Selling ourselves short

I love social media. I enjoy Twitter and Pinterest. I read dozens of blogs. I ditched Facebook but certainly used it for several years.

What I don’t love is how corporations are weaseling their wares into my personal conversations. And I really don’t love how complicit some of my online friends are in this process.

Long ago, in a world where there were newspapers and magazines and three television channels, ads came for paid sources. Companies would buy space or time on conventional media to promise us that we’d be richer, thinner, taller, hairier, less hairy, smarter, and more popular if we bought their products.

People grew weary of these approaches. Companies tried new tactics. They put their cereals quietly on a shelf in Seinfeld’s fake kitchen. They had celebrities use their sun lotion on a lovely Malibu beach.

The goal and basic message was the same. “Pay us money and you’ll be happier.”

Now, with social media, companies are paying regular people to shill their products. But they’re paying much less than they ever paid newspapers and they’re changing the way we read what friends write.

The basic premise? “‘Like’ our Facebook page and get a coupon. Then all your friends see that you like us. You’re advertising to 100 or 200 or 800 people, and all we give you is $5 off a sandwich.”

Same tune, different channel. “Here’s a great recipe using all our crappy products as ingredients. Pin it on your Pinterest boards and all your friends will do the same. In exchange, you get a delightfully transparent adverecipe. Free!”

Wanting to get their brand trending on Twitter, which gets them a front page advertisement on every screen using the site, companies come up with ridiculous contests. “Tweet our name a lot and we’ll enter you in a drawing. The winner gets a few dollars. You give us free advertising and there might be a trinket in it for you.”

I’m sick of seeing blogs and boards and feeds get covered in corporate slime, especially when I know the people (whom I used to trust) only got a few pennies, if anything, in exchange for interrupting my social media day.

Today was the last straw. I just got a form email from an author whose books I really respect. Paraphrasing, he said, “My new book is coming out. Think you’ll like it.” Fine. Makes sense. Advertise to the people who already like your work. That’s an ad I welcome.

But the email continued.

“I’m going to put together a marketing team of really smart people like you. If you’re selected for this highly respected team, you’ll conceive of and execute my marketing for me. And I’ll give you a free book!”

So I do all the work and you give me…a book. Son, people get paid tens of thousands of dollars to come up with marketing campaigns. I’m not doing one for you for a token of appreciation.

It’s a long walk off a rotten pier.

Aside from being mad at being undervalued, though I am, I’m really angry at how these marketing schemes cost relationships. I see a blogger I really like and respect start shilling diapers. Or books. Or pumpkin pie filling. Doesn’t matter what the product is. I stop reading as often, I stop trusting what I read, and I stop visiting their blog.

One reader isn’t a big deal. One online relationship dead is not, either.

What matters is that the companies are playing us like fiddles. They get free advertising *and* a sneaky inroad into places marketing isn’t expected. I follow people on Twitter because I want their voices. Not their ads for credit cards.

The companies think they’ll benefit from the trust I have in my social network. I’ve been reading Sue’s blog for five years, so when she sells out to Frozen Fish Sticks Company I’m supposed to be more likely to trust FFSCo as much as I trust Sue.

But I see through you, Frozen Fish Sticks marketing team. I’m pretty sure I don’t trust Sue less because of her deal with Frozen Fish Sticks Company. I know Sue wants to be heard and wants to be paid. But I’m also pretty sure they’re not paying Sue what she is worth. I’m pretty sure all she got out of the chance to annoy me and make me think about visiting her blog less often is a box of frozen fish sticks.

You’re better than that, Sue.

I understand the draw. A lot of people want to feel needed. They want their writing seen by more people and they want to get paid.

Excellent goals.

But getting a nickel to do work that should be paid two hundred dollars isn’t a win for anyone except the corporation that just saved $199.95.

But who am I to tell people to stop writing two-cent ads on Twitter? I forward links to books and magazine articles. The authors and publishers don’t ask me to. They don’t know I’m going to do it. But if I blog that I liked a book, that’s advertising, too. Why draw a distinction between (nominally) paid ads and personal opinion that might drive sales?


Maybe I’m grumpy. Or feeling guilty. Soon I’m going to try the aggregating-commercial-site thing that all the kids are doing these days. I’m going to put some of my posts on other sites for free to see what happens.

But I wonder how much that process cheapens what I’ve stood for all these years. I know better than to let my work get away for less than I’m worth.

So why do it?

I still don’t know. I can say that the ads on the sites where most bloggers are aggregated are standard, expected, and usually ignored. It’s like performing on a street corner and being surrounded by billboards. This is simply our online landscape.

But I think it’s really because writers are, at heart, applause whores. We’ll sell our soul to be told we’re good. That’s why we sell ourselves short by selling products, ideas, and companies for far too little.

