com (do they?)
This one is a little trickier. My sister has a "Mommy Blog." She and many of her fellow bloggers are sometimes asked to review a product. The request is usually accompanied by a junket, free babysitting, lunch, demo, etc. But she tells it like it is. Yes I have been given this product to "try." And I will try it and tell you about it - good or bad.
Back in my forest products days, I had the privilege of working with some very good news reporters. They were the ones who kept us "marketing people" honest by simply not allowing self-promoting news on our website. Their mantra was "we report the news, we do not create it." We (marketers) became the kings and queens of press releases, even though they were never "carried" on our own site. I still use this avenue extensively to promote the bakery.
This is where the line between ethical and creative gets blurred. Blog and forum comments that are on point or add value are fine. Even if they mention a product, company, website, or blog. Spam and robot-created comments are just plain wrong. But then there is the semi-spam. The people (like me ten years ago) that spent hours upon hours googling related sites and posing as innocent interested parties.
If you do it well, you'll get away with it. This one was posted on my blog today.
At first I don't have any Idea how to open up a bakery, all I really know was how to bake, but since I need to start a business, bakery is the first thing on my mind, recently I found a new website for kitchen supplies, they offer discount coupons where in 'online10' which will give 8-10% off everything on the entire website with a minimum $50 order, enter the coupon code on the checkout page to get the discount, I used it and its a great start to open up my business..
There was a link to a website imbedded in the message. Pleeaaasssee. It just pissed me off and I deleted it immediately.
One more thing...this is NOT an advertisement or endorsement of the book pictured above.