The case of the food blogger

It has now been a few days of which people have been raising hell over an incident in the food blogging “industry”, so much so that it even appeared in The Straits Times, igniting debate of whether the blogging industry should be regulated. A rather stupid suggestion, because it is nearly impossible to regulate the internet properly.

I mean, who will follow the regulations and what will happen to those who fail to follow such regulations? We can’t police the internet. Even the Singapore government can only symbolically block porn sites but not ban them it its entirety.

Regulations aside, it amazes me to see the multitude of opinions, harsh and mild, lavished on this one incident. Sides have been taken and wars fought, but what for?

For those who are clueless, the general gist is this. A food blogger was invited to a food tasting session. He brings 3 guests. He was charged for the food and there was some unpleasantness over it.

No one knows for sure what happened other than the people who were present, so I don’t think it is right to jump into conclusions hastily. Xiaxue has a version of it, from “eyewitness”, and who knows what is the truth?

I would rather like to think this is a huge misunderstanding, as the blogger in question had pointed out. It’s a misunderstanding that occurs frequently because as humans we forgot to communicate effectively. Had the restaurant informed the blogger that it was “industry practice” (there’s such a practice and we need regulations to be drawn out?) to only waive the cost for the blogger + 1 of his friends, this would not have happen. Had the blogger asked and confirmed if all his friends would dine for free, this would not have happen. Misunderstanding happens all the time, forget and let live.

But I guess this interesting incident does help raise more awareness on social media, something that many people do not seem to understand as yet. I knew of this incident from a friend’s blog. She wrote about “Truth About Bloggers and Freebies“, a post which I feel does shed some light about blogging as a social media tool.

Even though I had not been popular enough to get invited to blog events, I have had read up many people’s blogs where they did attend such events. Blogs are not just diaries of people’s lives. Blogs have become a great tool to spread word of mouth, and it is something that every company should learn to harness. True enough, the bulk of the blogs are diaries, but they have so little readership it hardly matters. But when blogs become websites where people associate a certain degree of trust, it becomes a powerful tool.

I had once wrote in my EE3001 report about harnessing the power of blogs when I was the “Marketing Manager” of my project team. In it I highlighted how I would invite bloggers to come to my “event”, where I would host them for food and refreshments, and allow them to have hands on trials of our product. We would then allow them to write anything they wanted about our product – what they liked; what they didn’t like; what can we improve etc. Because they are allowed such freedom to write whatever they are feeling, it gives the element of credibility. And I, as a 23 year old undergraduate, can understand the power of using popular blogs. And I don’t see why others cannot.

If anyone wants to say there is no free lunch in this world, sadly yes there are literally free lunches in this world. I have been to one free dinner. Although it is not a lunch, but it was a free meal, with no strings attached. But anyway the point in question is not about a free meal. Indeed, as Xiaxue pointed out, bloggers can then proceed to give their unbiased opinion on their blogs, something that is worth money. Hence using free lunches to exchange for some publicity, I don’t think it is wrong. It is the same as asking a blogger to come and then paying him to write. But paying him to write eliminates any sense of credibility, so it would backfire.

Social media has been here for a few years, and it is here to stay. As we progress to become more connected to the internet through the use of data plans, twitters and other forms of information transfer, the internet has become a force to be reckoned with. Who knows, it might one day take over the traditional media.

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