And in agreeing to have my posts on aggregating sites I’m probably doing exactly that for which I’m thinking of unfollowing other people: shilling crap that nobody needs in exchange for less than I’m worth.

Oh, well. Here’s some Lloyd Dobler to enjoy while you eat your fish sticks. Remember when we were this idealistic? Yeah. Me, too.

142 thoughts on “Selling ourselves short

    • I’m having a great day but I still don’t want to read ads in every moment of my day.

      I don’t expect companies to care. I expect them to make as much money as they can.

      I expect the rest of us to think about how we use our personal conversations. I might be the only one who doesn’t think social media should be co-opted by advertising. But I forward links to magazine articles and I blog about books and articles, so am I part of the problem? Or is it only when those links are solicited by the author or publisher that I’ve become part of the problem?

  1. Me too ! I do a search on a product and suddenly I get all their ads. That’s bull shit. I am so with you here. And sue is better than that. LEt’s get sue back.

    • See, Outlaw, you get me. I was all worried that Sue and Marion and Helen would be mad that I pointed out that they’re selling themselves short to shill products. I guess I’m just mad that they don’t see the game they are losing. they use to seem smart and funny and now they seem less smart and less funny. because they’ve lost that heartful,, soulful reason why a lot of us blog. To connect.

  2. When you gave me very good advice a while back concerning this very issue, I understood it, but not completely. I had my reservations, but decided to give the whole “marketing” thing a shot. Yes, I got 250 Facebook likes in about an hour, but it still wasn’t sitting well with me. Many kept telling me that this is what people do to get their “product” out there, but it still didn’t feel right. It took me awhile to notice that very few of those 250 Facebook people actually read my writing and i realized that what made my stomach turn was the “buying of friends”. Although the hellishness of this past year has brought out of me some queationable and embarrassing comments (some on this blog) and behavior that would only come from someone massively insecure, I am actually a self respecting, confident in my talents and gifts (ish) human being who has never had to pay anyone to like me. Not for me. You said it. I just had to go through the steps to understand it.

  3. Like most bloggers, I occasionally get the “targeted” e-mails from companies who think I should put their ads on my site. But since my site is essentially only about me and my life, it’s kind of hard to classify it for advertising. But I got one from a “green” (a term I really, really detest by the way) company asking me to advertise their “green” products. Made me mad, because the greenest thing you can do? Not buy crap. I absolutely despise the marketing that tries to convince people that consumerism of any kind is an environmentally responsible decision. So I wrote the lady back and told her that.

    Funnily enough, she never responded.

    • Greenwashing must be the biggest business in marketing right now. Ugh.

      I don’t know why I’m drawing this line all of a sudden. If people put ads on their blogs, I get that they want to make money. And that’s their right. But somehow the sponsored posts and the sponsored Tweets are really getting under my skin.

      Those tv screens at the gas station? The single worst things in the world, ever. Somehow, corporate hashtags in tweets are bugging me just as much and I can’t put my finger on why.

  4. I think about this issue all the time. I’m a writer and I want to get paid for my writing so there’s a small part of me that feels warm and fuzzy when I get a pitch from a marketer wanting to work with me. But then I read closer and what they almost always mean is what you’ve nailed in this post: convince your readers how much you like our product and we’ll give you $[insert insultingly small amount here] of it. I do accept some books for review, but only with the understanding that I’ll only write a review if I actually enjoyed the book or got something out of it. But that’s the extent of my blog’s relationship with commerce.

    The sad thing, though, is that there are so few paying markets for personal writing and so many people looking to do it that these companies have what must feels like the upper hand. And if you’re not able to sell your work anywhere, maybe you’re okay with getting free dishwasher detergent. But that attitude just makes it harder for things to change. This phenomenon along with the explosion of places like HuffPo who don’t pay their writers are making it mighty hard to eke out a living as a writer. Why would anybody pay anyone to do anything if they can get somebody else to do it for free?

    (And isn’t Twitter just the worst these days? I can’t go on there without seeing another person I generally like hosting a Twitter party for a product I have no interest in. It makes me stabby.)

    Sorry, rant now ended.

    • Never apologize for a rant, Kristen. I love them.

      I’m a professional writer and editor, too, and I write my fair share of marketing schlock for companies. But they ask me to write, I do it, they pay me. There is no nuance and we both only agree if we’ve negotiated terms we feel are fair.

      I think you’ve hit, in calling out the difference between contract and personal writing, the heart of this. Personal writing is created to make a connection. Corporations see the success of those connections and want to commodify them. So they ask to borrow personal writing (for free) on a site that sells ad space. And they ask to borrow personal writing for their products.

