Summary:

Word of mouth is one of the best means of marketing a product, but sometimes the process needs a little help to get started. Help in the for…

Social Media
photo: Corbis / Oliver Burston

Word of mouth is one of the best means of marketing a product, but sometimes the process needs a little help to get started. Help in the form of cold, hard cash. For a long time, the Pay-for-Posts business was considered only slightly less shady than buying watches from a guy who carries his stock in his coat.

A few years ago, I wrote a paid post for one of my blogs and Google (NSDQ: GOOG) promptly slapped me with a drop in my page rank (does anyone care about page rank anymore?) and placement in the search returns.

Now, paying for posts, Tweets, Facebook shoutouts or video mentions is not only acceptable, it’s good business.

According to new numbers from eMarketer, 48.8 percent of marketers have used a sponsored blog post. 39.4 percent have sponsored Tweets and 50.2 percent said they were open to using some kind of social media sponsorship.

Paid-for-Post programs run the gamut from sketchy clearinghouses pushing articles on windows blinds and times shares, to well-funded, creative properties that pay people for posts they would have written anyway for free.

I sometimes write for the Warner Brothers Word of Mouth marketing program, which pays fans to write about their favorite TV shows and send retail links through Twitter and Facebook. They have very specific guidelines for posting, including mandatory disclosure paragraphs and pre-crafted Tweets and an organized back end that makes it easy to keep track of blogger progress.

I also work with social media sponsorship middleman, MyLikes (gotta have that full disclosure, right?). They have a running list of client pitches. Members choose the ones they like, then Tweet them or add them to Facebook and in return, they get paid for clicks. They also offer options for creating ad-related videos and those pay out at a higher rate.

Paying for video mentions is highly valued by marketers. eMarketer figured the average worth of such as mention as $112.46, beaten only by a blog post which came in at $114.71. And here’s one of those places where Twitter tops Facebook and I totally agree.

Now, don’t confuse estimated value with the payout for the service. Few people outside of celebrities are earning $63.00 a Tweet. Sponsored posts could cost you $114, but $30 to $50 is the average. Of course, what you pay and what you get back is highly dependent of the popularity and efforts of the paid poster. For social media sponsorships, it’s all about reach. Reach is somewhat about the number of followers but also involves a person’s influence in their circle and beyond.

How do you feel about sponsored posts, social media and video mentions? Shady business or an excellent way to spread the word?

Cynthia Boris is a freelance writer, social media consultant and a firm believer that content is still king. A former magazine staff writer and book author, she now devotes all of her time to the world wide web.

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This article originally appeared in Marketing Pilgrim.

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