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Zur Zeit wird gefiltert nach: Stephanie Bogue
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Stephanie´s Ramblings - Cheating the Game: Fake Reviews and “Astroturfing”

posted on 9 October 2013 by Stephanie Bogue

The Game

The game is e-commerce.  It is you versus all of your competitors at once. The playing field is the internet and the fans are your customers.  They are either rooting for you with positive reviews or against you with negative ones.  Needless to say, it is tough out there.  When a business receives a negative review, it can sway the outcome of the game.  And vice versa, when a business receives positive reviews, well then it could win the game of sales or popularity.  There are many games throughout the years and it is difficult to stay in the top tier.  But, what if the games are rigged.  What if people have been paid off to write either negative reviews about your competition or glowing reviews about your business?  In the world of e-commerce, this behavior is called “astroturfing” and shows its face in the form of fake reviews.  Many businesses have resorted to cheating the review system and the trend has only gained intensity since customer reviews provide such a heavy impact on the success or failure of an online business.  

I don´t think it is a secret that most fake reviews are submitted to popular review sites (like Yelp) and business comparison platforms.  The reason for this and the problem, in my opinion, is that these review systems are a bit flawed.  Basically, anyone that opens an account can leave a review, whether or not they were an actual customer.  So, the review sites have become the middleman between you and your disgruntled customers. The idea behind these review websites was to be neutral and transparent. Sounds good, right?  However, all the power then belongs to this middleman, the review site, as to what to do with the positive or negative reviews.  The horror stories can begin here for businesses as I have heard of instances where bad reviews put a bullseye on your business as a potential customer to these review websites to hide or move negative reviews for a monthly fee.  And, with the great influence review sites have over the general population, many potential customers turn to them and make decisions on what they see there.

Fake Reviews

But, back to the more basic problem, your business has negative reviews. What can you do about it?  

Many businesses have turned to the dark side when faced with negative online reviews.  They have either attempted to flush out their negative reviews by creating fake accounts and posting fake positive reviews or damaged the reputation of competitors with fake negative reviews or both. Some do this themselves while others hire out and pay to have this kind of work done for them.  And many businesses, both big and small, have resorted to this cowardly behavior.   

Unfortunately, it doesn´t stop there.  The SEO companies have also given into lesser business practices. Since e-commerce has boomed, SEO consultants and companies have also.  My initial thought was great, there are experts out there to help, right?  I was surprised to read a recent article where 19 businesses (most of them SEO companies) were busted in a New York sting operation for solving the problem of negative reviews by either writing fake ones or hiring people to do it for them (read more here).  

I guess the silver lining here is that there are operations and organizations at work to expose “astroturfing” and heavy fines were slapped on the companies that provided fake reviews as a remedy to dealing with a negative review problem.  Even the review sites are tightening up their belts as they attempt to filter out suspicious reviews (read more here). However, I find it interesting that both fake reviews and trust in customer reviews are on the rise together.   


My advice is to manage your own feedback system yourself or with a reliable third party and learn how to manage negative feedback.  If at all possible, try to ensure only your customers are able to review your service. This is your real bread and butter.  Review websites are popular and do have a huge impact on businesses everywhere, but I wonder if their power and influence will begin to dwindle as the problem of fake reviews only gets worse.  For now, the best way to deal with review websites is to create a vendor account and login to make comments on both negative and positive reviews you that are there.  This shows you are actively listening and responding.  In the big game of maintaining a thriving and growing business, transparency and playing by the rules of customer feedback will take you far.   



Stephanie BoguePermalinkKommentare 0
Tags: customer reviews, fake reviews, seo, sem, negative review, negative reviews, fake review, marketing
Views: 211

Stephanie´s Ramblings - Online Video and the Need for Speed

posted on 2 October 2013 by Stephanie Bogue

When I say online videos, you think YouTube.  It is only natural.  Since YouTube´s birth in 2005, it has been the Godzilla of the online video world.  Over the years, I must say, that my viewing of random videos people post has become a bit of a guilty pleasure.  On cold and rainy days, when I need a pick me up, I head on over to YouTube for a video of baby boars being mothered by a French bulldog (right here outside of Berlin), a bear breaking into a chocolate shop, a dog going down a waterslide, or people in their office doing the Harlem shake.  However, this weekend whilst indulging in some YouTube watching, I noticed many amateur YouTube videographers do not know when to say cut.  Quite a few times, I would watch a video that went three or four minutes past its prime.  And, while attempting some at home weightlifting, I got a bit annoyed when I felt the girl leading me through my bicep curls got a little too wrapped up in her motivational speech between reps.  I guess this made me think about the rich flow of information we all take in everyday and our lack of tolerance for anything that isn´t short, concise and to the point.  So, how is the online video world changing to address the issue of brevity?


Have you heard of Vine?  Vine was started and sold to twitter all within a few months in 2012.  Vine is an app that lets its users shoot looping videos of only 6 seconds.  To be sure, this is not even enough time to turn a camera on, right?  However, I am shocked by what I have seen.  Users have been incredibly creative with what they can cram into just a few seconds.  And, marketers are getting more and more to the point with vine videos.  Now that I have a bit of Vine fever, I have been scanning Vine Videos to see what sort of content is there.  So far, I have seen the cookie monster saying no to veggies, quick how-to-videos from home improvement stores, contests put on by big brands for brand advocates (like you) to send them your best Vine video, behind the scenes footage of events, previews of new products, and fun office videos of how employees spend their breaks.  Also, a big perk is that you can use hashtags to categorize and search for topics, which helps when you come into Vine as a marketer rather than a regular user.  Originally, Vine was only available to Apple users, but this summer they made a new and improved version for Android users as well.  Vine gets a lot of credibility and support from being a part of Twitter and with user numbers are already so high, advertising through this channel seems like a cost-effective way to be hip and modern.  Why not? It is only 6 seconds!  (See some examples here)


I think it is worth noting that Instagram (owned by Facebook) has also added video as a feature this summer.  And, as they already have quite a massive following from their photo-sharing mainstay feature, the idea of online video is naturally working for them as well.  Their twist is that videos can be up to 15-seconds and there are filter and editing options.    

