I was talking to a friend who mentioned that a company is paying her a certain amount of money each month to say good things about that company. This friend uses some social software as a medium to say these good things. It wasn’t much money, and this friend isn’t being dishonest in what they say, but thinking about this arrangement brought up several issues in my mind.
Things get sticky when it comes to endorsing products. There is a fine line between me giving you my opinion of something, and me being paid to sell you something. You, the reader, should always know the difference. Let’s say I go to a restaurant and I write a review on my blog. That is me giving you an opinion; nothing wrong with that.
Now let’s say the restaurant pays me to place an advertisement on my site. Nothing wrong with that, either.
What is wrong is if the restaurant pays me to say nice things about their food, and I don’t disclose the fact that I’m being paid. Even if my review is honest, it is vital that I disclose that I’m being paid to review the restaurant. Why is this so important? Well, it comes down to trust.
If I don’t disclose that I’m being paid for a review, and you the reader finds out, then there is a loss of trust. This loss is a huge deal. Trust is something that you don’t gain back. If I didn’t disclose advertising dollars, then my readers would forever more wonder if what I was saying was really my opinion, or just something for which I was being paid. My opinions would be worthless, and I would likely lose many, many readers. Why read a site when you don’t know if you’re getting an honest review, or a paid-for pitch?
Even worse are the problems for the restaurant. Every time you hear a review of that restaurant, you will wonder if what is being said is true, or just another sneaky pitch. The restaurant would lose all credibility. There is nothing wrong with advertising, but you can’t do it behind people’s back. They will never forgive you.