Don’t Tread on Me

by Stevi on February 11, 2009

in Marketing

I love comments. Leaving a comment on my blog is one of the best compliments you can pay me. It means you took the time to read what I wrote and formulate a response. When I get a notification that there’s a new comment on my blog, it makes me happy.

Granted, not all comments fall into this category. I use tools like Akismet to shield me from the vast majority of spam. I do scan through comments captured by this automated software to check to make sure there are no false-positives, because annoying as it is to do, I would hate to miss a real comment.

Still, there are spam comments that make it through the filters that I must manually screen. This used to be a fairly minor task, not taking much of my time. That was until a new “marketing strategy” hit my blog, along with many others.

I’ve seen it off an on for a while. Comments that are almost, but not quite, on topic. I see them as the reverse spambot. Instead of writing a program to mindless try to post junk linking to male enhancement sites, actual people are somehow convinced to scan actual content and leave comments that promote a specific product, using phrases that make it sound legitimate.

Then, in the past few weeks, it has gone from mildly annoying to downright infuriating. It all traces back to one company and one product.

Apparently, somebody at an agency you shouldn’t choose for your product heard about this “viral marketing” thing and had an idea. I have this product I don’t understand, Le Tourment Verte absinthe. What if I hire an intern or two, and have them scout the web for cocktail blogs. And when they find those blogs, they’ll leave comments about what a great product LTV is. They’ll say their bartender made them this fantastic drink and now it’s their favorite. Then they’ll leave a second comment about how that drink sounds great, where can they get this fabulous new product, LTV? And then a third, and a fourth, and more, so all of the sudden, on all the blogs, everybody’s talking about this great new product! Viral!

Guess what, agency for products that think bad PR is better than no PR, I actually know how to spot these fake comments.  You have not piqued my interest. Rather, you have made me have an immediate negative reaction to the product you are trying to shill. Why? Because in my experience, any new product that is worth drinking is made by people who have enough sense to realize that this strategy is a bad idea.

PR companies occasionally do annoying things. They send me press releases and ask me to post them as my content. They send me recipes that clearly no one has ever bothered to try or they wouldn’t be sending them out as a way to promote a product. That’s generally mildly irritating, and the result of ending up on some of the same mailing lists that also get me requests from great PR people who understand their product and understand how blogs like mine can help them promote it. It’s easy enough to ignore that coming into my email inbox.

But do not try to hijack my blog. This is my personal work, my opportunity to talk about what products and trends are exciting and interesting to me. If you think I can help you with your product, great! My email is on my about page. Contact me directly, offer me a sample, and if I like it, I’ll write up a review, and probably even invent a drink that showcases your product.

This article clearly isn’t focused as a dialog with most of you, my gentle readers. If I use a particular spirit, and you have a preference for another in that context, please do leave me a comment about that. How else will I learn about everything that’s out there? That’s the sort of true, honest discussion I hope to engender. I am smart enough to pick out the fake PR content from real comments. I am just particularly annoyed because the recent deluge of fake crap from PR firms that aren’t worth anybody’s money has managed to turn that joy of receiving notification of a new comment into a cringe.

Don’t tread on me!

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