Blogs and the Art of Deception

trustIt’s no secret that I love social media marketing.  I view social media as a natural and predictable “evolution” of the web.

Things have gotten very “wild wild west” on the web and social media is the “natural” next step in the never ending pursuit of an answer to the question, “Is this for real?”

If you’re “for real” – if you’re starting a “real business” offering goods and services- then social media marketing is going to be your new best friend.  Just ask Jannie Funster …. who has recently released her first CD.  Jannie received flowers from fellow bloggers Patricia of Patricia’s Wisdom and Davina of Shades of Crimson to celebrate the CD’s release.  These women are “for real” – as are the dozens of blog commenters who hang out at Jannie’s blog for their daily dose of music and fun like Betsy Wuebker and J.D. Meier.

What a STARK contrast to an ugly “seedier” side of the internet upon which I stumbled this morning – which is the ANTITHESIS of social media marketing.  This site tries to emulate social media’s favorite tool – a blog –  to trick you into trusting the site’s owners enough to easily part you with your hard earned money.

Brief Background….In the early days of the web,  geeks gathered online and communicated freely with each other. In those early days – communication was good – commerce was bad. Slowly but surely, commercialization took root on the web.

Enter the internet marketing gurus. “Make easy money on the internet” was their battle cry.  They set up single “squeeze page” websites on domain names ripe with keywords, set up a Google Adwords campaign on long tail (a.k.a. cheap) keywords, sit back and watch the money roll in.

Then, Google got wise – and the gig was up.  Around this time, the new battle cry began to sound “Blogs are the way to easy internet wealth!”  However, it wasn’t long before the “easy money via the internet” marketing guru wannabes discovered TWO ugly truths about blogging….

  1. Blogging is labor intensive.  Creating original, quality content takes time and talent which are definitely not attractive ingredients in a recipe for easy money.
  2. Blogging is transparent…  with a real blog – people can leave comments.  While the blog owner definitely has the ability to moderate said comments – comments are definitely a way for a blog owner to gain credibility with readers.

I shouldn’t be surprised to see the latest “internet marketing” creation – the FAUX blog.  Maybe it’s been around for a while, but this is my first faux blog encounter.

This “faux blog” I found is truly a marketing masterpiece and definitely a study in the art of deception.

I don’t want to offer an endorsement of this product so I’ll use the time honored “screenshot” to illustrate.  (As an added “bonus”, the screenshot will live on for as long as my blog remains active – while I strongly suspect that the site in question will not.)

I found this faux blog via an ad placed on a REAL blog… the first in many brilliant moves by a marketing genius.

fauxblogad I have to confess – I LOVE this marketing tactic!   This ad really stood out in a sidebar cluttered with various ads.  Even though I usually ignore such “get rich quick” kinds of ads – I had to see what was going on with such a great design on an eye catching ad.  I was taken to my first “faux blog”:

faux blog screen shot It sure looks like a blog, doesn’t it?

It’s not.   It’s faux through and through – even down to the “google adwords” box to the far right which is just links to other “articles” on the website a.k.a. faux blog.

This “faux blog” is a study in marketing genius.

If you scroll to the bottom of the faux blog you’ll even see “comments” – just like a real blog.  Since I’m not linking – I’ll include yet ANOTHER screenshot –


Every comment – down to the avatars – is hard coded.  Those “user avatars” are simply images living in the images folder on the site.

The “comments” are all carefully crafted as part of the “sales pitch”. Even the fact that YOU can’t leave a comment is “explained” by the blog owner “closing” comments – due to spam.

This “faux blog” is a work of art – the art of marketing AND deception.

I was going to link to this blog as an example of one of the three types of blogs and illustrate the Capitalists use of a self hosted WordPress blog – until I looked at the code.  (Hey, then it’s officially “work” related – right?)

To say that the site is working would be an understatement.  The links on the faux blog take you to another site where you are greeted with an opportunity to see if you “qualify”…  in the internet marketing biz, this is known as a SQUEEZE PAGE:


If you fill out that form – and I’ll bet that you’ll find you are “qualified” to give them your money as I was!!!

(Note:  I didn’t give them a working phone or email address – I don’t suggest you do either.)

Next, you’ll see a similar screen where you have the opportunity to give them your credit card info where you can pay $1.97 to have this VALUABLE information sent your way.

When it comes to giving a REAL credit card number, I quit playing.  “I’m out.”

However, the site creators anticipated that – which is the reason for the initial “qualification squeeze page”.  At least they got my phone number and email address out of the advertising dollars they spent to get me here.

Oh, I’m in good company arriving at the squeeze page site…according to reliable online traffic spying tools,  the site has gotten almost 3 MILLION unique visitors over the past three weeks.  The faux blog is just ONE of many referring sites contributing to that flood of visitors.

Barbara Swafford over at Blogging Without a Blog wrote a post, “What If?” where she asks if her readers are prepared for their blog to go “viral”.  I acted like a party pooper in the comments and stated that most blogs aren’t set up to take full advantage of a “surge” in popularity and pointed out that even a mild traffic surge can cause huge problems for the blog owner.    For example, when one of Cath Lawson’s post went “viral, her web hosting company shut her down her site without warning.