      But why should they get to borrow it? Are we all hoping to give our writing away for free in the hopes that someone wants to publish it? If so, will we accept publishing free for someone else’s benefit or does it have to be a book deal (in which others benefit in almost the same way but we get an ego boost)?

      If personal writing is worth less to companies and they want to pay less, fine. But why do we agree to that?

    • xoxo

      You know, Wolfie, as a professional writer, that we can give away our work for friends, but if someone else is going to profit that we should, too. Right?

      Why the hell are these wonderful writers selling their precious reputations and beautiful writing for a trial size bottle of bubble bath?

  5. Lloyd Dobler! You rock.

    “But I think it’s really because writers are, at heart, applause whores. We’ll sell our soul to be told we’re good. That’s why.” = ♥

  6. Love this article. You articulate my concerns about this very thing, which relates to why I have hesitated to take my blog down a commercial avenue. I so far haven’t been able to see the point.

  7. Thank-you, it’s great to see my exact thoughts written far more articulately than I could have managed.

    I stopped using Facebook when friends thought it important to tell me which soup they liked.

    Now, as much as I adore Twitter, it’s being severely tested by the pitiful begging to be followed and my biggest bugbear, retweets to win.

    Maybe it’s because I follow a lot of bloggers, many of whom are happy to sell their soul for PR opportunities, but finding genuine unadulterated tweets is becoming more of a chore than it’s worth.

    My solution is to embark on a twitter cull. I could learn how to use lists properly but that still feels like I’m part of the problem. It was liberating to decide on being PR unfriendly so my own following numbers are no longer of any significance … at least I don’t think they are … bah, who am I kidding …

    • You’re funny, Mark. ;-)

      I have a ten-strikes-and-you-might-be-out Twitter policy. Too many lunch tweets, too many lame RTs, or too many sales pitches.

      Sell your own book…heck yeah! Sell your brother’s kickstarter campaign. Sell a charity several times during an important period. Heck, raise awareness about what you believe. But not more than ten times in a week.

      Is that too lenient for you?

      • Haha, I love the ‘might’ be out bit! That sounds about as assertive as I am.

        The 10 strikes rule is one I’m going to adopt,thanks … unless someone retweets to win something worth less than a fiver three times in a row followed by a glowing review of a freebie product and their lunch report in which case I reserve the right, should my mood be a bad one, to unfollow with immediate effect … maybe …

  8. You bring to mind two very separate issues that caught my attention. The first is what I would call lack of “fair trade” marketing practices which up to this time I had little understanding of. I am happy to have been enlightened and can now avoid the pitfalls of these marketing practices.

    The other issue, which gets that “instant reaction” to delete you from my world is what I call over marketing of any product. I confess that in the past I have been involved in activities which championed the push, push push of a product. I grew to loathe doing so and simply have no tolerance for anyone who does this.

    Over marketing has become annoyingly acceptable and it really hit a peak with me on the recent presidential campaign. I live in a swing state and we were deluged with (mostly false or misleading) advertising about the various local, state and federal candidates on the telly which can easily be turned off. But I was particularly upset about the presidential race as we were getting 6-10 calls daily from one party in particular. What was most upsetting about this was that hubby (who works from home and was getting continuously interrupted) and I are are registered “no party” and have an unlisted land line number, which was the number being called. If we give out our number, it’s the cell phone, never the land line which is a family only line. Once the land line number got out it seems it was disseminated unrestricted throughout the party campaigns of local, state and federal. Despite attempts to go through proper channels to get them to cease and desist, it was too late as too many people seemed to have the number. The end result of this was that it made me not want to have anything to do with that party. It truly was hard to look impartially at candidates because I felt harassed by the party phone calls.

    When marketing violates the sanctity of home (our island) they have trespassed and shall be treated as combatants. Hubby will make you wish you hadn’t dialed that number! OMG, I have been holding on to that rant for over a week! The best marketing, is and always will be…word of mouth from friends and family. Having worked for a company that lives on marketing strategies, they can pay millions (or in this case…pennies) by advertising in many different forms but word of mouth is the only one that pays back long term dividends. And for any company to presumes that we are stupid enough to think that Sue really is promoting Frozen Fish Sticks Company because their ad is on her page, shame on them. I don’t mind a short add, I just zoom right past it but I would much rather hear what Sue’s real interests are by the links she suggests and I would be more inclined to check them out. ;)

    • I sincerely pity all swing state residents the incessant marketing they endured. Insulting, ii invasive pandering.

      Yes, the lack of fair trade is annoying. Yes, over marketing is annoying. And I hope most of Sue’s future posts are about what moves her. Because otherwise she has lost a reader.

