by Guest Blogger, Lena West, Chief of Social Media Strategy at xynoMedia
A couple of blog posts ago, I wrote about the fiasco that resulted from Ann Taylor LOFT's alleged attempts to "go social".
A few days later, I spoke with, Yvonne DiVita, about her thoughts on my blog post (it's always good to know what your editor is thinking about your writing), and she said that while she liked it, she wanted to know why I hadn't mentioned the bloggers as culprits, too.
I mentioned that I had indeed thought about that, but my main focus was to write about how companies so often try to take short cuts when it comes to social media engagement. Now, however, I'd like to turn my focus on the bloggers (*insert dramatic music here*).
The bottomline is if anyone should have known better, it would have been them. While holding Mr. Muto's feet to the fire certainly is a valid position to take; the fact is that the bloggers should have, as my friend says, "damn well have damn better known better." They know how this game is played. They're a part of the blogosphere and no doubt have read or heard about full disclosure and the SEC's position on disclosure. In short, they're in the know and the companies aren't.
The fact is companies rely on those of us in the know to lead them down the right path. There's a moral responsibility to do the right thing here. Even if only one blogger had insisted on a form that outlined the "compensation" given (in the Ann Taylor LOFT case, it allegedly was $500 gift cards) and the fact that they were going to disclose said compensation, that would have been better than saying nothing at all.
Think about how much good will that lone blogger could have possibly developed with the folks at Ann Taylor LOFT if they had taken the time to pull the powers that be aside and tell them what kind of hell was in store for them if they didn't do this right. For all I know, one of the bloggers may have mentioned it, because, hey, I wasn't there and I wasn't involved; but that doesn't appear to be what happened.
Ok, one last "side" to this story…
I recounted the story behind this blog post to my Learning Annex class, as an example of how NOT to make money while blogging and they asked why this disclosure focus is on social media and not television or radio – and, in fact, this point came up in my conversation with Yvonne, too.
You see, when someone does a radio or television commercial, there is a record of that monetary exchange some place. There is a contract on someone's hard drive or in someone's files of exactly how much compensation was given for what services provided. The government can come and get their money.
With these "pay for play" blog posts, there's no real record of the exchanges. Five hundred dollars, even in gift card format, is still $500 of income. Now, the government doesn't really care until you make over $600 (I believe this is the figure) from the one source. But, what if the "pay for play" relationship is a long-term one or exceeds $600? Who has a record of that? Companies can lump that under "marketing" expenses and Mr. Tax Man is none the wiser.
Now,do I really think that some tax person is going to surf the net reading blogs and jot down disclosures and amounts? No. But, this is a first step toward making people keep records of these new media payment exchanges.
So, THAT'S why the same level of scrutiny isn't being given to radio and TV. The government knows it's getting its just dessert with those types of "pay for play" arrangements, but they can't rest assured of the same thing with social media.
As per usual, this all comes down to taxes, folks.