Have you bought anything online recently? Off E bay, Amazon or any other large retail website? My guess is if your reading this blog the answer is most likely going to be yes. Now think back to that purchase, when differentiating what you were going to buy what was it that made you pick what you ended up purchasing? This could range from anything say personal taste, preference to brand or even the reviews and ratings left behind by fellow customers.
Now Ill be the first one to put my hand up and say that reviews and ratings make up a large part of my own decision making process when buying, especially when it comes from an online store. As part of the information search we all go through I find the opinions and ideas of fellow, more experienced customers invaluable when deciding on a purchase opportunity. I suppose its only natural, you want the best product available and in order to find that you look at those who have already purchased that kind of product to see what met their needs. The internet makes this kind of search all to easy with the knowledge and experience of others only a few clicks away and usually on the same page as the product you wish to buy. Seems like a perfect system, but what if its not?
The manipulation of reviews and ratings for products by those selling them is not a new concept, of that I’m sure. What is reasonably new however, is the ability for sellers to do this en masse and from seemingly legitimate sources online.
This week a video emerged on the internet showing the inner workings of a supposed China based “click farm” and how it works to boost product ratings.
The video if you haven’t seen it!
This farm in question supposedly boosts the ratings for apps on the apple store using its array of 10,000 devices to simulate legitimate customer reviews. Whether it be through ratings or just by the number of downloads, workers in this “farm” work tirelessly to make the apps of paying customers digitally popular. This isn’t their only trick though, they also work on Facebook liking pages with fake accounts, Twitter re-tweeting tweets and Google increasing website traffic.
What does this mean for the rest of us digital marketers though? Well obviously when coming up against tactics like this it makes it difficult for honest marketers to stand out in the online world. Initially these fake likes, ratings and re-tweets will probably be very successful for those who purchase them and dwarf out some legitimate sellers, pages and products but only for a time. Facebook, Google and Twitter all are constantly working on new algorithms and techniques for detecting suspicious activity on their platforms and removing the fake accounts responsible for it.
Additionally these likes and reviews do not substitute quality content and usually it is clear from the look of a product, page or account whether it contains content of any real value. Because of this it will not take long for legitimate consumers to figure the ruse and spread word of the trick. Therefore it becomes even more important for marketers to make sure their online offerings are full of quality content and exactly what consumers expect from them.
As a consumer you have a responsibility to yourself to thoroughly check the products you buy online to assess their legitimacy. Dont just look at one simple rating bar and decide thats good enough! Use a variety of sources to check whats real and filter out the farmed popularity. Keeping this in mind should keep you safe from these fraudsters and work to remove their power online!
What pages do you know that have bought fake likes? Seen any products with false ratings? Let me know in the comments and see you around the blog!
Some Interesting Links: