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The Case Against Paid Reviews: Why Agents & Vendors Should Never Use Them.

First a disclaimer:  I’ve done fine on the web.  Made great money connecting with clients that don’t know, used to know, and kinda know me.  A lot on LiveJournal till I left, and even more on Facebook.  I’ll make more money in 2009.   A second disclaimer:  I hope that this post makes me tens of thousands of dollars by attracting to me the type of person I wanna do business with.  So this post is written for perfectly selfish reasons, but we all have that on the table now…and can move forward.   I guess with that said, every single post I write here or elsewhere…I write with the intent of connecting with someone cool.

When I first joined BHB, no less than 3  ‘vendors’ that currently advertise elsewhere on the RE.NET looked at me and assumed that I’d be the type to shill their products.  I wasn’t ever offered cash, but I was offered to use the product and see if I like it.   I was too busy at the time, and didn’t give a shit about those particular products. I don’t know if I would have taken cash, I wasn’t asked, so I can’t answer that question.   What I do know is that I blew it off because the products didn’t seem interesting.  Who cares about some new CRM that manages your showings or whatever…

Vendors invariably harm themselves with paid reviews.   When you coopt a voice like Agent Genuis with ad money and reviews, you short circuit your ability go gain feedback.    If you’re trying to make anything better and different, you must be able to rely on places like AG to give you honest feeback on your product.  You either want to advertise it–which is what Todd at Lenderama does transparently and honestly…or you want to improve it.   Co-opting the people that have influence is not the way to get actionable feedback. It’s also an insult to them: it basically says hey, we like your readers, but we will give you money instead of listening to your ideas.

The RE.NET is packed with bright people.   More valuable than the 3-4 subscribers that you might get from a campaign…is a test of the viability of your product.  Stuff like RateSpeed could have been improved to the point of usability rather than being the soup du jour of the echo chamber…had  there been an earnest effort to get real feedback in lieu of promoting the product.  But you rarely get good feedback from people when you’re writing them checks.  They are happy enough with the checks.  A prostitute will make you believe that you’re a world class lover.  There are people in every blog that freely give up ideas, and to short circuit the feedback loop to merely promote your product is low minded thinking.

What’s more valuable: a plug from a guy that built a great blog?  Or some honest feedback to hone your offering?

Think bigger.

On your own blog, accepting ads changes you, like it or not.  Anything but MAYBE anonymous google ad words, and putting an ad up changes the way you think of your blog.  A display ad is pressured to perform, and instead of exploring and writing and processing thought, you think of making someone else’s idea make money.   And your blog loses its originality and creativity.  Best example of this is LifeHacker. When they really monetized themselves they became borderline unusable, probably about 18 months ago.  (Thanks to my  friend Keith Baker for pointing this out to me some time ago on one of his many blogs).

Your blog is a chance to get lending, listing & selling clients, it’s a chance to demonstrate the level of service your customers will expect to get, and the most valuable is the chance for you to clarify and hone your thoughts.  Corrupting that process with a few hundred or even a few thousand bucks a month can’t possibly be worth it, unless you vew your ideas as only worth that much.   Why limit yourself?  I’ve gotten & will continue to get gigs, I’ve gotten &  made referrals, and it’s because my blog is ‘really me.’  If I sell that process, or lend whatever credibility my blog has,   I wouldn’t at this point–be likely to do anything with display ads, my own thoughts are too valuable to lease out to anyone who has cobbled together some LAMP widget for Realtors.

Paid reviews are a stamp of a moron.  And, they make you unbelievable.  If you promote Heap, then you promote ZohoCRM and then you promote Highrise…all with affiliate links, what value can you be giving to them?  You’re just demonstrating to all that you’re for sale, have no integrity or standards, and every word you write was influenced both consciously and un…by other folks.   Let’s leave paid reviews back with 1.0 and retain our integrity.  When you gather an audience, be careful not to sell them because you become a drooling and pandering fool.

Oh..by the way, Heap is genius, but needs work, Highrise is Excellent but underpowered, and Zoho CRM put me back on paxil.

Finally, something truly positive that is more or less a test to see if Greg really did fix his video posting problems…Bruce in his Prime. Nothing finer:

Related posts:
  • The Case For Paid Reviews
  • MLS ‘ad’ crackdown a waste of time, expert says
  • Are People Who Don’t Understand “The Dip” Complete Morons?

  • 4 comments

    4 Comments so far

    1. Ryan Hartman December 27th, 2008 7:15 am

      Chris,

      I agree that a blog that is “really me” is much more efficient at generating real business than one that runs more like a commercial. Also, I do occasionally like to plug local businesses & contractors that do a good job and I wouldn’t want those plugs to be seen as just another ad, so no pimpin on my site so far…

      I agree with your comments about those 3 CRMs and figured I’d mention “Oprius,” a simple to use but feature packed CRM which seems much more adaptable to the realtor work flow than more expensive systems like Top Producer. It accomplishes a lot of what I’d hoped Heap would, with some surprises such as:

      *Truly Integrated email (with imap!)
      *Automatic Assignment of Activity Plans when a Contact is placed in a specific category! (wow)
      *Adequately sophisticated Task and Calendar Modules
      *A newsletter function that just might be good enough to warrant cancellation of my aweber account.

      I guess in this context I should mention that I don’t work for Oprius and have nothing to gain by promoting the company — I just know that I’ve spent countless hours playing with modern CRMs and hope that this plug saves another agent out there a lot of time.

      That said, maybe it wouldn’t hurt to post my affiliate link to Oprius?

    2. Greg Swann December 27th, 2008 5:40 pm

      > A prostitute will make you believe that you’re a world class lover.

      Priceless. My hat is off too you.

    3. [...] Chris Johnson hit some great points in his recent post, and I agree with 95% of what he says.  However, I don’t reach the same conclusion. [...]

    4. Stephanie Edwards-Musa January 1st, 2009 7:04 pm

      Chris, I partly agree- yet disagree with you. Being paid to write something good about a product, yes-pretty much a cop out.

      Being seen as an expert in a particular part of the Real Estate Industry and being asked to review a product for your blog is not a bad thing as long as you are honest in your review, IMO.

      There are so many corners of the real estate industry and opportunities in niche marketing- it’s not about the money. It’s about being the ‘expert’. If the review benefits the reader, why would that be considered a bad thing?