Which one?

As the race continues, Instagram and Vine are running neck and neck in terms of popularity.  So, with there being more options out there for video, how do businesses know which one to use?  What is the difference between a 6-second video and a 15-second video? (Read and see more here)  I, personally, have fallen for Vine.  The videos are short to the point and may even leave you wanting more or on the ground laughing.  A well-made Vine video is simply just a very small idea caught on film, that is it.  I get the sense that this could be something fun for offices everywhere as anyone could capture a few seconds of video worth sharing.  In addition, the tie to Twitter lends to a more promising future for me.  Finally, Vine´s ability to embed into websites (fb and twitter) may make it easier for their videos to be viewed and I am a huge fan of the looping feature.  I think in the battle of the online video trends, Vine comes off as the most fun, fashionable, and clear.  For sure, Instagram will continue to be a good competitor and YouTube will remain the video giant for now.  But, perhaps there is enough room for all as the popularity of short clips and video continues to soar.  So, as our attention spans get shorter and shorter, is 6 seconds enough for you to get the message?



Stephanie BoguePermalinkKommentare 0
Tags: online video, vine, online videos, marketing, social media, advertisement
Views: 350

Stephanie´s Ramblings - Online Impulse Buying Expansion: Flash Sale Idea Moves into a Feature for All Websites?

posted on 18 September 2013 by Stephanie Bogue

This week’s blog was inspired by my desire to get in shape this fall/winter and join a gym.  It is starting to get cold here in Berlin, and what little exercise I did before outside will have to be moved indoors. I conducted online research about the gyms in my neighborhood and asked friends about where they were members.  I read reviews, looked at photos, fitness class schedules and ensured the gyms I was interested in had a sauna (rewards are important for hard workouts).  Just when I thought it would be a great idea to walk out the door and tour my top three gyms, I went to one more website, “Groupon”.  Back in the USA a few years ago, I frequented daily deal websites to scan what new experiences were offered in my hometown and to see if I could get a discounted price on things I already purchased such as the occasional massage or dinner deals at my favorite restaurants.  Here in Berlin, I have not logged on to Groupon once.  On my first go, as luck would have it, the featured deal was a 3-month gym membership for €30.  As I didn´t want to get locked into a contract and this appeared to be a great way to give the gym a trial run, I added this option to the ones I was already considering.  I took a glance at the time ticking away on the deal, I had 2 days left to decide.  Within that same day, I logged back on to Groupon and clicked to purchase.  After that, I got two more friends to buy the same deal.  After all, you need buddies to go to the gym with.  

Impulse Buying

This made me consider how impulse buying has moved online.  Back in February, I conducted a little study with a colleague for a project.  Essentially, we sent out an old impulse buying survey from 1995 to around 30 people to see how they viewed the purchases they made and what kind of buyers they thought they were.  Our main finding was that no one pinned themselves as an impulse buyer.  And, our biggest takeaway from this little study was that we are all liars and impulsive buyers!  Now, shoppers are being tracked through surveillance as you can imagine the empty results impulse buying research yielded when relying on people to be honest about impulse, which is by definition something we as humans have no control over.  Since the days of not so long ago, retailers have invested money into in-store tracking cameras and product placement and this surveillance translates online into heat maps to see where your eyes go first on webpages, what items you click on, and when you abandon your shopping cart.  

Flash-sale websites 

But, flash sale sites and member-only websites made a no nonsense move in 2007 and brought the simple idea of an online impulse buy, plain and simple.  Here is a clock, it is ticking, buy it now or in the next 72 hours or never.  This was the big transition from making the impulsive candy bar purchase while waiting in line at the supermarket to making an impulse purchase in the online world.  The timing was perfect as the economy tanked in 2008 and the desire to save a few bucks was on everyone´s mind.  These companies (Groupon, Living Social, Gilt, Ruelala, etc.) saw extreme growth.  The idea was a huge success.  And, once you get sucked in, make a purchase, and have a pleasant experience, shoppers come back to do it all over again.  Since my gym membership purchase, I think I have been back to Groupon´s website everyday despite my two-year absence. 

New Trend?

Although flash deal websites have struggled on an international level to see the success they saw in the USA and the hype has mellowed out a bit, the main idea of online impulse purchasing is still a good one.  Now, more and more businesses are looking to add this feature to their own website for a higher CTR or to unload overstocked items for a reduced price (read more here).  Why not?  The beauty of the flash deal is that it gets you to purchase now or in the next few days.  For me, the desire for something I want to buy on the internet can die when I log off the page and then forget what and where that thing I wanted so badly was.  Flash sales keep an image burned into my brain and the 2-3 day sale time is just contained enough to keep my short attention span on its toes. My advice however, is to keep flash sales special and deeply discounted.  My fear is that a flash sale will become a regular sale and a regular sale sometimes is not a sale at all really.  So, will we see this trend continue?  Will more online businesses go this route? What does the impulse buyer inside of you think?

Stephanie BoguePermalinkKommentare 0
Tags: marketing, flash sale, members only, impulse buying, impulse purchase
Views: 362
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Wie immer
24.09.2013 14:11
Danke für den lexikalischen Hinweis
05.09.2013 18:03
Grosses Potential - Für mehr "anfassbaren E-Commerce"
05.09.2013 10:48
05.09.2013 09:15

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