Bring on the Controversy

Electron plumber just released a post on his blog ripping into me for using Amazon Mturk as a marketing tool in the Shoemoney Affiliate Competition.

Its true, I wont deny it. I did it. And kudos to him, we all gotta do what we gotta do to win and attempting to eliminate the competition is an age old strategy to win a fight. But the truth is, I didn’t really have much of a choice…

I worked VERY hard on this competition, not only on the entry post but also on gathering votes. I spent the good chunk of my New Years Eve and every waking moment hustling for votes until Jan 2nd untill I saw this…

Those are tweets coming from a post on John Chow’s blog. For those who don’t know, John Chow is a very successful blogger in the Internet Marketing space whom I greatly admire and whos blog I regularly read. The only problem is, he has 118,000 readers!!! 118k wtf? that’s like more than some celebrities.

El Plumber was right. I am not a super star, I don’t have the Alexa rankings to control the masses. I thought I had a compelling entry that would naturally attract votes, but in a situation like this that means jack. After all the work I did, blasting out to my lists, hanging on Facebook asking everyone to vote for me for 2 days straight, asking friends to post on their walls, pulling thousands of emails from every conversation I’ve ever had on Gmail and of all my social network connections. Even asking random girls in bars to vote for me on their smart phones. I thought I was doing pretty well and used a number of interesting marketing methods that I will post about later.

While I cant see my votes, I can see the clicks from the links I was marketing and things were going pretty well. But now that a post had gone out to 120k readers the competition had been taken to a new level.

After seeing the tweets, I started doing some investigation. Oh and by the way, its not just tweets, there is syndication and a whole bunch of other ridiculous stuff that happens when someone posts on a blog of that size. I wasn’t sure if this was a legitimate friend-helping-a-friend-out post or if it was a brilliant paid advertisement (which I am not against by the way). I had read last years winners post as he talked about how he won the competition. He too had bought a post on John Chows blog to help him win votes. Here is his excerpt:

Enter John Chow

I’ve been following John and Jeremy for a long time.  I’ve watched them compete against each other (to see who cold get the most RSS subscribers in an allotted time frame) and promote ZK in the Internet Marketer of the year contest.

It only seemed natural I enlist the services of John Chow and so I contacted him about the possibility of a sponsored post.  It seemed like a good fit, the Shoemoney and Johnchow audience is similar and John Chow has a big following (71000 RSS subscriber and 51000 twitter followers).

I felt it would be a solid investment as it would likely bring in a lot of votes.  I figured if I lost there would still be some value in the links from John Chow and some of the attention it generated.

Five bills later I had a post up on John Chow promoting me and I was feeling pretty good.

I almost when onto sponsored tweets and tried to buy a tweet from Shoemoney himself but I assumed he would decline in for conflict of interest reasons.  Probably should have done it for the potential attention/linkbait anyway.

Not sure if 5 bills was $500 or $10k but either way, that’s lots to spend. And since John Chow’s following is up significantly from last year, it would probably be even more expensive this year. I still wasn’t sure if Donny had done the same thing so I dug up his post on John Chow’s blog.

This is what it looked like:

Now see Donny Gamble’s Post: 

Look familiar?

After seeing this I thought F*(%… I cant win this doing what I’m doing. As El Plumber said, I simply don’t have a big enough following. But it seems that a media buying frenzy was about to begin. Technically speaking, if I had the funds I should have been able to buy advertisements all across the internet. Make Facebook ads with the criteria of “ages between 10-99” and plaster them up. Create PPC campaigns on every keyword and buy the front page of MSN. Buy spots on Google TV, hire a professional producer to make me an emotionally stimulating, NLP filled commercial causing people to emotionally connect with me and have a strong call to action to resulting in votes on promise of donating a billion dollars to starving children if I won…

Unfortunately for me, I don’t have those kind of resources….

There was no way I was going to win without some form of paid marketing approach so I started looking around at the different tools and marketing channels I have at my disposal as an internet marketer. I looked at various media buys, sponsored posts, sponsored tweets etc… But if I am going to be spending money on advertising, I am going to look for the channel that is going to bring me the best return on investment. The tool I chose is one that I have used a few times provided by Amazon.

Enter Mturk

Mturk or Amazon Mechanical Turk is basically a service where you can find people to complete a small task for a small price. You can have them do things like comment on a blog, bump up a post on Digg or vote for you in some competition.

I thought about running a PPC campaign and paying anywhere from $0.10-$2.00 per click and not be guaranteed a vote. Sure if I threw enough money at it, I would get the same results but it didn’t seem like something that a smart internet marketer would do. Why pay more for the same results?

With Mturk, you can have an action completed for you for a set price. Depending on the difficulty of the action, you might pay anywhere from $0.05-$2 per HIT (Human Intelligence Tasks). Since this task was a very simple one “go to a web site and click vote” I created a campaign paying $0.05 per HIT.

Not sure what Donny’s ROI will be on his John Chow investment, say he paid $1000 and got 1000 votes (less than a 1% conversion) its still pretty expensive. I figured 118k readers, even if he had a 1% conversion that would be 1180 votes. So I structured the hit to be 909 votes, with fees that worked out to be exactly $50. Pretty good investment I thought plus I felt I had already done pretty well in the natural voting part, I just needed something to counter the big influx of votes Donny would get from John Chow.

The Results?

Firstly, nobody knows where they stand so its all very exciting. It’s completely up to Shoemoney and his staff on how they choose a winner. I didnt do anything illegal, there are no rules stating what marketing tools can and cannot be used. But this isn’t a democracy that is going on here so my fate and that of the other marketers lies in the hands of Shoemoney and his staff.

I’m sure if someone had access to Oprah they would ask her to do a shout out for them. If that were the case all the Mturkers in the world probably wouldn’t help.

It is clear that the final portion of a competition like this is not about the quality of your entry, but about who you know, your ability to leverage marketing channels and the resources at your disposal. Much like business in the real world.

All I can say is that I really want to win this competition. I needed a paid marketing channel to stay in the game and this was the most financially viable channel to use.

Good luck to the other contestants, I hope your marketing efforts don’t work as well as mine, but if I don’t win, I hope you post about how you did so I can learn and grow.