Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Bad Marketing in Comments

To follow up on Elise's request for stories about good and bad marketing, I wanted to share this experience with my fellow bloggers. (Partly to vent and partly to be a cautionary tale and partly to get opinions on how to handle this in the future.)

I've removed personal and identifying info.

In August I got an email from a new candy store owner asking to be added to my list of links. I didn't answer the email but I did bookmark the site. I checked back on it at least twice. At first it was just a promo site for a little candy shop, but eventually they added a webstore and I was thinking about visiting them when I was in the area (they're not near me but somewhere I visit often).

In December the person started posting comments to my blog, she always used her full name but never identified her affiliation to the store (at first I didn't put it together but when back and found the email from a different address but with the same name):

12/6 (Candy Cane Review): A great location for all types candy is [website] - Yummy !!
12/19 (Barley Sugar Toys Review): The pops and free standing candies can also be found at [website] in [city] - YUMMY! And unlike Regennas, you can still order these.
12/20 (Zotz Review): Zotz and all kinds of retro candy can be found at [website] - Yummy!
1/10 (Joseph Schmidt): [website] - Atomic Fire Balls to Zots - nothing pretentious, great variety

After this morning's comment I decided I'd had enough of her self-promotion. The previous comments were vaguely on topic and for the 12/19 & 12/20 it might even be a service to readers to help them find some of the less common candies.

So I wrote her a note:
I considered adding your site to my list of links but was waiting (a site needs to be active for at least three months) but your more recent abuse of my commenting system to promote yourself is distasteful.

I don't know if you're doing this on other sites, but leaving promotional comments off-topic does not make your site or your store appealing to web-savvy readers, especially when you don't reveal your affiliation.

I think you should develop a new strategy to get the word out about your company.

Sweetly,
Cybele

She replied within 30 minutes:
I'll be sure not to visit again. After such a mean email, I don't think you should sign it "Sweetly"
Okay, maybe I wasn't sweet, but I certainly wasn't mean. I was professional, which is not what she was.

At that point I'd only removed the most recent comment. I've now deleted all of them from the site and "banned" her email address from posting any longer (just in case she decides she'd like to share more advice with my readers).

Now, as a rule I don't mind when stores chime in that they carry a particular item that may be hard to find, as long as it's something that someone has requested already in the comments or I mentioned in the post itself. I also prefer that they divulge their affiliation with the store in question and I haven't had much of an issue before.

Could my email have been nicer? Certainly.

Was her reply professional? Certaily not.

I have a "comment policy" buried in my About page but now I'm thinking that I need to make it clearer.

So, please advise. Do I need to be nicer? Do they need to be more savvy? Should I have just "called her out" within the comments section like some people do? I'm sure I'm not the only one who's experience this ... give me the dish on yours.

This Post was written by Cybele from Candy Blog

12 comments:

Liz said...

I think you handled it well- she was using your site to self-promote and calling her out in the comment section would likely have been seen petty and disruptive.

That said, and I hope you won't take offense, signing your message "sweetly" was a lil' mean. You weren't being sweet- and you didn't have to be!- you were being professional and honest and you had no reason to apologize.

I'm not sure how to fix this problem, but you handled it fine. It's always hard to do things like that because one can never really express oneself properly and to one's own satisfaction over the 'net as in person.

Anonymous said...

i just read it that considering her site subject, cybele would sign herself sweetly all the time.

I would guess she either is totally naive to the workings of the net, or the opposite.

this has just given me an idea for a new section i need to add to my new 'about' page: commenting etiquettte! You could explain a plicy on these kinds of comments something like "anyone who in my opinion is found to be using the comments on my blog for self promotion purposes will be deleted without warning"

there - you never need to email one of those people again.

thanks for the inspiration; Need to update my about...

Anonymous said...

I am very new to blogging but not so much to marketing and I think that you handled the situation perfectly. Her efforts were likely being wasted anyway with such transparent, self promotion. It sounds like you were more than polite and tactful in doing this all off of the public comments section. Her response was rather unprofessional, as were the comments. Just my opinion.

