A Scenic Tour of the Online World

Big Names Still Don’t Get Social Media and Content Marketing

Tuesday, July 16th, 2013

I know not everyone gets content marketing, social media and the concept of developing a conversation with your customers, but to see that stunning lack of knowledge on display in the New York Times? Surprising, to say the least.

A “fascinating” new academic study explains why people might post “fake negative reviews, ” which the Times and the study’s authors think are so mysterious as to defy explanation.

These “fake” reviews are mysterious because unlike fake positive reviews written by fans of a business or writer (or the business/writer herself) the “fake” negative reviews in question are written by fans and customers of the businesses they’re reviewing.

(And I’m going to keep putting “fake” in quotes, because there’s nothing fake about these reviews.)

The study acknowledges that a portion – though smaller than expected – of the negative fakers who are trying to make themselves look good by making their competitors look bad.

But most are written by customers of the company in question who haven’t bought the particular product they’re reviewing. (The study is based on a single large apparel firm whose sales channels made for a relatively controlled experiment.)

“But what would motivate someone to write negatively about a product they haven’t even tried?” the professors ask, as if it really is a mystery.

Seriously? How about a desire to share their opinion with a brand they clearly care about that they feel is headed in the wrong direction with a particular product!

Really a stunning lack of insight on display, especially on these two points:

One of the study’s authors explains the whole mystery away like so: “For every thousand customers, only about 15 write these reviews — and one of them is writing negative reviews of products he hasn’t bought. How surprised should we be that one out of a thousand people do something we have trouble understanding?”

And even worse is the Times writer, who titles the article Why Web Reviewers Make Up Bad Things when it’s clear from the study examples he cites that the reviewers aren’t making anything up. They’re attempting to convey their opinions about a product, opinions that they can legitimately form without having bought the product.


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