March 6th, 2019

To Buy or Not to Buy: the Reality of Purchased Reviews

by Katelynn Watkins

How do you decide which new product or service to test out? Maybe you receive a recommendation from a professional in the field. Sometimes an ad pops up on your screen or in your social media feed and you click “learn more.”

And in other cases, word-of-mouth is the best tip you can get, even if that info comes from someone you don’t know. Review sites and outlets make it possible for you to learn more about what others think after working with this lawyer, or eating at that restaurant.

You can usually count on these customers to give an honest reflection from their points-of-view – even if that means that the review itself isn’t always complimentary – and use their experiences to decide whether or not you’ll invest your time and money in the same place.

But lately, there’s been a growing trend in businesses purchasing positive reviews for social media pages, or even Amazon listings. What does that do for a company’s credibility and its communication with customers and clients?

Authenticity versus volume

Yes, it would be nice if every one of your former customers or clients left you a glowing 5-star review on your Facebook page or Google listing. That way, you’d have plenty of feedback and the real testimonials to draw in others to your business. But when it comes to getting someone’s personal stamp of approval, more isn’t always better. Purchasing reviews will boost your numbers, but savvy internet users can spot the fake stuff from the get-go. So whether you have six reviews or 600, the real question that will matter the most for the average shopper is how authentic are they? Do they give an accurate representation of what it’s like to work with you, or buy your product? Or is it a generic amalgamation of praise that doesn’t say much at all?

Brand loyalty

In today’s market, especially among Millennials and Generations X and Y, the name of the game for any industry is establishing an open line of communication and a personal connection between customer and favorite brands. It’s been shown that modern consumers tend to foster loyalty to brands they feel they can trust, and that allow themselves to be humanized. Purchasing positive reviews, rather than earning them the old-fashioned way, has the exact opposite effect, and can often alienate your current clients as well as the potential ones. When they see that you opted to put generic, unauthenticated feedback out there for the world to see, it says that you either haven’t garnered any genuine notes from your clients, or that you feel the need to cover any bad press with generic compliments. Either way, it doesn’t exactly boost their confidence in the brand right off the bat.

Missed connections

Another drawback of purchasing reviews is that doing so actually robs you of the valuable opportunities you have to get in touch with your customers and learn their honest opinions about what your company’s doing right and what it could be doing differently to retain loyal fans. As tough as it can be to get the criticism, it’s your chance to get that raw insight and to learn from it. You aren’t doing your brand any favors by padding its reputation with sometimes misleading or vague pats on the back, because they aren’t necessarily a true reflection of the way your business is perceived or a window into the weaker spots upon which you could be improving.

The bottom line? You can’t take shortcuts and reap the long-term benefits of a strong reputation. If you want more reviews to improve your brand’s image, it’s far better to go out and earn them. And there are tons of ways to encourage your customers and social media followers to get on board and leave reviews: contests, incentives, or even just asking someone with whom you’ve had a positive working experience. And if you need some help putting a campaign together, contact Sage Island for pointers and an entire team ready to lend a hand!

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