We recently posted a story discussing whether fake “user” reviews posted to social media and retail sites on behalf of clients could be considered acceptable PR tools. The overwhelming response we received from PR professionals strongly hinted at a critical consensus: While the practice is somewhat common, it is never OK.
Gerard F. Corbett, Chairman and CEO of the Public Relations Society of America, even weighed in to state unequivocally that posting reviews under fake names is unethical and should not be tolerated by any respectable PR organization.
Unfortunately, researchers behind a newly released Gartner study believe that the practice will only continue to grow despite our ethical quandaries. It’s a bit of a chicken-egg scenario: As consumers conduct more of their research and shopping online, positive social media reviews will become more and more important to brands—and in the rush to establish and expand a product’s online reputation, quite a few individuals will end up breaking the rules. (Researchers place the percentage of fake reviews at 10-15% by 2014.)
According to Gartner, someone will pay for cheating—and soon.