Gone are the days when social media was guaranteed organic. When you could count on feedback and opinions being the genuine article, and when a friend gave a good product review it was because they stood behind the product. Gone are the days when you talked all your friends into liking your page and writing you good reviews. Now, if you want it, you can buy it.
Want Facebook Likes? Go buy them.
Want Twitter followers? Go buy them.
Want Youtube views? Go buy them.
If someone can like it, follow it, watch it, or somehow boost a number by simply clicking a button then you can buy the button click.
These popularity buys have been empty numbers, meaning they are often bots or people being paid pennies to click your like button. They are not real fans. They do not care about you, your page, your product. They will not buy what you are selling, read your posts, tell their friends about it or comment…or will they?
The newest trend in buying popularity is buying reviews. Restaurants have be “faking” reviews for a while now by writing positive reviews for their restaurants on review sites. Often times their reviews were relatively transparent, especially if their glowing review was the only really good review in a sea of mediocre or bad reviews. But now there is a way around that.
Companies are paying people to write good reviews on sites like yelp.com or tripadvisor.com. They buy these good reviews from a company, and that company goes and writes a number of positive reviews on the review sites. The reason for this is due to the success of crowd sourcing.
Crowd sourcing has been a powerful byproduct of social media. Ask about a restaurant, store, product and hear what your friends have to say. Basically turn to the crowd to see what they like. This word of mouth advertising is the primary power of social marketing. But with being able to buy that crowd sourcing, will it lose its effectiveness?
According to a new study, by 2014 10-15% of online reviews will be bought. The FCC is trying to regulate these false testimonies, but will not likely be terribly successful. After all, how will they differentiate between real reviews and fake ones?
With an inability to effectively regulate false customer testimonies and an increase in purchased testimonies, will people continue to rely as heavily on online reviews as they have in the past? Will sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor lose their relevance? Likely not. People will still turn to these sites to see what customers have said, because even if 15% of the reviews are bought, the other 85% are real.
Of course, while a company can buy itself good reviews, what is to stop them from buying bad reviews for a competitor?
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