10-15% of online reviews will be paid for by companies in 2013

By on September 17, 2012, 6:00 PM

Research firm Gartner reports that corporate spending on positive social media ratings and reviews will continue to swell by 2014. The expected result is a 10 to 15 percent increase in paid-for ratings and reviews, making the web an increasingly hostile landscape for uninformed consumers.

It may be important to note that not all paid-for reviews are blatant lies -- there are some shades of gray. Often times, companies will tempt customers with coupons, samples or other forms of compensation to leave ratings and reviews (good or not) -- a practice which review sites like Yelp frown upon. The problem with this approach is companies are more likely to solicit customers who will leave good feedback than bad, while the incentives themselves tend to color feedback with a positive glow. However, Gartner doesn't explicitly mention how it weighs such reviews, if at all.

Although a higher concentration of dubious reviews seem imminent, Gartner believes increased consumer awareness of the issue will result in legal trouble for at least two Fortune 500 companies by 2014. The research firm doesn't mention which companies those may be, but in recent years, the FTC has shown initiative in spreading offline "truth in advertising" values to the online world as well.

It's difficult to overstate the power of online reviews. Last year, this Cornell study found that negative online reviews can dissuade shoppers from making a purchase 80 percent of the time. 

Fortunately for consumers though, Cornell researchers have also been developing automated ways of parsing reviews to identify fakes. In fact, they claim to have done so with up to 90 percent accuracy. That's a remarkable feat when you consider that this study indicates people can only spot fake reviews about half the time.

Personally, consumer reviews do weigh heavily on some of my own purchasing decisions, particularly on items for which I don't have a clearly defined opinion. How about you?




User Comments: 12

Got something to say? Post a comment
2 people like this | TomSEA TomSEA, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

I check out user reviews I'd say on 95% of my purchases. Especially computer games. That has saved me from buying duds like DAII and Mafia 2. I also frequently review my purchases trying to provide as honest assessment as I can knowing others will be counting on what I say for their own purchases.

And it's quite easy to detect which positive one's have been submitted by paid-for consumers, employee's, family members, etc. Half of those don't even make any sense because they've never even used the product to begin with.

gamoniac said:

I rely on online reviews quite a bit for my purchases, and am aware of paid reviews. They are usually (not always) overly generic.

Did the study say how corporates might split their funding on fake positive reviews vs fake negative reviews to harm competitors? Or perhaps the latter is the dark side of advertising whose data is hard to collect?

H3llion H3llion, TechSpot Paladin, said:

I usually check forums, videos and few other places for reviews. In the end, you will have to see what the general community on the forums says about the product and work out the average, little more work but you can be sure that most times the reviews will be "honest".

Lurker101 said:

10-15% of online reviews will be paid for by companies in 2013

So you mean the amount of 'paid for' reviews will be going down?

3 people like this | amstech amstech, TechSpot Enthusiast, said:

This is very true.

Go to forums for real opinions by proven members of that community, most forums have a feedback or rep rating to score helpful comments.

3 people like this | ghasmanjr ghasmanjr said:

If I'm going to purchase a computer part, I use Newegg's reviews to determine by decision. I will only trust the reviews that have the Newegg check mark with a tag that says "Verified Owner". If the gpu/mobo/whatever in question has great reviews, then I'll purchase the part from where ever I find the best deal (usually Newegg anyway)

BlueDrake said:

If I'm going to purchase a computer part, I use Newegg's reviews to determine by decision. I will only trust the reviews that have the Newegg check mark with a tag that says "Verified Owner". If the gpu/mobo/whatever in question has great reviews, then I'll purchase the part from where ever I find the best deal (usually Newegg anyway)

It's hard usually for the average person, to be hassled to even check for that. Often I tend to read and re-read a review, then weigh it in with the others. Problem is with some items usually is, it might be dated hardware or lacking reviews at all. So it's a weighing the odds kind of gamble, that many people don't wish to do.

So I often consider at least, checking reviews on forums or other sources. Get the feeling from all the sources, weigh it with your own thoughts also. Given there might be some biased people, who simply dislike something in general. Especially in those 1 to 10 review scenarios, where nobody is a verified owner.

I enjoy people commenting though, if it's not an obvious fake review. Some people might purchase elsewhere, but wish to give their thoughts on NewEgg, etc also. Just to shed some light on their experiences.

treetops treetops said:

I check reviews on nearly everything I buy online. When I first purchased online I assumed customer reviews were fake, came to find out they seemed legit. Now 7 years later they are going the way of my original suspicion. That's annoying, I love online customer reviews, if this keeps up I will just start looking at nothing but negative reviews. But then they will start making fake watered down neg reviews to flood out real complaints. Bastards.

Guest said:

Mafia 2 was a great game

Tygerstrike said:

Dont you just love looking at reviews. You can tell the fakes by the wording and the fact that normally they have no real clue as to what they are raving about.

TJGeezer said:

I almost always check the user reviews before buying parts or any kind of gear. Also the forums if it's a big purchase. But since I rarely buy at the top of the technology curve but rather from the middle to lower middle, the stuff I buy has usually been debugged and finding user comments is rarely a problem at Newegg. I also check user reviews when buying ebooks. They're a lot more informative than the publishers' blurbs and I have stumbled upon some very good new writers that way. But I do take both book reviews and Newegg user reviews with a grain of salt since everyone knows how valuable mostly positive review can be.

NTAPRO NTAPRO said:

I check out user reviews I'd say on 95% of my purchases. Especially computer games. That has saved me from buying duds like DAII and Mafia 2. I also frequently review my purchases trying to provide as honest assessment as I can knowing others will be counting on what I say for their own purchases.

And it's quite easy to detect which positive one's have been submitted by paid-for consumers, employee's, family members, etc. Half of those don't even make any sense because they've never even used the product to begin with.

Whats wrong with Mafia 2?

Load all comments...

Add New Comment

TechSpot Members
Login or sign up for free,
it takes about 30 seconds.
You may also...
Get complete access to the TechSpot community. Join thousands of technology enthusiasts that contribute and share knowledge in our forum. Get a private inbox, upload your own photo gallery and more.