It drives me nuts when traditional media writes slanted negative garbage, especially because they claim to be unbiased. Traditional media is not unbiased. Bloggers are not unbiased but they don't claim to be, the whole point of being a blogger is being able to share your opinion (your bias) with people who are interested in reading it.
I usually try to stay out of the blogger/brand drama but this (click HERE, dear husband of mine) article written by Michael S. Rosenwald in The Washington Post this morning was so negative and one sided that I just couldn't stop my little fingers from tapping away. The article explains how companies use social media to alter "word of mouth". My work as a social media consultant allows me to bridge both the blogger and the PR/agency/brand world. I can assure you that the majority on the PR side are working hard to coordinate a true and honest experience with bloggers. Likewise, the majority of bloggers bend over backwards to disclose relationships with brands and most of them have been doing it since way before the government stepped in.
The best online reviewers will tell you the good AND the bad. The best bloggers will provide a recommendation for improvement or a feature they wish the manufacturer would include. This is helpful in providing feedback to the brand but it also allows the reader another dimension of information about a product. An ad placed by the brand alone is one sided and sensational, as my kids learned from Floam.
I am an optimist and I like to think that most businesses are trying to deliver the best. I was brought up to do my best and to always seek better. Social media provides an enormous opportunity for companies to deliver their best and to strive for continuous improvement. There will be those who do not use it appropriately but to overlook the positive is just plain stupid.
I was particularly interested in this portion of the article...
PR companies track people who post negative comments about everything from pizza to gadgets and then offer those naysayers free products or technical support, hoping to reverse the flow of opinion about their clients' goods. Many start-ups sell online tools that scrutinize Twitter and Facebook to rank users' online influence, helping manufacturers, hoteliers, restaurateurs and PR firms figure out who can best spread messages quickly.
Why is this bad? If a company can reach out to people who have had a bad experience with a product or service and help them with the experience, isn't that just good customer service? Restaurants often comp a meal when the diner's experience has been poor.... how is that different? I was once given a free sandwich coupon at Einstein Bagel because they screwed up my order twice.... I was happy and I remember the gesture years later. Reaching out to the most influential bloggers is no different than choosing to advertise in The Washington post vs. Ye Small Towne Gazzette.
What happened to presenting a balanced story? What pisses me off most is that many of us are out here working hard to "Blog with Integrity" and articles like this and the one in the New York Times a few weeks (Honey don't bother Mommy...) ago spew the negatives and portray bloggers and those of us involved with social media as sleazy and dishonest. Our efforts to evangelize and explain the power and the good of social media, are taken a step back each time traditional media takes a slanted dig at our industry. But...
Traditional media is drowning and articles that don't show a balanced view of social media, well.... it is a little like re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.