  9. I used to work at a PR agency. Before anyone throws rotten tomatoes at me – I agree with you. But from my experience many companies still don’t know what the hell to do with bloggers. They know they can be influential so they want to reach them, but they often don’t know how to do anything other than the fish sticks scenario. There are lots of bad, tired, and ineffective social media tactics being used. The good companies are trying to engage people in more meaningful ways, but it’s all over the map and everyone is still trying to figure out what works.

    But if you are in the blogging world for the love of writing and community, is there any scenario where a company could engage with you or any blogger without it ultimately feeling like a sellout? I think it’s pretty tricky. Which is why I think you nailed it when you said it’s about intent.

    Also that email you got about that book marketing scheme? Hi-larious. Who does that?!?

    • I have seen some successful “hey, I read a good book relevant to my blog and the publisher wants me to give a free copy” posts. Highly regarded parenting books on parenting blogs.

      But that’s about it. The product posts I’ve seen as successful are from bloggers I trust about something they use and like but that they swear they weren’t compensated for.

      A jaded marketplace is your first problem. An international community increasingly angry about corporate manipulation is the second.

      The email about the book marketing committee had me hooked until I saw the compensation. I know the author doesn’t know my other life in branding, so I know it wasn’t a targeted appeal. I roll my eyes for the saps who think a book is good payment for guerilla marketing work.

      I guess it can’t hurt to ask. Except it has. Because his brand dropped significantly in my estimation for that lame, cheap tactic.

  10. What terrifies me is how much information people are willing to trade for a free pizza. “Like us on Facebook and get a free pizza” is no longer the case. It’s “like us and give us access to your personal information and your friend list.” Disturbing!

    • Completely agree!

      Give us your address, your phone number, your email address…and we’ll send you a coupon for $3.99 off your purchase of $300.

      And by the way, we’ll track all your purchases for ever more.

      Disturbing is the right word. Thanks!

  11. Most people join social media sites to get away from marketing, that’s what I learned when I first got into social media. You make good points about credibility and marketing. It’s better to disclose if you’re being paid for it if you are recommending a product or service.

    But playing devil’s advocate here, there is room for marketing on social media sites, if it’s done right. Some companies use social media sites as another marketing channel, forgetting that it’s all about establishing a personal relationship with somebody first before trying to sell. I see this practice all the time (Twitter, etc.) and just shake my head. It’s the online version of meeting somebody for the first time and insisting they buy your fish sticks before you even determine if they even want fish sticks and if fish sticks would suit their needs. That’s a long-winded explanation but I hope you see what I mean.

    I don’t think you’re part of the problem. You recommend magazine links and books, I think, because you think others would enjoy them and benefit from knowing about them. To my mind, that’s what blogging, tweeting and so on are all about; the chance to share information with people all over the world.

    Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed. :-)

    • Thanks, Eagle-Eyed!

      I absolutely thing social media and marketing can go together. I follow some of my favorite charities, I find out about events and sales that way.

      I guess I should distinguish that what really makes me mad is personal accounts shilling for corporations that they don’t actually benefit from. Sell fish sticks if it helps you personally. But not for a nickel and a pat on the back. Because that costs readership and, in the long term, credibility.

        • If I wanted that kind of exposure I’d go out in the snow without clothes. In the town square. I estimate that would be at least 4000% more exposure than unpaid corporate blogging.

        • You’re so funny.

          You know I was passing through Mass for three years many moons ago. Of course I’ll come back. Probabaly not naked, though. I thrive on threats about snowbound nudity but never come through. Boo, me.

  12. I enjoy keeping up with a number of sewing, knitting, and cooking blogs — but so, so many of them have sunk to the level of weekly endorsements and “this company was sooooo nice and sent me a box of stuff to try out so now I’m blogging about it because it wasn’t really exactly free” posts. Ick. Everything just feels polluted. I understand that a lot of people are doing this to pay the bills and to enable them to stay at home with their kids, but . . . is it worth it?

    • Dulcimer, this is exactly the problem. You want to craft. You want to talk with other people who share your hobbies and passions. You want to know that there are tricks to get caramels to not crystallize.

      But you don’t want Kraft to come stomping into your conversation screaming that they have the best caramels and quilting patterns and by the way pay for this and that and…

      It’s noise. And I hate it.

      Sorry your favorite sites are cluttered now. Hope you find new, quiet corners of the internet to enjoy.

        • Thank you so much. What I love about the Internet is building a community that would never be possible in our individual corners of the earth. I wish we could maintain the humanity without all the consumerism.


          Glad you’re here, though. Welcome!

