Is Microsoft Still Paying People To Say Good Things?
By on December 20th, 2009

With the advent of social media and internet in general, one would expect large organizations like Microsoft to be fully transparent and not engage in I-will-pay-you-if-you-say-good-things-about-me kind of marketing! But does it actually happen?

The reason this question popped up was this job listing for an Associate position. The job is posted by a marketing/branding firm Mr. Youth on behalf of Microsoft. Basically, Microsoft is looking for a student who can blog about Microsoft’s new software. The associate would need to write about at least 15 topics per year and the topics would be selected by Microsoft. Here are some other things that don’t smell too fair:

You will use your existing blog to discuss various tips, tricks and advantages with Microsoft.

Acting as a peer influencer to introduce people to the benefits of Microsoft’s products.

Even if they hadn’t explicitly mentioned that you would need to influence people positively, one would expect the associate to do so after getting all those fully paid trips to tech conferences and additional incentives.

I have two simple questions:

1. Should Microsoft do this? It would be another thing if the requirement was to simply write about the software but it is a completely different thing to require associates to positively influence people.

2. Does Microsoft really need to do this? As soon as a new Microsoft software comes out, thousands of bloggers write about it anyway. Then why pay somebody to say good things about it?

It all becomes even more interesting in the light of a recent incident when Steve Ballmer reportedly fired an employee who did not show enough enthusiasm for Bing.

Do you think Microsoft should do this? Do other companies like Google and Yahoo! also employ such tactics?

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Author: Tehseen Baweja
Tehseen likes to write about Internet tools that make life easier. Check out his blog at Ijaar.com for more good stuff or follow him on Twitter @tehseenbaweja

Tehseen Baweja has written and can be contacted at tehseen@techie-buzz.com.
  • http://www.mryouth.com Matt Britton

    As the CEO of Mr. Youth the company executing this campaign I'd like to respond to this blog posting. Your article fails to metnion the critical point that all participants are required to fully disclose their affiliation with any brand they are compensated to review in full compliance with the Word Of Mouth Marketing Association code of ethics and all FTC guidelines. We have been employing these policies for years.

    This tactic is no different from rampant product placement in movies and TV shows; with the exception of the overt disclosure that our communications have. We are simply leveraging content creators to market to their audience on behalf of a brand.

    To answer your question, nearly every major technology company currently deploys similar tactics of creating on-campus ambassadors (including Apple and Google) whom use their social networking reach both offline and on-line to drive home positive product messaging in exchange for product or cash compensation.

    The lines of content and advertising continue to blur. Brands will continue to look to integrate their products and services within content as opposed to traditional and often interruptive advertising tactics. However, as long as full disclosure is a big part of an execution strategy it will ultimately be up to the consumer to sort out what truly influences them.

    - Matt Britton

    Found & CEO Mr Youth

  • Tehseen Baweja

    Matt,

    I understand your position that this is no different than other modes of marketing, but does that justify this method of publicity?

    Shouldn't large organizations like Microsoft move towards a more transparent coverage and let people decide if a software is good or not?

  • http://www.mryouth.com Matt Britton

    It is the end consmer in all instances that ultimately needs to decide if a product is “good or not”, which they will always have the ability to do as long as the outreach methods are ethical and not deceiptful to the consumer; cetainly the case here.

    This media tactic is going to be as transparent as it gets. It is hard for you to judge a strategy when you haven’t even seen it unfold yet in the marketplace as planned. I urge you to reserve judgement until that has occurred.

    Happy Holidays.

    - Matt

  • Simon

    Hard to find a good influencer nowadays; Apple has cornered the market and they're thin on the ground. There may be one or two working at Google?

    Maybe Microsoft should poach from Apple's "marketing" dept? Least they'd know they were getting "successful" candidates.

 
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