The era of the disingenuous recommendation

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We live in a time when peoples’ opinions have become suspect.

I was just looking through my Amazon wishlist and noticed a pattern. Most of the marketing-oriented books have five-star reviews. I remember the launches of a few of those books. There was the push to drive the book to #1 on Amazon through concerted effort and orchestrated buying. There were the incentivized reviews. There’s the good ol’ boy network (fellow authors of marketing books) scratching each other’s backs.

But if you weren’t privy to these marketing events, you would just believe this is one damn good book. And maybe it is. But, then again, maybe the reviewers never even read it. Maybe they even reviewed it on the day they ordered it from Amazon. Or in lieu of buying it.

The state-of-the-art in Internet Marketing these days is to set up product “review” sites that contain affiliate links to go buy the product. How pure are these reviews? Do you really need to ask?

The really cutting-edge marketers create AdWords campaigns that feign negative or controversial reviews. Click on these links thinking you’re going to get the real “dirt” on a product, and you find, surprise, surprise, that they didn’t like the color of the cover but loved the product, or something equally informative.

eBay feedback often looks like “Awesome seller!!!! Fantastic Value!!!! A++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++” for the purchase of a $5 iPod cable.

Your MLM friends and family will tell you how you’ve just got to get into this opportunity, when they haven’t made a penny and have alienated everyone within earshot.

With more and more recommendations these days, there comes a perk for the recommender. Word-of-mouth has been co-opted to the point that you can’t trust it. You need to scrutinize not only the review, but the reviewer, and the incentive for the review.

Beware the ulterior motive.

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