SocialChorus, an "advocate marketing" company, has been offering to pay bloggers for promoting Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE) browser.
TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington posted to his Uncrunched blog on June 17 a note he received inviting him to blog about IE for pay.
Microsoft officials are distancing themselves from the paid-promotional campaign. An Microsoft spokesperson sent the following statement when asked about the SocialChorus invitation:
"This action by a vendor is not representative of the way Microsoft works with bloggers or other members of the media. The program has been suspended."
According to the SocialChorus Web site, Microsoft's Bing team is, or at least has been, one of SocialChorus' customers.
The link to the terms and conditions of the paid IE promotion has been removed from the Web. But according to the copy from that site, SocialChorus was operating a program called "RethinkIE Blogger Network."
There are not many tweets using that hashtag beyond those calling out the program, but I did see a few bloggers who seemed to be part of the program using the #IEbloggers hashtag for at least one post: Geek-news.net, DragonBlogger.com and PrettyOpinionated.com.
The SocialChorus RethinkIE site requested invited bloggers to send SocialChorus their "sponsored post rates," the dates the bloggers could publish their posts and general IE topics of their posts. The latest RethinkIE promotional offer required participants to post their blogs no later than July 10 and to use the hashtag #IEbloggers on two to three social networks.
"This will be a sponsored post opportunity and payment will be made out via check," the site plainly informed potential participants.
Many companies use promoted social-media campaigns. It's not illegal. Promotional posts, lined up on behalf of a variety of tech companies, can be found on a variety of Web sites. But if promotional tweets and posts aren't clearly marked as "sponsored," the slippery slope feels a lot more slippery to me...