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Reviews, Followers and Friends

by Miki Saxon

http://www.flickr.com/photos/birgerking/6875893248/Do you look for peer reviews, such as those on Yelp, Amazon and most consumer sites, before buying the product, visiting the restaurant or booking the hotel?

Before the Internet we asked our friends and checked critics’ comments in newspapers and magazines, in order to increase the odds for a favorable experience.

These days we check the Internet.

The wheels of online commerce run on positive reviews,” said Bing Liu, a data-mining expert at the University of Illinois, Chicago (…) Mr. Liu estimates that about one-third of all consumer reviews on the Internet are fake.

Consumer reviews are powerful because, unlike old-style advertising and marketing, they offer the illusion of truth. They purport to be testimonials of real people, even though some are bought and sold just like everything else on the commercial Internet.

Do rankings based on the number of followers people have influence your trust level or opinion of them? But how do you know they are real?

And it’s not just ego-driven blogger types. Celebrities, politicians, start-ups, aspiring rock stars, reality show hopefuls — anyone who might benefit from having a larger social media footprint — are known to have bought large blocks of Twitter followers.

Are you impressed when someone’s Facebook wall is filled with beautiful people?

They are for sale, too.

His idea, he said, was “to turn cyberlosers into social-networking magnets” by providing fictitious postings from attractive people. The postings are written by the client or by Mr. Walker and his employees, who base the messages on the client’s requests.

If having to choose between being a chump and a cynic isn’t up your alley, perhaps the best advice when it comes to reviews, followers and friends is ‘buyer beware’ and ‘if it seems to good to be true it probably is’.

Flickr image credit: birgerking

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