The New York Times recently revealed what some of us have suspected for a while: not all the user reviews in social media are genuine.
In response, the mathematical geniuses and text analytics experts (and the occasional verbal identity consultant) are devising ways to catch out the social media fakers. But until then, what can we do? And if you had a brand, what would you dare to do, to game the system?
The paper reported that a manufacturer of cases for the Amazon Kindle was offering purchasers a 100% refund if they posted a review of the product on Amazon. Apparently, the offer was tucked in with the case when it was mailed out, and included a little note about how the company strives for “100% 5-star ratings.”
It was undeniably successful – the case had a 4.95-star rating within a couple of days.
Some people called it fraud. But was it?
I don’t think so. Here’s why.
There are two diagrams about social media that make a habit of showing our verbal identity clients at the start of every meeting, just because they capture what we all quickly forget.
Harvard Business Review - model of how social media has changed consideration
The Harvard Business Review case study is a modern classic and has two key findings, one obvious and the other sly and important. First, if you spent $10Million on above-the-line advertising yesterday, you can be knocked out of the race for consideration today because you brand’s social media profile stinks. The second thing, often overlooked, is that if you give your consumers the opportunity to comment about your brand at the moment of purchase, they often post favourable results…and become brand loyal.
I think that’s all that the manufacturer was doing on Amazon. I think they were cutting their own throat to do it, but I don’t think it was fraud.
Not everyone is equally engaged with your brand.
The second diagram we show is one of our own: the Pyramids of Engagement. The idea was inspired by some of the key work being done in the charitable sector.
But by using verbal identity and text analytics, we’ve been able to take things a step further. Not all consumers are equally engaged with your brand. Some are unaware of your existence; others are so passionate they leap in to defend your brand before you can. Most people are in-between. And there’s an observable distribution of people across the different layers, depending on the industry sector (most folk who’ve signed up for an internet broadband contract don’t bother talking about it; most people who’ve just bought a car have to tell someone, anyone!).
At Verbal Identity, we say that success in social media is moving people up a layer. All the manufacturer was doing was moving a whole chunk of people up from ‘aligned’ (they’d just bought into the brand’s values) to ‘leading’. It wasn’t fraud, but it was damn smart.
I’d love to know your thoughts on this, and if you had to give me a star rating, what would it be?