  13. Wow that elicited such a multitude of long and thought out responses…
    I’ll keep mine brief….you are part of an elite and super brilliant group selected to write a pithy response to this super excellent blog post on selling yourself short….and for your efforts I’ll give you a smiley face and post whatever you write since that will be far better than anything I could come up with… ;o)…great job, well written

  14. What makes you mad is that you are being victimized and brainwashed. And in a country that I believe still touts the slogan “Land of the free and home of the brave” I dont see it yet morphed into “Land of the victimized and home of the brainwashed”. A person’s expectations can be lowered over multiple times, but everyone has a threshold. Our collective threshold should have been met decades ago. But we have been seduced so slowly, so skillfully, that our hybernation has only been collectively woken up when the advertising becomes personal, when friends become sellers. I recently started a blog after cancer, and I just wanted one thing: to make someone’s day brighter and to collect my poems for a christmas gift to my parents. As I started to read other poetry blogs, I saw stuff like, “Only give them enough to hook them in” and “Never write your whole poem”. Well, I will always write my whole poem, or I will stop blogging about them. But my perspective, and lifespan, are different than the average. Thank you for this honest conversation on a painful, yet secretive subject.

    • You’re right that the process has been slow and skillful. I’d like to think that we aren’t brainwashed as much as inured, nor victimized as much as hornswaggled.

      I despise advice that we should use our art to hook people in so they’ll buy more. No. I refuse to tease people. It’s stupid to approach our relationship with the world as though we were heroin dealers giving just enough free to trap people into paying.

      Thanks for your perspective.

  15. Like pretty much everybody else here, I couldn’t agree with you more. I am so sick and tired of advertising – of any kind! After this past election cycle, I just can’t hardly stand it.

    I was blogging on another host site but was driven away by all the ads that showed up on every page. I don’t get paid for my work. I’m not going to help some big company make more money – at my expense either.

    I’m not a professional writer. However, I would love to be. I had to work at a “real” job with a steady income for years and then have dealt with health issues. Now I have the time and inclination to try writing. I’m enjoying it but I don’t want to be blasted by advertising.

    Thank you for sharing your feelings and thoughts about this issue. As well as giving the rest of us a forum to agree with you.


    • Oh, Debi, I’m always happy to give people a forum in which to agree with me. ;-)

      Best of luck with your writing pursuits! And may your words always be free from unwanted advertising!

  16. Great post, great writing. Thanks for expertly putting into words what I manage to only get flustered about. The problem with all this is – what can we DO about it?

    Similar challenges are happening in photography (an area I tried for a while to do for a living). I once got asked to photograph a large event for a very successful organization in Aspen, Colorado ($$$). The fee they would pay me? Zero. I was supposed to do it, well, just because. And I was supposed to be honored that they asked me to work for free. I walked out of that meeting a little wiser and a lot angrier.

    • Because people figure they can write and they can take photos, they assume professional writing and professional photography aren’t worth much.


      Glad you walked out of the meeting.

      • Yes, me too. I was furious.

        The teraquads of crappy videos on youtube and terrible free books available for e-readers is a reminder that there is a reason some things cost money!

        I do have a writing project for you – I’d love for you to put some of your time into it, and you’ll get great exposure on my site in lieu of cash.


  17. On a related note, every now and then I hear of companies restricting their employees’ freedom on the internet. Whatever happened to expressing views? As long as one does his job at the workplace it really shouldn’t matter!
    So not only are they adulterating the conversations and relationships that you talk of, but also lessening the probability that you know someone’s real opinion or thought, thanks to thousands of words deleted in fear.

    • Wow, that would be an interesting topic to post on. Have you written extensively on those restrictions?

      I’m tempted to say that during the word day an employer has the right to say that employees can’t access the Internet except for specific work-related duties. But I’m from the old school “no personal calls, no cell phones at work, no email that isn’t directly work related” era of noses to the grindstone.

      But I think it’s time to think about how the online discourse is changed by the differences between work world and personal world. Because it’s another side of the same “pay to play” coin, right?


      • No actually I haven’t.. It’s probably not the kind of writing I would take up but I certainly feel about the subject. I’m not only talking about while in office or during work hours, but also outside of it. From a personal computer! So it’s even worse than you imagine.. Maybe I wouldn’t raise such a hue and cry if it were just within office or from a computer meant for work.

  18. What a thought provoking piece. I think you’re right everyone is looking for recognition and applause, or compensation in their work. What you’re saying is that they should hold out and wait for something that is of worth? …
    On another note, I have to say that all advertisements are annoying, the ones that pick up on your recent conversations and just post related “Wedding…. photographer…. bla bla bla…. ” as if my email and life weren’t full enough of that sort of media. Just not sure what we CAN do about it.

    • Yes, I’m saying that if you’re going to engage in social media, do it as a person and not a hired gun. But if you’re going to be a paid spokesperson, get paid what you’re worth.

