Study: Influential Customers Think User Reviews are Planted

yelp.jpgIn an earlier post, we discussed how companies rely on online reputation management resources to stack the user review deck in their favor -- essentially hiding negative feedback. According to a new study, some of the most influential consumers believe companies are guilty of manipulating reviews through other means, as well.

PR firm Burson-Marsteller surveyed 1,000 influential consumers and found that an increasing number of them believe fake reviews and positive comments left by corporations are prevalent and problematic. The study revealed that 30 percent of consumers are concerned, up from 20 percent in 2001. Fifty-seven percent said they'd be less likely to buy a product if they suspected the company paid someone to leave a positive review.

Marketers depend on "e-fluentials" -- people who influence their social network's purchasing habits and decisions -- to interest others in their product. But most of these people aren't on board with the whole compensation-for-recommendation idea. That doesn't mean they don't want to use their influence; they just have other motivations -- such as an honest interest in offering helpful information.

Ame Wadler, chief strategic officer at Burson, says companies can feel free to leave reviews, so long as they do so honestly:

"There's no rocket science here: transparency matters. Those entities that are the most transparent and say, 'It's us and we're proud of what we're saying,' do far better than those organizations that don't reveal themselves."
Related Reading:

Hotel Reviews Online: In Bed with Hope, Half-Truths and Hype
Fake Customer Reviews, Bad Product Reviews: What to Do?
(Yelp image courtesy of Fantt, cc 2.0)