Back in November, there was a much-discussed cover story in Forbes by Daniel Lyons titled "Attack of the Blogs." The article was mostly about how blogs have given a lot of power to "the mob" — meaning us — which can have an adverse effect on business. Since the explosion of blogging, some disgruntled consumer can start a rumor that can quickly spread around the blogosphere, costing a business millions of dollars.
"Bloggers are more of a threat than people realize, and they are only going to get more toxic. This is the new reality," says Peter Blackshaw, chief marketing officer at Intelliseek, a Cincinnati firm that sifts through millions of blogs to provide watch-your-back service to 75 clients, including Procter & Gamble and Ford. "The potential for brand damage is really high,"says Frank Shaw, executive vice president at Microsoft’s main public relations firm, Waggener Edstrom. "There is bad information out there in the blog space, and you have only hours to get ahead of it and cut it off, especially if it’s juicy."
I was actually sympathizing with these companies, until I read one of the suggestions for businesses to "fight back" against bloggers:
Build a Blog Swarm: Reach out to key bloggers and get them on your side. Lavish them with attention. Or cash. Earlier this year, Marqui, a tiny Portland, Ore. software shop, began paying 21 bloggers $800 per month to post items about Marqui.
Isn’t that a bit like what Jack Abramoff was doing in Washington?
Why is this OK?
I actually know someone whose job is to go to online forums and talk excitedly about movies and products to produce "a buzz" — but acting as if she were a regular person just chatting online.
I also remember going to a hotel in San Francisco because of a great "review" in TripAdvisor, only to find out that it was written by the manager himself.
So, the internet can be used for good and evil, on both sides. Despite the potential for abuse, I like the fact that the internet gives Regular Joes and Janes the power to be heard and to speak up against the powers-that-be. The internet will be a sad place when it is just another outlet for constant advertising and self-promotion.
Oh right, it’s like that already.
Recently, I thought about blogging about a not-very-nice Los Angeles mattress store, just to embarrass it by publishing its name. Normally, I would just suck it in. But having a blog is empowering, it’s like I have my own New York Times.
Here’s the story:
Sophia’s mother and step-father are an older couple who only speak Russian. For several weekends they asked Sophia and me to help them buy a new mattress for their bedroom, but like most selfish children, we were always too busy (going to movies, playing Texas Hold’em poker, etc.) to help.
"Next week… next week," we said.
Finally, they gave up on us and decided to buy the mattress themselves — at a store on Wilshire near Fairfax in Los Angeles. When Sophia called them later, she became very upset when she heard that they paid a small fortune for the mattress + 80 bucks for delivery.
Were they ripped off?
There was certainly one way to find out. I went to the store the next day and asked to buy the same mattress.
Can you believe that the salesman offered to sell it to me for a couple of hundred dollars less, with free delivery — without any bargaining at all?
This was one day later. There was no sale the day before.
Is this just business as usual — different prices for different people?
Did he maybe recognize me from my blog and wanted to give me a special "blog deal?"
Or did he just rip off Sophia’s parents, seeing they were an older couple who didn’t speak English?
Of course, I have no proof of this.
But would it really be so wrong for me to publish the name of this mattress store? You know, the one on Wilshire near Fairfax in Los Angeles.