      Oh, wow, those ads based on the text of emails are c.r.e.e.p.y. Thanks for reminding me that there’s another layer of ads to despise.

  19. Great post and totally agree. Bloggers should absolutely sell their own product, books, music, merch and so on. I also think it’s fair to have a clear and up front donations option to help support your work if applicable. I mean even sponsorship is fine in my opinion as long as it’s obvious and made clear. I just hate when people insult my intelligence by (not so) subtly plugging a product or service and trying to pass it off as merely their opinion. It’s the shilling and stealth marketing that I find really grating. I don’t even use adwords anymore as I find them ugly and they undermine my content.

    Excellent post! Thanks for sharing :)


    • I agree that the donations boxes are a lovely way to say, “I’m not going to sell ad space here, but you’re welcome to pay for this content to thank me for not advertising.” I think that option is good for people who need to make a living from blogging.

      Thanks for kind words. Glad you took the time to read and comment!

  20. Such a charming article! I never began to see corporate social media ads in such a way until now. I certainly recognize my worth on the virtual reporter plane and know my words carry value and possibilities so I do recognize the utility that Big Business wants to take advantage of. I have always encouraged Self promotion in social media- it is your name talk about what YOU stand for. This in itself usually weeds out the sell outs from the people who refuse to settle. Great insight keep going!

    • Thanks for the reinforcement, Your Highness! ;-)

      I agree that corporations are smart to want to use our talents. We’re just doing a poor job of protecting our own brands.

      Thanks for coming by!

  21. I googled ‘fishsticks’. We call them ‘fishfingers’ over here in Aus. Man, I’d sell my best friend for one, I kid. You raised some v. valid point and I cringe when my friends promote the the company’s wares on fb. It’s all v. practical on the company’s part of course, approach a lot of popular bloggers and a few are bound to say yes.
    I suppose it looks good on one’s resume, one could say ‘my blog was so popular that this huge fishsticks company approached me’. It’s flattering, one thinks ‘I’m so talented that I got handpicked by this big company’.

    • Silly Australians. Fish don’t have fingers.

      Wait a minute…they don’t have sticks, either.

      You’ve hit the nail on the head, of course, with the thought that bloggers are so flattered to be approached. But what of the people on Twitter who gladly join in the sponsored contest or hashtag festival of promotion without getting any compensation at all? Just the thought of being part of the in-crowd?

      It’s terrible that we’re whittling away our own credibility for a song.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      • Not sure how it works on ‘Twitter’ but my friends who do it on ‘Facebook’ gets $5 off say, Pizza Hut for annoying all of their friends. Then the likers on the ‘Fb’ page piggyback on the well known name of the promoter to get more traffic to their site.
        I read that Gwyneth Paltrow’s nickname was ‘fishsticks’ so was under the impression that it was the American name for crabsticks coz they’re long, thin and white.

        • On Twitter they get even less. Maybe an entry into a contest. But usually not even that. Promoters get more people to see their own name, which might lead to more followers. Maybe.

  22. I completely agree with your blog post. Bloggers are selling out to get a free product mean while consumers and these companies have lowered their standards. And I say companies have lowered their standards because I’ve realized that the people they usually get to do their “advertising” for them are the blogs with multiple typos, no direction and just some diary of their short lived lives they like to call “mommy blogs” or something of the sort.

    • I hadn’t thought of the drawbacks for the marketers, of not liking the post written, or of watering down their brand with poor writing.

      Thanks for adding to the conversation!

  23. I agree with your post. As a journalist I have found it stressful that in addition to legal constraints, politicians and companies/ advertisers were restricting my freedom to write and in starting my blog, I was happy to be freed of them. Then the question about livelihood and marketing came up. Why should they get cheap publicity from me? why should I allow them to ruin my chance to free thought?

  24. As a small business representative, I have to say social media works for us (especially since I’m a one woman show). Understanding what works and what is downright pushy, is definitely the key. I’m not a fan of seeing name brand household cleaners allover facebook and endorsed by my friends. Do they really care about the product or do they just want something for free? And do I have to give away free stuff for my friends to even care about my passions and the business I represent? I’m not in it for the money, I’m in it to inspire. The corporate world is a blood-sucking industry.

    • Social media is the perfect opportunity for a friend who likes your products to mention them to friends. And for big companies to do the same. The distinction you want to make—and a lot of others agree—is that somehow small businesses are better. You’re not Dow or Monsanto, and for a lot of people that means your ads are information where Dow’s are gratuitous invasions of privacy. The line you have to draw for yourself is whether to give stuff free or discounted in exchange for advertising. The line readers have to make is whether small businesses really are different. I think some people will be offended by any mention of products on social media, some expect it, and some resent only major companies doing it.

