Sunday, March 15, 2015

Twenty Random Thoughts #150315: About Gushcloud's Second Expose, and Influencer Marketing

Read Xiaxue's post at http://xiaxue.blogspot.sg/2015/03/the-big-gushcloud-expose-2_14.html


1. Just when I thought that the whole Gushcloud drama is finally over, in comes a second expose from Xiaxue, which in my opinion is a much more hard hitting post than her first expose.

2. While I don't agree with what she is doing, I don't really fault her as well, because her post does have some pretty incriminating evidences, like the phone recording, that horrible powerpoint presentation and the SingTel brief, which in my opinion is quite unethical as well. As much as I don't want Gushcloud to die for the sake of competition in the blogging scene, they are really making it very easy for Xiaxue to take them down. It's really like shooting themselves in the feet.

3. Still, a part of me feels sad knowing that this is probably one blow that Gushcloud can't survive, because I rooted for anyone who is against Xiaxue (I admit I want to see her lose for once), a part of me feels happy that if Gushcloud is indeed as evil as she claim they are, then it's best that their dealings be brought to light to encourage a more transparent and honest atmosphere in the social media scene.

4. However, despite how much she says that she is doing it for the sake of the industry, to make it cleaner, I cannot help but doubt her. Because the conflict of interest is just TOO HIGH. In her post she keeps using Nuffnang as the better example, and being a Nuffnang ambassador of sort,  bringing down a rival company could only mean more opportunity for the company you being to and indirectly to yourself.

5. Say for example you're a construction company vying for a super expensive project, and another company is fighting for the opportunity with you. If you call out the shady dealings of the rival company, and manage to bring them out of the picture, naturally the opportunity will come to you right, and thus profiting yourself? So therefore the conflict of interest will always be there.

6. However, if Xiaxue quits Nuffnang and becomes independent, and calls out Gushcloud for being dishonest, then I would trust her intention better. Because there's no conflict of interest. This is no different than the SingTel brief that she hated so much in her expose. By calling Gushcloud liars, she is, in my opinion, similar to the bloggers who were asked to degrade SingTel's competitors, merely because they were paid by SingTel (in a way), and she is to a large extent paid through and by Nuffnang, which happens to be Gushcloud's biggest competitor.

7. So no matter what she claims, the conflict of interest will always be there, and I know it will be my word against hers, and I don't know how you remove the conflict of interest part especially in the corporate world, like in the tendering process, but the doubt is just there.

8. Another point that I find issue with is how she keeps on insisting that bloggers should have a sense of ethics, that advertorial masking is inherently evil and how bloggers who engage in such methods deserve the harshest punishment of all.

9. To be honest, I find that trying to stick to this strict code of ethics, that everything should be your true opinion, is honestly a standard that is ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE to achieve when it comes to blogging and sponsorship.




10. Just imagine this scenario. You're a blogger who is starting out and trying to make it big in this industry. The industry is already saturated as it is, and it is terribly tough to find a sponsorship, yet alone a paid one. So what do you do when one find day, you're told that you are chosen for a advertorial or sponsorship of some sort?

11. Naturally, you will get very happy, perhaps even over-excited at receiving the prospect. And of course you would be inclined to write good things about whatever that you are asked to review, because you're afraid of upsetting the client or your influencer company if you write bad things about them, and that you would not receive future opportunities if you write bad things about them.

12. Of course it is easy to be Xiaxue and say you would not accept the payment if it asks you to lie, but lets be honest, how many of us would actually do that? If someone comes to you and asks you to say that a product is good for let say 300 dollars, would you do it? How about 3000 dollars? Or 30000 dollars? Would you dare critic someone who has just paid you that lump sum of money? Most likely not, right?

13. Besides, coming from a company's viewpoint, when you are paying people to write things for your company, naturally you would want them to write good stuff about you, right? Why would you want to pay people to critic your product, which in the end may end up in a drop of sales? Why spend money to push sales down? That is illogical and not what marketing is about. Correct me if I am wrong, but isn't marketing about generating positive image for your company?

14. And coming from a company's perspective, when you have two bloggers in front of you, lets say A and B, and B says that he's willing to do it but A says he won't, which blogger would you choose? Of course B, right?

15. What about celebrities who are paid to endorse products then? Is what they are doing wrong then? Sure, you may argue that they might be different, but if they are paid to endorse a product and if a blogger is paid to endorse a product, isn't what they doing essentially the same?

16. Then again, I kinda understand what Xiaxue is championing for. She has this idea that when you receive money for a product to be written, you must clearly state it as being advertorial or sponsored. And by imposing such a harsh punishment on those who flout against this norm, essentially the ideal situation is to make people think twice before engaging in such a "deceit" when writing. And perhaps to push for a higher standard in blogging. Like making every blogger say, "Hey, I need to write this as advertorial or I won't do it at all."

17. But what I am trying to say is that it is awfully difficult, for two reasons. One, most companies would prefer never to have their sponsored post to be listed as advertorial or as sponsored, which may negate the effect the post has. Sure, it would be good if every single blogger demands for that, but in that case wouldn't it negate the impact that the post might have too, and essentially negating the power of the field? And possibly drive companies away from using social media marketing?

18. And secondly, there will always be those who will take the easier way out. Because when you don't command a high enough power of influence, naturally you will be willing to do a little more, like not adding the advertorial tag, so that the opportunities you would be given would increase. After all, you don't have clients lining up for you, and you must take whatever you can get.

19. This is a super long post, but essentially I am not buying what Xiaxue is saying, and even if I do, it is a very hard mindset to change in this industry, when it comes to honesty and the whole clarification thingy. Where do you draw the line, exactly? 

20. One thing is certain though, from this entire saga. When you piss off the Queen of Blogging, you will never ever get off easy. One way or another, you're bound to get it. In a really bad way too. And unfortunately, this will remain true until a next Queen or King steps up. SMRT Ltd (Feedback) gave us this hope, but they too were brought down swiftly, and sadly, ended up being a generic toothless fan page after that. As for Gushcloud, after this hard hitting blow, I doubt they will be able to stand up firmly any longer. Guess it's GGWP for them


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