As more consumers rely on social networks for recommendations and reviews, more and more of that content, including likes on Facebook, is being paid for by brands, with a report from research firm Gartner projecting that 10 percent to 15 percent of social media ratings and reviews will be fake by 2014, going as far as to predict that the Federal Trade Commission will bring litigation against at least two Fortune 500 companies for such conduct over the next two years.
According to Gartner, the FTC ruled in 2009 that paying for positive reviews without disclosing that payment qualifies as deceptive advertising.
Senior Research Analyst Jenny Sussin said:
With more than one-half of the Internet’s population on social networks, organizations are scrambling for new ways to build bigger follower bases, generate more hits on videos, garner more positive reviews than their competitors, and solicit likes on their Facebook pages. Many marketers have turned to paying for positive reviews with cash, coupons, and promotions, including additional hits on YouTube videos, in order to pique site visitors’ interests in the hope of increasing sales, customer loyalty, and customer advocacy through social media “word-of-mouth” campaigns.
Organizations engaging in social media can help to promote trust by openly embracing both positive and negative reviews and leveraging negative reviews as a way to encourage customers with positive product or service experiences to share them on review sites, as well. They should also respond to ratings and reviews in an official capacity to demonstrate willingness to engage in productive conversation with anyone.
And Gartner Analyst and Vice President Ed Thompson added:
Marketing, customer service, and IT social media managers looking to use reviews, fans, and likes to improve their brand’s reputation on social media must beware of the potential negative consequences on corporate reputation and profitability. Chief marketing officers will need to weigh the longer-term risks of being caught and the associated fines and damage to reputation and balance them against the short-term potential rewards of increased business and the prevailing common business practice in their market, often regardless of ethics.
Readers: Do these findings from Gartner make you think twice about trusting reviews and recommendations on social networks, including Facebook?
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