Consumers are increasingly relying on online reviews of products and services before they buy. They may assume that the comments are originating from shoppers just like them. But, a significant number are from paid reviewers and marketers may want to reconsider their use of these types of comments in the future.
Many online marketers find themselves competing in a numbers game with respect to digital marketing. They need more hits on their sites, more videos watched and more ‘likes’ in order to appear popular with shoppers. One way to generate activity is to solicit positive reviews with promises of discounts or even cash payments. The need to show ‘likes’ is so important that analysts believe between 10–15% of these reviews will be fake by 2014.
This activity has caught the attention of the Federal Trade Commission. Gartner, Inc. recently reported that the FTC will take action against at least a couple of Fortune 500 companies because of deceptive advertising. The rules are clear. In these instances, marketers must disclose that they have compensated their endorsers.
Gartner analysts say marketers could be better served by working with reputation management firms that pay close attention to negative and defaming reviews and ask these people to remove them. In fact, the growth picture for reputation management companies is currently strong.
If the industry moves toward a more open environment of dealing with both positive and negative reviews, consumers would become more trusting of the information they find on social media sites in the future and everyone would win. For now, Ed Thompson, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner, emphasizes that CMOs should pay close attention to how far they are willing to go in terms of crossing the line to get reviews versus facing potential fines and public backlash.[Source: Gartner Says By 2014, 10–15 Percent of Social Media Reviews to Be Fake, Paid for By Companies. Gartner.com. 17 Sept. 2012. Web. 24 Sept. 2012]