      The corporate world offers millions of jobs. Their products aren’t necessarily inferior, nor are their advertising practices. I personally hate seeing them. Ever. I don’t watch t.v. to avoid ads. I try to visit websites without ads. I roll my eyes at magazine ads. But because huge multinational corporations need consumers to make profits and stay in business, their ads everywhere is a fact of life. What infuriates me is when my friends join the noise of advertising. I want personal conversations to be personal, and I’m naively insulted when blogs and tweets become public marketplace conversations.

      Naive because those forums are, by nature, public. And ours is a consumer society, so public means market.


  25. Well said! I guess it goes to show a lot of people out there don’t recognize they are being undervalued which is why social media and marketing reps think it’s okay … but yes, I agree – friendships have soured from this.

  26. Reblogged this on ecomom22 and commented:
    This is a great post to share on corporations and social media. This writer has a great flow and it’s an enjoyable and pointed post. Plus it’s got a little of everybody’s loveable guy Lloyd Dobbler. Enjoy!

  27. The wisdom of Lloyd Dobler. This is exactly what I needed today.
    I’ve also found a lot of pyramid schemes weaseling their way into my social media circle, and that annoys me as well. It seems impossible to keep commercialization out of our social lives and that’s really depressing.
    Back to thinking about Lloyd Dobler.

  28. You bring up some really good points. I think that often times the true value of a product or service has been grossly overinflated with the advent of social media marketing. I work as a marketing coordinator at and the biggest challenge that I have is trying to get the word out about a small business that has a really good mission statement about getting kids in shape and ending childhood obesity. I wish I could get my message out to the right people, but I feel like I’am just going to get swept up with the rest of the large-scale corporate spam.

    • I don’t know…seems to me any time products and services come to me without being asked that it’s spam.

      If I ask a friend about childhood fitness, I would like a recommendation. But if it’s placed into a conversation, say, disguised as a comment, I think it is spam.

  29. Wish I could triple like this blog posting! Awesome! I wrote a blog the other day and my first words were “I’m not getting paid…” I didn’t think much of it at the time, but I must have subconsciously…

  30. Wow, this was a really great post. Got me thinking in a very different perspective. I think most of us are way too under-critical about these marketing schemes. Perhaps most find it harmless, but as it has become so pervasive in our every day, I’m sure it is really influencing the way we think and see the world.

    • It would be harmless, I suppose, if we all took several classes in critical thinking then saw the sausage-making of advertising writing.

      Hope it changes the way you see marketing…and maybe tell other people, too.


  31. “But I think it’s really because writers are, at heart, applause whores. We’ll sell our soul to be told we’re good. That’s why we sell ourselves short by selling products, ideas, and companies for far too little.”
    That is a lot to say and I think it is not based on the fact that some of us have to make a living. I love to share stories of my life. I love to write and I like the attention. Mostly because it is fun. I do not agree with your comment that “writers are, at heart, applause whores.” My heart is beautiful, rich and a mystery. As an older woman it is natural, as I mature as a crone, to tell stories. I love to write and express myself…. and in this way ..I like to be heard… cause I have done too much listening…..I don’t ride the same writing wave as you are riding…. social media is great… it is what it is… and everyone gets what they need out of it. I fucking don’t think about the corporate media world… what a waste of time….

    • Thank you for your perspective. Liking to be heard because you’ve done too much listening is a gorgeous way to talk about your storytelling.

      I didn’t mean that all writers sell their words for too little. I meant that we want to be heard, and that the more applause we hear, the giddier we get.

      I don’t think that those of us who write professionally do it to get accolades. I think those of us who write to free the voices in our heads do secretly want to hear those words applauded.

      I disagree that everyone gets what they need from social media. That’s why I wrote the piece. I think that if everyone thought more about the who and why behind the money driving social media, they might do a better job of getting what they need, though.

      Thanks for reminding me that there are hundreds of different types of writers.

  32. I agree completely. Completely. For the most part, relative to advertisers, I just want to be left alone. I think I’m an adult and I can make my own decisions about products. Great post . I will be a frequent visitor to your site.

  33. I advertised like that for one of my favorite bands during the summer…but it really didn’t hit me until a day or so later. Like you, I said to myself….these guys are millionaires. They want me to spread the word that they have a new cd out and if I spread the word more than anyone else, I get a follow and a mention on Twitter. I just had to laugh at myself for being so naive. But needless to say, I did no more advertising for them. Buying their cd’s for $15.99 was plenty enough of a favor.

    • It’s hard not to want to help an artist you like. And to a lot of people, an announcement from a friend that a new album is scheduled to stop is not advertising.