Raspberry Sour said...

Not only was her response unprofessional, but it was foolish as well, since it cuts off any possibility that you'll ever promote her or give her any business.

If she wants to continue marketing her site, she'll need to grow a thicker skin and realize that marketing efforts are always welcome, no matter how innocent she may think they are. She's always welcome to spend money on advertising, instead of getting huffy about cheap, see-through attempts at self-promo.

I think you handled it very professionally, and were more than courteous in letting her know she'd been removed and why- many people would simply remove such comments, ban the IP, and leave it at that. At the end of the day, it's your site, for you to do with as you see fit.

Raspberry Sour said...

Not only was her response unprofessional, but it was foolish as well, since it cuts off any possibility that you'll ever promote her or give her any business.

If she wants to continue marketing her site, she'll need to grow a thicker skin and realize that marketing efforts are always welcome, no matter how innocent she may think they are. She's always welcome to spend money on advertising, instead of getting huffy about cheap, see-through attempts at self-promo.

I think you handled it very professionally, and were more than courteous in letting her know she'd been removed and why- many people would simply remove such comments, ban the IP, and leave it at that. At the end of the day, it's your site, for you to do with as you see fit.

Cybele said...

Thanks for the advice and support.

The sign off of "sweetly" is just my footer I've been using on all my emails since I launched the blog. I should pay more attention to whether or not it fits the tone of the note or not in the future.

Elise said...

I find the only approach that works is to be extremely direct with commenters like this. I usually send an email with a simple "Advertising of products is NOT allowed in the comments on my site." Though some times it takes more to get them to get the point. Someone from a company recently tried to promote her lemon syrup on my post about how to make lemonade. When she balked at my statement about advertising in comments, I replied with

"Your email address indicates that you work for the company whose products you are promoting.

I'm sure you love your products.

But I do NOT allow anyone to use my website or my readers for their own purposes.

My post is about how to make lemonade from scratch, as I have a scratch cooking site. If I wanted to show people how to make lemonade using packaged products, I would have done the post about adding water to frozen lemonade.

Your comment is pure spam, plain and simple.


The other approach which has been extremely effective for the clueless offenders who just won't stop is letting them know that if they continue their comment spam behavior, bloggers will start writing about how their company is spamming the blogosphere. Then, when someone does a search for said product in Google, they'll find a bunch of negative press.

Sam said...

Elise - you ROCK!

shuna fish lydon said...

In the world of the strange and mysterious www I find that many people have forsaken all manner of manners. Professionalism sounds mean if a person is too personal with strangers.

I love Elise's response! (Maybe we should all use the same form letter so these sharks know we are a united front!)

After having a number of experiences like the one you write on, I just delete those "comments" because when they see their advertising isn't working over at eggbeater, they move on to someone else...

david said...

Since the medium is relatively new, perhaps everyone is n't familiar with what's appropriate and what's not on a blog.

I would have just blocked her IP address after the third time, but it was nice of you to send her a message as well, so she knows why she can't post anymore (any good businessperson should be happy to know why their business practices are failing, so they can learn from it.)

I perhaps wouldn't sign a message 'sweetly' unless it's someone you know (or the message is indeed sweet news!) I know how sweet you and your site are, but since you were telling her to bug-off, I would have just used 'best regards' or something to that effect. As Shuna mentioned, on the net, the way we communicate has been abbreviated and can be easily misinterpreted, even if we have the good intentions.

Anonymous said...

All great comments. One thing that people who want to promote themselves/their sites never seem to realise is that they are a guest at someone else's place.

Really smart commenters never do anything overt - they simply add a good comment that adds to the discussion and include who they are and where from at the end - without a link - guess what - if you think someone said something insightful and smart and you want to follow up you now have enough information - and nobody minds because you aren't promoting anything - just leaving an opportunity for communication open

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