It was only a couple days ago when Microsoft released its Internet Explorer Developer Channel, “a fully functioning browser designed to give Web developers and early adopters a sneak peek at the Web platform features we’re working on.” Any chance IE might have gotten some long-term social media love was dashed after a clueless “social strategist on behalf of Microsoft” invited the wrong person to write something positive about Internet Explorer.
The “wrong” person was TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington who posted the unsolicited blog-for-pay letter on Uncrunched. The “strategist” was from the advocate marketing firm SocialChorus, which lists Bing as a customer. In part, the message stated:
The new Internet Explorer is a brand new experience with many different features. This reworked Internet Explorer lets you search smarter and do more with its cool new features, such as multitasking, pinnable sites, and full-screen browsing.
In this program, we are looking to spread the word about the new Internet Explorer web experience in a cool, visual way, which is where you come in! Internet Explorer has teamed up with many partners in gaming, entertainment, and more, and we’d love to see you talk about your opinions on these collaborations.
“Compensation” as well as “fun prizes and rewards” were offered for writing a flattering Internet Explorer post. SocialChorus asked bloggers to use specific hashtags. Instead of positive reviews however, the hashtags #IEbloggers and #reThinkIE have turned into more IE bashing tools. Some of those tweets are funny!
Additionally SocialChorus asked “rethink Internet Explorer” bloggers to sign a contract and receive “program access where you will see cool social content, the complete blog post prompt, and all required blog assets." In order to be compensated, you must "Share your post or related photos with our hashtag (#IEbloggers) on 2 to 3 social networks (Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter)."
The link with more details about the program has since been deleted (you can see it in full here) but not before it caught the eye of Google’s Matt Cutts, who is the head of Google’s webspam team. Cutts tweeted that he was “asking for more info while the webspam team investigates.”
Both Google and Bing have policies about passing links from paid posts; Google penalized Chrome back in 2012 for a sponsored post scheme, meaning searching for “browser” on Google would not bring up Chrome.
Meanwhile Microsoft PR damage-control went into overdrive. Arrington later updated the post with Microsoft’s comment: “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.”
Just the same, SocialChorus had asked for the glowing Internet Explorer posts to be up by July 10, so if people who signed contracts weren’t informed that Microsoft yanked the money, you still might see some pro-IE posts around that time.