Clearly there is a lot of passion and discussion about our latest research piece on sponsored conversations. But one thing is clear: whether you like it or not, sponsored conversation is happening and growing. I still believe that marketers have an opportunity to work with bloggers in an above board fashion under very specific conditions (transparency, authenticity, relevance, commitment and the addition of "no follow" links). I want to address two specific issues: Google "no follow" and Payola.
The subject of pay-for-post blogging has created a lot of heated discussion in the blogosphere. It was especially heated a few months ago when Kmart worked with pay-for-post vendor IZEA to give several prominent bloggers free shopping sprees in exchange for sponsored posts about their stores. Today we published a document titled “Add Sponsored Conversations To Your Toolbox” in which we advise marketers to pay bloggers to post under very specific conditions, a practice we call “sponsored conversation.” The two most important conditions that marketers must follow when using sponsored conversation are 1) sponsorship transparency and 2) blogger authenticity. Sponsorship transparency means that both the marketer and the blogger must make it absolutely clear to the reader community that they are reading paid content – think of Google Adwords “Sponsored Links.” Blogger authenticity means that the blogger should have complete freedom to write in their own voice – even if the content they write about the brand is negative.