      It’s not like you pimped soybeans from Monsanto, you know?

      • Haha…pimping soybeans from Monsanto..I’ll have to remember that one.

        The band I was referring to…they’re multi millionaires. Very successful and popular. They need no help from me in their cheap advertising ploys. I DO however like to mention Joe Satriani. That guy advertises minimally. And in my neck of the woods he is almost completely unheard of.

  34. I did one blog a long time ago…well a few months ago, and I’m taking a 2 week break before I start my new job…so I logged onto my WordPress to read a blog…

    This has inspired me to start writing blogs again! I genuinly enjoyed reading this and your brought up a lot of things that I didn’t think about in much detail before….

    But good shout! Ever since reading this I do feel like I’m being, almost suffocated by these adverts! It’s rather annoying! Even on this app…advert advert advert! People “hash tagging” on their blogs! STOP ADVERTISING FOR THESE MONEY HUNGRY COMPANIES FOR FREE! Hahahah

    Anyway, thanks for the read!! AWSOME blog!

  35. Great post, I completely agree with you. One blogger and aspiring novelist once told me that ‘if you want to get published, you have to lose all pride’ – on her blog, she regularly has reviews of products – usually for food and drink – despite running a writing blog. It always frustrates and bores me to see these posts, and I want to say to her “If you want to write reviews, start a food blog, but don’t just throw in a post about a new non-alcoholic cocktail amongst stories about your new novel!”

    • Agreed! You can always have two or three blogs.

      You can lose all pride about your writing when it comes to heeding criticism from readers and editors, but selling out is a different issue to me.

  36. I joined FB simply because my publisher said it helps sell books. But all it’s helped me do is fill tables for a charity event. I guess I just can’t spam my friends. I’d be interested to know why you left FB. Thanks for an interesting post.

    • Leaving facebook was one part refusing to waste time, one part not believing the shiny, happy, annoyingly Stepford faces people put on for their so-called friends, one part irritation at advertising, and one part needing to manage my personal brand by putting parenting writing one place, professional writing another place, and personal communication one-on-one.

      Thanks for stopping by and good luck with your book!

  37. It is impossible to escape it. The rise in YouTube advertisements first was what bothered me, especially preceding home videos. The one that is bothering me mostly now is InstaGram as it doesn’t make much sense to me to have all kinds of spam messages and accounts on a site that only has one role; to share photos. Advertisers have taken major advantage, and as a result I believe advertising is becoming less affective. Well worded post about it!

    • Oh my goodness, I completely forgot about the YouTube ads. Infuriating! When I’m showing one of my kids videos about how garbage trucks work, or how astronauts use a space toilet, the last thing we all need is an ad for a blockbuster film.

      I wish it were less effective, but I think advertisers have figured out that 100% saturation is the key to their success. :(

  38. I agree – I am tired of FaceBook being cluttered with a zillion ads. I started using FB to keep up with friends and family, share photos….you know the drill. Then, last year, I started blogging, so I started adding links to my blog (I am totally addicted to travel and share my stories and experiences there!). I guess I am advertising at my cost for the companies as I pay for the trips and write about them! I approached a couple companies to see if we could collaborate – sadly, my numbers are too small….not enough readership they said! Sad thing is – my lovely little travel blog, where I share my stories and photos, has an organic readership. I don’t pay anyone to read it, or buy readers through FB and twitter….so in the end, I guess I am paying them for me to advertise their products….but what can I say – travel is a passion and an addiction. I will keep reading the other blogs out there – as long as their words are sincere…I will let them continue to inspire me to try new places and experience new cultures…..but I really don’t want the hard core advertising to continue to clutter my FB – just because my friend likes a page doesn’t mean I have any interest in it!

  39. I write because I love the feeling of accomplishment that comes with seeing my hard work on my blog. If what I write help some one, then my feeling of accomplishment is even greater. I think most blogger write because of their love for the written words, but in America and the rest of the world, money trumps everything including our desire to remain original and write just because we love writing and to entertain our readers. It seem like in the end we all sells out to the powerful advertising companies. It’s sad, but a reality of our times,

  40. You can’t complain about companys using information that you willingly gave away to a free webservice. These social media sites are not just something that floats around, but are physical. Services like Facebook and Twitter have huge server farms with miles of silicon to provide you their service, and free of charge! So if a few advertisements to pay the bills and generate profit bother you that much I’m sorry. Maybe just keep to letters and landlines.

    • Well, I’m not complaining about Facebook ads, because I don’t use Facebook any more. I did accept the ads as a cost of doing business therein, as I do about sidebar ads and promoted Tweets in Twitter. This post is about personal accounts and blogs selling something in which they have no financial interest. Completely different issue.

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