It takes a lot of planning and preparation to take advantage  of (a.k.a. make money from)  a viral blog post.

Right now, I’m kind of feeling like an honest politician because I’m an “ethical marketing consultant”.  On the one hand, I really appreciate the planning and strategy behind the faux blog.  It really is a work of ART when it comes to science of marketing.  However, I HATE the deceptive nature of the piece.

I actually started to think I was being naive in my belief that telling the TRUTH about your products and services is the path to marketing success until I remembered all the REAL people I’ve worked with who achieved REAL success by doing just that.

How many of them got 3 million visitors to their site in three weeks?  None.

However, unlike the faux blog above and the ensuing squeeze page site- their blogs will still be around this time next year and beyond.

If you wonder how I can confidently predict this site will be short lived, read more about the future of marketing in the land of social media in Why Coming “Social Commerce” Era Should Terrify Brand Marketers.

Your thoughts are welcome below….

Smart Business Blogging and the Smartest Dog Contest

This is a GREAT time to start a business, as long as you don’t create a bad product (Windows Vista anyone), and try to promote it with a poor marketing strategy and a website that does almost nothing.

Running a bad business poorly usually doesn’t make the news.  However, when it’s a HUGE company in the US which chooses to embrace a relatively recent phenomenon of expecting the government to come to the rescue them from their own bad business practices, the story definitely makes the front page.

GM’s recent holiday charity request of the US government was recently denied,  which brings to mind a joke which recently made the rounds.  This joke illustrates a truth we all embrace and that’s the difference between “government” and “business”.

The joke begins with four men who were  sitting at a bar one night.  As the alcohol flowed, the four men started bragging about how smart their respective dogs were.  One thing lead to another and before you know it, a challenge was issued.  The next night, the four men arrived back at the bar with their dogs to prove whose dog was indeed the smartest.

The first man was an engineer who called to his dog, “T-square, show these jerks what you can do.”

T-square took out some paper and pen and promptly drew a picture of a two story home.

The other men were impressed and all agreed that T-square was a pretty smart dog.

The next man,  an accountant thought his dog could do better. He called his dog and said, ‘Spreadsheet, show these guys what you can do.’

Spreadsheet went into the bar and returned with three dozen peanuts. He divided them into 6 equal piles of 6 peanuts, each perfectly stacked into a carefully constructed pyramid.

All the men agreed that Spreadsheet was pretty smart.

But the third man, who was a chemist thought his dog could do better. He called to his dog and said, ‘Precipitate, show these guys what you can do.’

Precipitate brought out a quart of whiskey from the bar, got a 10 shot glasses and poured each shot glass to the brim without spilling a single drop.

All the men agreed that Precipitate was pretty smart.

The fourth man was a government employee – and the pressure was on.  He called to his dog and said, ‘Bureaucracy , do your stuff.’

Bureaucracy jumped to his feet

  • pooped on the paper
  • ate the peanuts
  • downed all the shots of whiskey, one after another.

When he finished the final shot, he then proceeded methodically to hump each of the other three dogs with enthusiasm previously unseen.  However, in the middle of the act with the third dog, Bureaucracy yelped and  then collapsed to the ground.  He immediately announced that he had injured his back.

Bureaucracy filed a grievance report for unsafe working conditions… applied for Workers Compensation… and went home for the rest of the week on sick leave with full pay.


Jokes like this make us smile because we can recognize that the story perfectly illustrates what goes on when a “company” doesn’t have to answer to “customers”.   The business that doesn’t respect its customers is destined for closure unless that “business” is a form of government!

Unfortunately, GM has been operating their business like they’re a branch of the government for the past few decades.

The “problem” with this business model is that GM doesn’t have taxpayers which have no choice on whether or not to support the business.  Instead, GM has customers who cast their “vote” in the market place every time they purchase an automobile.

Unlike government, GM has competitors who are making cars that customers want to buy.   Unfortunately (for GM), they don’t have easy access to the US taxpayer’s tax dollars.

Fortunately, the representatives in Congress must face their own “customers ” a.k.a. the “voters” decided it was best to just say “No” to yet another charity request from a bloated inefficient business.

I personally think the uproar in Web 2.0 is part of the reason for the recent denial. I honestly think that if there hadn’t been a thousand voices speaking out in the blogosphere about the facts that the vote would have gone much differently.  Not only were blogs pointing out the fact that GM just received a huge sum as recently as in September 2008 – but they were also pointing out the fact that the unions weren’t participating in the proposed “bailout” at all.  I believe that bringing those “facts” to the public attention played a HUGE role in the vote.

If you’re wondering what all the “fuss” about blogging is all about – the information disseminated by tens of thousands of blogs may have actually changed the course of US history.

With that in mind – you might be tempted to think that perhaps a business blog, properly launched and leveraged,  might actually be a powerful and effective of a marketing tool.   Maybe your buisness blog won’t change the course of history – but it might just change the course of your business.