Don’t Believe the Reviews: Fake Social Interactions On the Rise

According to a new report by Gartner, fans, likes, and reviews are quickly becoming less trustworthy — and could lead to Federal Trade Commission (FTC) action.

Need a lot of followers on your Twitter account, or maybe a few hundred thousand more views on your latest YouTube video? Don’t take the easy way out.

Gartner Research, a leading information technology research firm, says a growing number of companies and firms are paying for fake reviews or social media interactions in an effort to build buzz for their brands.

A couple examples of how this might look:

Fake likes: In an effort to raise the reputation of their organizations, some online entities may pay money for fake likes or followers. Recently, presidential candidate Mitt Romney faced criticism for a sudden surge in fake Twitter followers.

Phony reviews: Beyond the growth of fake Yelp reviews for restaurants, some companies, such as the online marketing firm IZEA, have taken to connecting businesses with bloggers or other influential online presences in an effort to build buzz around a product or brand. Bloggers are supposed to reveal that they were paid for the presence, but not all do.

Gartner says if you’re caught, your reputation might take a hit.

“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,” says Ed Thompson, the firm’s vice president.

The Danger of Going Fake

Let’s say you use methods like these to help build up your social media reputation, despite Thompson’s warning. What’s the downside? Well, Gartner researchers think it’s possible the FTC may sue multiple Fortune 500 companies over the next two years.

Why? Back in 2009, the FTC passed rules forcing disclosure for positive reviews online. In fact, they have a full document explaining what this means.

“If it’s clear that what’s on your site is a paid advertisement,” the FTC wrote, “you don’t have to make additional disclosures. But what’s clear to you may not be clear to everyone visiting your site, and the FTC evaluates ads from the perspective of reasonable consumers.”

Would you consider spending money to boost your association’s reputation, knowing the consequences? Throw a comment below.

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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