Paid to post: social networking influencers

I was getting ready to write a post predicting this would happen, and then I thought, well, I better check to see if it’s happening already. And, of course, it is. Or was, and will soon be again.

Since Facebook switched their algorithm to give top placement to posts from people who drive a lot of likes and comments, etc., have you noticed that the same people show up at the top of your feed all the time? I have. And I know marketers have.

So I’ve been thinking it’s only a matter of time until we see “paid influencers,” that is, ordinary people who have a lot of social media “juice” getting paid to mention or like certain products. (And I’m not talking about compromised and conflicted mommy bloggers.) 

So I searched for the term “paid influencers,” and I found this thread on Quora.

That led me to Ad.ly and Crowdrally. I think somewhere in the dim recesses of my brain there was some awareness of Ad.ly. But that’s more about celebrities getting paid to tweet. That’s not really what I’m talking about.

I’m talking about normal people getting paid to influence their friends. And according to this article on AllThingsD, it seems as though Ad.ly was trying to do just that on Facebook until Facebook shut them down. If I had to guess why, I’d guess it’s because Facebook wants to control this proce$$.

This deal on Crowdrally (also pictured at the top of the post), is more in line with what I’m thinking of. It expired over a year ago, so you can tell I’m right on top of this breaking trend. 

Crowdrally is in private alpha now, so I’m not sure if they are still doing this. The video on their home page seems to be promoting some entirely different concept. 

If you’re like me (and—don’t worry—you’re not), your first thought about all of this is “icky.” But wait a minute. Is this really so bad? Most of the people who show up at the top of my Facebook feed could probably use some extra cash. Shouldn’t they be allowed to sell their social influence if they want to? And ultimately isn’t their endorsement more useful to me than an endorsement from some anonymous pitchman?

It’d be like being the popular boy or girl in school, and getting paid for it. And that’ll probably happen someday, too.

OK, but I still think “icky.” But I’m old and still influenced by vestiges of the counter culture revolution that saw evil in everything corporate America did. Younger people have a lot fewer hangups about the perniciousness of advertising than I do. It still blows my mind that Super Bowl ads are now almost as big a draw as the game itself. 

Anyway, get ready for it. It’s coming, if it’s not already here.