McD’s and the mom bloggers

I have to admit, this NPR story made me bristle when I heard it. And not because McDonald’s is using social media to it’s advantage (because any smart company is these days), or even because their so-called healthy improvements are not really that grand (a few less french fries, peeled apple slices and cow’s milk). It’s that they’re courting bloggers with high readership and specifically that those bloggers are responding positively.

Many good bloggers cultivate an intimate relationship with their followers. They share their lives in great detail so the reader really gets to know, like and trust them. Of course this is exactly what makes them useful to McDonald’s. They know that their followers will likely place great stock in what the bloggers say about their company. As the McD’s spokesperson says in the piece, “Moms listen to other moms more than they listen to other folks”.

It made me wonder, are followers of mom blogs, or blog readers in general, really that gullible? Do readers not notice, or not care that this is basically a paid endorsement? After all, bloggers are obligated to say when they’re being compensated.

I know that on at least one blog I frequent (not a mom blog), many participants eagerly emulate the site owners, clamor for their advice, and buy things they recommend. So it’s not a stretch for me to see that all those things could be true for mom bloggers too, but why? Why are people so willing to trust the advice of strangers, just because they’re similar to them in some way? Is it because they feel like they know them?

At a gut level, I think what bothers me is that it seems the bloggers are selling out. I wonder what motivates them to participate. Are the perks and/or pay really that good? Are they just curious? Do some think they can maintain their objectivity and perhaps even stick it to McDs? It seems like it could destroy their credibility, that they’d have more to lose than to gain. But maybe it depends on why they’re blogging in the first place.

Also wondering, does this really work out that well for McDonald’s? I’m thinking it must do if they’re picking up steam on the program and are event touting their efforts to a nationwide radio audience. I know pay per post/review is a growing industry, with lots of businesses (large and small) hopping on board and reporting good results, so the ROI must be there.

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