Baiting social development with signups is not good CSR, Nilaam

April 1, 2008 12:30 am 12 comments

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Look, I’m honestly trying to avoid pointing out issues about – I really am! I even deleted the last two posts about their issues. But their dumb SEO / New Media PR firms are just making it incredibly easy to use Nilaam as a punching bag. Those firms are completely crippling Nilaam’s brand online. Completely. Utterly. Come on man my firm CDF does new media consulting so take my word for it! Utterly!

Says Mr. PakiEditor on Topix:

To support Pakistan’s education sector reform initiative, will be sponsoring underprivileged children ages 13-17 to gain access to quality online education through a US based High School Program.

1 underprivileged child will gain access to quality education for every 5,000 registrants on site. We are encouraging the 18 million internet users in Pakistan to logon and register.

It is simple, just register after April 15, 2008 until June 31, 2008, and you will be helping in supporting underprivileged children. It’s free to register!


When I read this, I groaned. Also the second time. I need to make sure I present the issue appropriately here….

If you want to help underprivileged children, and have access to helping them, then help them! When society sees how nice and kind you are, they will immediately feel attracted to you and thus tend to sign up for your services that much more. If you want to tie your profits with that help, then declare that 2% of each transaction on Nilaam for that period would help those kids – have a running counter like Free Rice so that people can keep track.

But there is just something very wrong about baiting your marketing goals – signups – with serving underprivileged kids…. with restricting that help unless people register. It feels like the mayor just walked into a hospital bleeding to death and all the doctor can say is "ah I could save your life, but I wont unless you put my kid in this school".

It also, somehow, seems like selling children… "Step right up – 1 kid with every 5000 entries… free!"

Anyone else see a problem with this or is it just me?

Facebook comments:


  • I think the reason I am uncomfortable with this is because it is ok to accept the idea that money is required to help underprivileged kids, and the more money you make, the more kids you can help (thus % of transactions is ok).

    But signups isnt going to make your more money because it doesnt requrie anyone to participate in Nilaam in any way, so whatever help you will provide a child will come from your own cost structure.

    If it is, then I have an issue with intentionally restricting that help just to promote signups

  • Osama, are you ruing your decision to delete the last two posts about

    I thought the CEO came and gave an explanation. But this is really absurd. Do they really think we can’t see through the fog? Serving Pakistan should not be tied in with growth of How much traction can be gained by stirring philanthrophic or patriotic spirits in the target market is a question that will be answered in good time. My own theory is that the user may be willing to pay something extra every time they make a transaction as long as they know it is for a good use. I do not think the user will be willing to benefit for over the top claims of philanthropy.

  • Muhammad Asif

    My God! What kind of brazen faced social responsibility attempt is this?! Its like saying that I will do good only if you commercially benefit me; a total negation of the very concept of “goodness”.

  • Muhammad Asif

    Or…Nilam is simply just living upto the context of its own title..Nilam!

    They are auctioning their own brand against desprivations of the deserving. So so so SAD!

  • bazaar advertisement … They have marked a bad impression even before they started…

  • MacDeveloper

    Just an alternative perspective..

    Nilaam is saying that they will help 1 kid for every 5000 signups. They aren’t asking anyone to purchase anything, or pay them money. They are just asking people to sign up. That’s harmless right?

    I mean, yeah it sounds like cheap advertising but in a competitive world, what’s wrong with that? They aren’t harming anyone, just trying to promote their business.

    They hired an active SEO firm to do their marketing, which basically ticked off lots of bloggers and ‘new media consultants’, but the fact is that they are generating the publicity they were looking for. I think their only problem is that they are doing things in the so-called web 1.0 way. But at the same time, i don’t think there is anything wrong in it. I see their strategy as follows:

    Pre Launch: plain old SEO marketing (spam ‘em!)
    Launch: SEO marketing + blogs + offline media marketing (newspapers, billboards etc) + Google ads
    After some traction: Radio / TV ads

    However, as mentioned before what remains to be seen is whether Pakistani public will indeed hook on to nilaam. There are many challenges like lack of credit cards, trust, enough people to put their stuff online… etc etc..

    Also would regular shopkeepers really go ahead and open their shops if regular users can’t really buy anything online?

    Disclaimer: I do NOT approve of the way nilaam is doing its marketing (though I do think it’ll work!)

  • MacDeveloper, I wont comment on whether using hope for underprivileged children as bait to promote your business is ethical.

    But I do absolutely disagree that this is generating publicity for them.

    I’ve designed and run new media marketing campaigns and I can tell you that there’s a reason clients engage with ‘new media consultants’ – its because web.1.0 SEO spamming today is hurting their business more than it is raising their pagerank. If that way was still effective (or if new media ROI wasnt higher) wouldnt everyone still be doing it?

    I’m not ticked off because the SEO firm is active (which, really they’re not compared to typical effective campaigns), but I’m ticked off that (1) their SEO firm is using all the wrong channels to build up page rank and (2) its doing so in a direct conflict of interest with Nilaam’s potential consumers.

    Google etc are getting at recognizing comment spam and aggregation spam every day. It is debatable just how effective some forum entries on topix is going to be.

    This might be considered a pagerank building exercise (by getting more pages with Nilaam’s name in the Google Index) but in no stretch of the imagination is it publicity.

    Nilaam’s name might be in a few forums here and there, but publicity means that your consumers are getting excited about your app and there is a definitive buzz and anticipation for launch. The context around the way Nilaam’s name is mentioned makes it obvious that it is spam-bait and turns your potential traffic away.

    If a handful of commenters here, e.g., were able to do a few quick google searches and find many reasons to dislike a firm, it doesnt matter if that firm is #1 on google results. People will do their research before choosing to adopt systems.

    Just my thoughts.

  • MacDeveloper

    I agree 100%. I was commenting from the ‘other side’. Just to add to your comments, I think that if I was to shop using nilaam (i.e., give my credit card details etc.) I would first like to see who’s running the site, I’ll try to do some background research before i actually do a transaction. Now if we search nilaam on google, we definitely see a lot of spam which makes me/anyone think that it’s a shady business. So you are right, it does harm business more than it benefits it.

  • And isnt it funny despite all this spamming and professional SEO and Press Releases, if you do a search for “Nilaam” G&W is the 3rd and 4th results?

  • Muhammad Asif

    New Media Realities that are already determining fate of several online and conventional businesses!

    The point is who understands it in time before its too late. I think for Nilaam it should be a shocker!

  • That is plain and simple emotional blackmail – with a few hundred thousand users gained trhough this campaign, they will easily be able to show false progress to their investors… reminds me of Quark from Deep Space 9 who used the EXACT technique more than once :D

    *curses youtube for removing the series from their servers today :-/*

  • salman

    looks like lootmaar is going to make it very hard for to be really the #1 auction website .. just saw at the lootmaar website that our Jawwad from Alchemya is on auction :)

    check it out here

    i like the spirit of lootmaar people ..

    best of luck to them.

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