First time poster? Makes me wonder. From SV Third Day-
Back on September 30, 2007 I made my first Bog post entitled "All Cleaned up...and Ready to go in 31 Days!" as we were getting ready to make our first trip to Mexico
with the 2007 Baja
Ha-ha rally. Since then I've posted a mind numbing 1081 Blog posts and you can view the complete
list of Blog Posts here if you have the stomach for it. As a kid that absolutely hated reading and writing, my Jr. High teachers would have never guessed that I could even read a 1000 page book, so the thought that I could have formed enough coherent sentences to fill a 1000 page book while living on a boat in Mexico
would have brought them (and maybe even my parents) to laughter. Well, I'll admit maybe some of my sentences are only boarder-line coherent at best and my spelling, sentence structure, and use of punctuation may give the impression that I never did successfully graduate from Jr. High, but there has never been any doubt that what I write about is real. Real in a sense that I write about what I'm thinking and feeling regarding this Cruising Lifestyle, which might explain why food
plays such a prominent role in my posts, after all, I'm ½ Italian and food
is after all life! Is everything you read out there on cruising blogs real?
I have no doubt that the vast majority of cruising blogs out there are indeed real and I've meet the crews in anchorages
and exchanged emails with them all the time; however, about two weeks ago, I was solicited by a web marketing
firm over the phone
and what they were trying to sell me surprised and shocked me. So much so, that it's taken me a few weeks to actually process it and decide how to talk about it on my blog, and even if I should talk about it, but here I go, you know my decision. I've told a few other cruisers about it and they also had the look of shock and disbelief on their face. To cut right to the chase and spit it out, there are cruising blogs out there that you could be reading and following that are fake, along with product reviews
on many of the sailing and cruising sites! There is no cruising family
or couple; there is no boat, no real crew, no real landfalls, no real experiences, and no real adventure. The only real thing about the blog is the products they talk about as must have cruising gear
and the links they provide to the company's products!
As a business owner, with my cell phone
listed on our Cruise
and Power website for sales and customer support, I get email and phone
solicitations galore, 7 days a week. They are easy to spot within the first 5 seconds of the call and I usually start talking Spanish to them and they disappear or hit the spam button if it's an email. But for some reason this lady sounded different, like she was a long lost
friend, so I kept listening as she described this "fabulous opportunity for me to increase sales". As she went on and on (phone salesmen know to not pause during their pitch
for you to interrupt and boot them off) about what her company did and why I should buy her services. I was at first confused, which grew into disbelief, and then to anger at the outright dishonesty and fraud of what I was being told was the latest and greatest web marketing
The basic advertising package would cost $1250 per month, which by the way is about the cost of a ½ page magazine ad in a popular cruising magazine, as a FYI. I would then write 3 blog post reviews
per month for the products I wanted to sell and then they would place the "gear reviews" on what she called their "network of promotional blogs". At this point, I was still a bit confused as to what exactly I was being sold and what a "promotional blog" was, so I asked how cruisers would let someone pose as them and post fake gear
reviews on their blogs. Then as she explained, the whole ugly details came to light, as she told me how their advertising system worked. The marketing company set-up and maintained a series of cruising blogs on what she called the major sites: sailblogs, yatchblogs, blogspot and a few more common sites where cruisers host their blogs. They don't just do this for cruising gear and blogs, but she rattled off an impressive list of other types of blogs that targeted products from home entertainment systems to camping gear that they do what she called "active user product placements".
But wait, there's MORE I was told, I should consider their "Gold Package" where their staff would not just help me write fake product reviews for posting
on the fake websites, but they would also provide me with a critical value added service
. There are dozens of various sailing, cruiser, and boating
related chat rooms on the internet
. If I subscribed to their "Gold Package" for an additional $250/mo, they would use their web searching software
to do a daily search of the top 30 cruising/sailing related chat rooms for the key words around our products and for any mention of our Company name. When found, they would then notify me via email with a link to the site and I could write a fake testimonial to send back to them for posting
under one of their anonymous site member
names that they maintain. These would cost me $25ea, but as she said, would results in lots of positive word of mouth feedback.
Are you getting pissed off yet? Well, I sure am, just rehashing the phone conversation.
As she sensed I wasn't ready to give a credit card to start the marketing campaign, I was told how this is standard operating practice on the internet
today and that I shouldn't feel bad about using the latest in marketing technology to sell my products. After all, she said, the goal of a marketing campaign is to sell product and their approach was a proven winner, why wouldn't I want to participate in what everyone else was doing? I told her that we had already maxed out our advertising budget
for the next few months and then she of course wanted to call me back in June to see if I wanted to start a campaign, she hung up and I sat there stunned.
It doesn't surprise me that there are people out there willing to do unethical things for money
, heck that has been around since man himself, but what got to me and I've been having a hard time accepting is just how easy it is to pull off lies and deceit with the anonymous powers of the internet. As more and more of us turn to the internet for information, do we know WHO is providing that information and presenting themselves as the unbiased authority on the subject? If I now have to research
the person making an "unbiased" product review on a blog to make sure it isn't a bogus company plant, how harder is it for me, and all of us, to get good information? When we looked up a word in the Webster's Dictionary you could be pretty darn confident that the meaning you found was true without spin or slant. But try looking up a word on the internet today that could have any type of controversy around it and you won't just find a definition, but multiple sites all giving their own spin on the word. I'm not quite sure what the take home message is behind the realization that anything you read online needs to be approached with skepticism, other than that obvious point!
We have several "real" cruisers out there with our water makers that have at one point or another posted about our product on their blogs and I'm happy to say all of them have been positive. But on the flip side, is it that much of a stretch to think that someone willing to post a fake review (or call it what it is-a LIE) about their own product wouldn't be willing to make a negative review (Lie) about a competitor to gain an advantage? Once you have accepted "the Lie" as just a marketing tool that "everyone else" is doing, what stops not just the positive Lies about you, but the more affective negative Lies about the competition? And since one negative product review is said to wash away 10 positive reviews, isn't it going to be more affective to Lie about the competition than to Lie about your own product? The reason political campaigns run negative ads is for the simple reason, that they work.
So in a world where Lies seem to rule
the day from Politics to Marketing, what is there to do? Well if I really had that answer maybe I'd be sitting on the Supreme Court today deciding if Obamacare is legal
or illegal, rather than floating on a boat rocking gently at anchor
in the Barra de Navidad lagoon
, getting ready to host a "blender party" tonight at 6PM aboard THIRD DAY. But on second thought, maybe I'm closer to the answer than I think; which is why I'm here and not there. Could that be? Na-forget I said that, remember, I'm just a Cruising Bozo not even smart enough to jump on the fake cruising blog band wagon, so what do I know.