I Just Spammed You (or, Why Media Transparency is a Bogus Marketing Strategy)

The First Rule of Marketing

Some people hype transparency as the only effective solution for long-term sustainable marketing success. After they are already successful they can hype such false ideals and get praised for them, which only adds to their misguided notion of marketing. The truth is everyone wants to be influenced, but nobody wants to feel like they were influenced.

A Marketing Experiment

A few weeks back a friend of mine ran a linkbait announcing the best photography blogs on the web. And then he announced on his other blog that he was trying an experiment in using flattery to build links. I commented on that post

The first rule of linkbait is… ;)

Generally people do not like feeling like they are being examined or influenced by marketing. For that reason I tend not to talk about “lets see how it goes” until after the fact, and rarely then too.

What was the outcome of his linkbait? It was successful, at least for a bit.

But then award winners found out about that other post. In short order Dave was getting comments like

I just think you are completely underestimating how many difficult situations we are put in as high visibility professional photographers, particularly when it comes to internet ethics. Between finding our images on other photographers’ sites, finding our names in other website’s metatags without authorization, getting anonymous comments we have to moderate from envious competitors, and then being part of an SEO experiment … the amount of time I spend on unethical internet situations is discouraging to me.

and all the award winners were emailing back and forth about how the award was fake. So he alienated his target audience and someone even hacked his blog!

When to Mention Your Sites

If you ever wonder why I sometimes talk about marketing from a broad perspective without pointing out my sites and specific marketing strategies employed, this is yet another example why. The only reasons to mention your sites, stats, and marketing techniques are:

  1. to drive traffic and help spread viral ideas quickly (it helps if you own a top blogger in your industry)
  2. to linkdrop (a href is your friend)
  3. to improve your own image (especially good when joining trade organizations or donating to worthy causes)
  4. using the media exposure to help build your site's brand and credibility (as seen in goes a long way for building trust and making it easier to get cited again)

Everything is Gamed

Behind the scenes media gaming goes on everywhere everyday. But it is rarely talked about publicly because it benefits nobody for their customers to feel like they were duped, influenced, and/or manipulated. We would all like to believe we are smarter than that...but we are not. If we were, I doubt we would have hunted down and executed a man our country put in power, and maybe we wouldn't be angry at this joke. But sometimes the truth hurts. And sometimes lies kill.

Published: March 21, 2008 by Aaron Wall in marketing


Megan Carruth
March 21, 2008 - 6:16pm

Using flattery to build links. Viral marketing experiment. 49 comments, "my first choice is you," etc. Oooh you've got me thinking.

March 21, 2008 - 9:30pm

The first rule of marketing is you don't talk about marketing!
The second rule of marketing is you don't...

aah, you get the idea.


March 22, 2008 - 1:21am

Right on, Aaron. There are a lot of people out there touting transparency as the new end-all for marketing, but I don't think any of the successful players who put up this front are being transparent themselves in the absolute sense. The idea, as I see it, is to put up the image of transparency by being selectively transparent. Revealing details that, at first glance, make your users/readers go "wow, they're really letting us 'behind the veil' here" but in actuality don't show much of your pocket hand seems to work well.

March 24, 2008 - 4:50am

The main stream media never misses an opportunity to sell anything.

Megan Carruth
March 25, 2008 - 12:26pm

Bulboy we better let all marketing-blog publishers know about this rule! ;)

April 2, 2008 - 10:57pm

Personally Aaron, I find using genuine praise and developing meaningful relationships a far more effective link building method. People can often see straight through "shallow flattery" and agree, don't like to be blatantly manipulated.

Have you ever read the book "Influencer: The Power to Change Anything"?

April 3, 2008 - 2:20am

A friend just sent me that book. :)

But I also know friends who are millionaires based entirely on fake shallow flattery...both routes can work well.

April 7, 2008 - 3:15am

Well I highly recommend it and only a 1/3 of the way through. (not that I'm anybody, just really love to read :)

Well yeah when I think about your dead right - a car salesman I was speaking to on the weekend was absolute pro at it!

So you been making time to out of the office and exercising more Aaron? Honestly since I started I can't rave about it enough!

April 7, 2008 - 1:33am

Not enough yet, unfortunately.

April 7, 2008 - 3:15am

Just do it bro.

Get your wife to join you and have fun. Make it a priority.

You won't regret it :)

Add new comment

(If you're a human, don't change the following field)
Your first name.
(If you're a human, don't change the following field)
Your first name.
(If you're a human, don't change the following field)
Your first name.