Recently Kmart hired some popular bloggers and twitter personalities to promote a competition they were running. Essentially the bloggers were all paid $500 to promote a $500 gift certificate to Kmart. Lots of questions about whether this ethical or breaking some kind of sacred blogger covenant to not sell out. In particular posts from Chris Brogan and Jeremiah Owyang on this topic are not only interesting, but have generated an enormous response in the comments. Technosaler has a different take on this and even takes Jeremiah to task for editorializing as an analyst.
This controversy is absolutely baffling to me and IMHO people are asking the wrong questions especially if they have any interest in business on the web.
First of all the competition was a brilliant and simple idea. How to make an idea spread on twitter with a very minor incentive, the ‘chance to win’ something. In this case the motivation to have a chance to win a Kmart gift certificate drove people to rebroadcast that message to their networks. So brilliant the idea, I copied it the same day and posted this to twitter:
“@karllong is giving away 10 x $25 gift certificates for http://threadless.com – just RT this to enter, will tweet the winners ”
Now I only had 1,800 followers at the time and the result was nothing short of extraordinary. That message got retweeted or rebroadcast over 500 times, that means well over 25% the size of my network took an action to rebroadcast my message to their networks. The very first person to RT was @Coryobrien and he had 1200 people following him so I almost doubled my ‘impressions’ on the first hop. I also added 250 people to my twitter network.
Why did this work so well? Probably because I write the number 1 t-shirt blog on the internet (according to google) so my personal brand is totally enmeshed with t-shirts, so it’s totally appropriate for me to promote T-shirts.
To be quite honest I think personal networks are the future of advertising, so forget the ‘controversy’ and focus on the revolution people.
Izea is actually on the right track with their business model which is essentially to empower people to profit from their ‘influence’ or networks. We are the media, and if we are put in charge of what we promote, on what terms, and for companies we believe in, there are few bloggers who will not participate. If patagonia sponsored me I would happily pimp their products for cash, I love what the company does. They have 30 open positions a year (non retail) and they get 30,000 resumes for those positions, people are inspired by what the company does and stand for. I would totally sell my influence to promote companies that I firmly believe in. Sell out, but do it selectively and on your terms.