Blogger reviews in social media marketing - Samsung breaks regulations?

04/09/2012

Samsung may be the latest multinational to break digital marketing regulations by trying to manipulate blogger reviews in social media marketing through secret payments to bloggers. Positive ratings and reviews have a big impact on sales, but many brands are forgetting both regulations and common sense.

Samsung has apologised to an Indian blogger who claimed the company stranded him and another blogger in Germany after they refused to become Samsung promoters.

Samsung provides the free trips to bloggers under its "Mobilers" program in which bloggers get to trial the latest Samsung products and attend its events. But the way it is structured appears to blur the lines between editorial and cash-for-comment in the blogosphere.

Clinton Jeff of Unleash the Phones, and another man who chose not to be named, were offered free flights and accommodation by Samsung to attend the IFA 2012 tech show in Berlin, Germany as part of its "Mobilers" ambassador program.

Jeff said Samsung apologised for leaving him stranded in Berlin after he declined to serve as a "brand ambassador" for the South Korean electronics giant.

The pair thought Samsung had invited them to IFA, the big German tradeshow, with the company's Mobilers program offering to pay for his plane tickets and hotel room so he could cover the event as an independent journalist.

Jeff told The Next Web, a tech-news website which first reported on the scandal, that the invitation had offered him the choice of coming as a "reporter" or a "promoter," and he said he made it clear he would only accept the free trip as a "reporter."

Samsung's Mobilers organizers apparently thought Jeff had signed on to participate in promotional activities, though. After he arrived, Jeff realized that Samsung was asking him to man a booth and show off devices to members of the press. He refused—and Samsung reps told him they were canceling his return plane ticket and hotel stay.

After the story broke, Samsung sent Jeff an apology for putting him through "undue hardship."

The company also put out a press release on the issue but did not admit fault in its statement. It put the issue down to a "misunderstanding" and said no activities were forced upon bloggers who it invites to its marketing events around the world.

It turns out Jeff may not be alone in his experience. A French blogger, France Quiqueré, wrote about a similar trip to cover the Olympics where she says she was forced to participate in marketing stunts.

To further cement the bad publicity for Samsung, rival phone maker Nokia ended up sponsoring the rest of Jeff's stay in Berlin and his plane ticket home.

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