Posted August 26, 2011 1:05 pm by with 5 comments

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Word of mouth is one of the best means of marketing a product, but sometimes the process needs a little help to get started. Help in the form of cold, hard cash. For a long time, the Pay-for-Posts business was considered only slightly less shady than buying watches from a guy who carries his stock in his coat.

A few years ago, I wrote a paid post for one of my blogs and Google promptly slapped me with a drop in my page rank (does anyone care about page rank anymore?) and placement in the search returns.

Now, paying for posts, Tweets, Facebook shoutouts or video mentions is not only acceptable, it’s good business.

According to new numbers from eMarketer, 48.8% of marketers have used a sponsored blog post. 39.4% have sponsored Tweets and 50.2% said they were open to using some kind of social media sponsorship.

Paid-for-Post programs run the gamut from sketchy clearinghouses pushing articles on windows blinds and times shares, to well-funded, creative properties that pay people for posts they would have written anyway for free.

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I sometimes write for the Warner Brothers Word of Mouth marketing program which pays fans to write about their favorite TV shows and send retail links through Twitter and Facebook. They have very specific guidelines for posting, including mandatory disclosure paragraphs and pre-crafted Tweets and an organized back end that makes it easy to keep track of blogger progress.

I also work with social media sponsorship middleman, MyLikes (gotta have that full disclosure, right?). They have a running list of client pitches. Members choose the ones they like, then Tweet them or add them to Facebook and in return, they get paid for clicks. They also offer options for creating ad-related videos and those pay out at a higher rate.

Paying for video mentions is highly valued by marketers. eMarketer figured the average worth of such as mention as $112.46, beaten only by a blog post which came in at $114.71. And here’s one of those places where Twitter tops Facebook and I totally agree.

Now, don’t confuse estimated value with the payout for the service. Few people outside of celebrities are earning $63.00 a Tweet. Sponsored posts could cost you $114, but $30 to $50 is the average. Of course, what you pay and what you get back is highly dependent of the popularity and efforts of the paid poster. For social media sponsorships, it’s all about reach. Reach is somewhat about the number of followers but also involves a person’s influence in their circle and beyond.

How do you feel about sponsored posts, social media and video mentions? Shady business or an excellent way to spread the word?

  • As long as there is clear disclosure I think that is fine. But people should not get on to Google for deciding its own standards with respect to paid posts. It’s a 2-way street. If you want Google’s traffic you have to abide by their guidelines. If they want your content they have to abide by YOUR guidelines. But you’re free to engage with the rest of the Web any way you choose.

  • Well said Michael.

  • As social media continues to develop, more and more revenue streams will spring up.

    The success of any of these ultimately depends on whether someone is willing to pay for it.

    Whether that’s pay per tweet or similar or just straight forward advertising.

    It’s all good as long as no-one gets hurt.

  • It is a funny area, in the UK I do not think we have to admit legally to our relationships as deeply as US web owners. it’s a very grey area though and most simply state that the post is sponsored as it usually has no negative bearing as it is at the end.

    Mashable, who in my opinion deliver very poor quality news, have been providing “sponsored” posts for ages, and there rankings are numero uno, why?

    Because they utilise an existing high PR by sending out 100 crap quality 200 word articles per day to get search results from long tail and short tail keywords that are topical.

    I see no issue and feel it makes total sense to partner with blog owners of relevance to target the right people with news and offers etc.

  • I don’t think that Google slapped you for one paid posts – maybe it was just “by chance”. As for the paid posts – I think that it’s a reality – no matter how we think about it – it exists and will continie to grow while it will be cost effective.