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Blog Hype and Ethics

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When launching a new product, hype can account for a major percentage of your sales. Before the product is even in the hands of your readers, you want people to be buzzing about it as much as possible. Every time someone tweets or blogs about your upcoming launch, they are reaching readers who will potentially be putting dollars in your pocket.

And driving sales is a good thing – a very good thing…if you can create the hype ethically.

I’m part of a video game blog, and right now, one of the biggest shows in this black slim Xbox 360 industry is happening in L.A. – E3. It’s a press-only event with press conference from the three major players in the gaming industry, Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo. I just got done watching the Microsoft press conference, and it’s interesting how Twitter and other social networks are buzzing about the event.

Microsoft might not be a blog, but they are launching a product, too – a new Xbox 360, their flagship video game console. The new 360 is pretty cool, and they’re shipping it today…plus they gave one away to all the journalists who attended their event live.

The question many people are asking is this: Are these member of the press being bought with a free product? The console costs $299 in stores and isn’t even available until later this week, so it is a pretty major gift they’re giving away, conveniently to the people who will be writing their opinions about Microsoft over the next few days.

It’s a bit of a gray area, but I think as bloggers, there’s a lesson to be had here: If you do anything even a little unethical, people are going to call you on it, and the potential for that negativity to have a snowball effect is on your launch is very real.

This idea of being ethical can expand to blogging in general, not just product launches. Your readers can and will sniff out anything slimy that you’re doing. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t make money from your blog. Blogging is a business, and you should absolutely use sales techniques to earn a living. Just be careful about how you’re doing it.

Some ethical hype tips:

  • Ask people for testimonials, not opinions. By providing a testimonial, they’re agreeing to recommend your product. Taking one positive remark from an email that was mostly constructive criticism and using it as a testimonial isn’t ethical. Everything has to be in context.
  • Deliver what you’re promising. If you’re selling a 100-page ebook and someone buys it only to discover that the book is in 48-pt font and every other page is just a giant stock photograph, that’s not going to sit well. Hype your product, but don’t stretch the truth to make it seem better than it is.
  • Stay true to your word about price increases. Is your product available to a certain group of people (like subscribers) for a lower price, or is it available at a lower price for a limited time? Make sure to increase the price how you promise. Otherwise, people who were convinced to purchase it because of the perceived discount will feel scammed.
  • Make great free samples, but an even better product. It’s a really good thing to give away valuable “samples” of your work through shorter ebooks, free videos, blog content, etc. However, people make a purchase of your product because they think they’re getting even more information. If everything in the product is available for free somewhere on your blog, they’ll wonder why they purchased it in the first place.
  • Never offer free products in exchange for a positive review. It’s just slimy. You can offer a free product in exchange for a review, but by it’s very nature, a review should be truthful. Be prepared for some people to not like the product you gave them.

In short…be honest and create products that deliver. This really isn’t rocket science, people. Which is a shame, because “rocket scientist” would look great on my resume.

To circle back to my original inspiration for this blog post – Microsoft giving away a ton of free Xbox 360s to game journalists. I do think that it created a lot of extra hype. People all over the world are tweeting and blogging about the giveaway, and that’s creating tons of buzz for the new product.

But do I think it is unethical? Not really. I don’t think they expect people to be more positive toward their press conference just because they got a big gift. People are still going to be opinionated, and there’s a lot of negative things to say about Microsoft. The giveaway was a publicity stunt, not a bribe, in my opinion, and that’s the kind of hype you want around your blog too.

Allison Boyer is a writer for BlogWorld Expo’s blog and the owner/manager of After Graduation. She thinks “blogger” looks awesome on her resume, too, so she’s not too sad about the rocket scientist thing.

Image Credit: Microsoft

Allison Boyer freelance writer and content marketing consultant. She also runs the food blog The PinterTest Kitchen with her mom and sister. You can follow her shenanigans on Twitter (@allison_boyer) or contact her at allisonmboyer@gmail.com.


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