Friday 30 August, 2013

The Social Proof Is in the Pudding – How to Spot Fake Testimonials

Social proof is an important concept in marketing. What it means is that if the potential customer sees that others have enjoyed a product or service, they’re more likely to buy it themselves. This is why we use testimonials and reviews to help sell products online. This is a very powerful technique.

Unfortunately, social proof is widely abused by marketers who hire writers to write fake reviews and testimonials. You can pay someone $5 on sites like to write your phony social proof for you and then put them on Yelp, Amazon or other popular review websites. This practice has become so widespread that it’s hurting consumer confidence online.

Here are a few ways to tell that a review or testimonial you’re reading might be fake.

Research the Reviewer

Check out the writer of the review. See what other products they’ve reviewed and what they’ve said about them. If they’ve reviewed every kind of product under the sun and there’s no common thread, and each of these reviews says pretty much the same thing, this is a definite warning sign. If they’ve left no other reviews, this could also mean they’re fake.

All Good or All Bad

If the review is completely positive or negative, this could be a warning sign. Most reviewers try to give a balanced opinion that includes the good points as well as bad points of a product.

One technique you’ll see with negative reviews is customerjacking. This is a negative review about a product that ends by saying that they recommend this one instead, with a link to another product. The review was actually written by this other product’s company.

Language Matters

Does the reviewer talk the way a normal person would? Because after all, these are supposed to be everyday folks like you and me. If they use marketing terms or their language sounds like a late-night infomercial, it’s probably a promotional review.

You may also be tipped off by a personal story or anecdote that’s simply too well written. Marketers hire professional writers to write their fake reviews sometimes, so watch out for a review with too many fiction chops.

Marketers also hire the cheapest virtual labor possible and this usually comes from the third world. If a review is written by Bob from Michigan but makes mistakes with ‘the’ and ‘a’ or its plurals, it’s probably not written by Bob from Michigan.

A Few Other Hints

There are a few other things you can look at. One is the date. If the review was written before the product was released (a sloppy bit of black-hat work if ever there was any!), or if the review was written too soon for the customer to have enjoyed the product, watch out.

You may also be able to see that the link has a tracking affiliate code added to it. This is a code that marketers use to determine the source of their revenue. A clever marketer will cloak it, but sometimes they won’t and you can see it by simply hovering the cursor over it.

How to Get Real Reviews

It’s unbelievable that people are still using fake reviews. But if you have a good product, you don’t need fake reviews. All you need to do is ask a satisfied customer and maybe offer them a little incentive for their honest opinion.

Bob Steele

Bob Steele is an entrepreneur, software developer, marketer, and author living in the Denver metropolitan area. He’s an avid outdoorsman who loves skiing, hiking, fishing, boating, and just plain having fun. His interests include games, space, technology, physics, cooking (well eating actually), economics, business, internationalism, and team sports. With over thirty years of professional consulting experience, Bob has been exposed to many diverse business models and has gained a sensible approach to life. Bob’s company, WaveCentric is focused on commerce, marketing, and entertainment related products.

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