Harvard Business Review warns to proceed with caution

Crowdsourcing has become an active part of online campaigns and social media. With companies continuously searching for ways to improve their online presence, some have begun offering free products, discounts or even payments to people with large social media followings in exchange for reviews. While this may seem like a good idea, Harvard Business Review cautions companies to consider the potential consequences.

The article “Crowdsourcing: Paying for Online Reviews Can Backfire” in the September-October 2017 issue of Harvard Business Review demonstrates how crowdsourcing can have adverse effects. A Chinese company offered people a 25-cent credit for each review they wrote. To the company’s surprise, the number of reviews went down 30 percent in the following month. Why did this happen? Researchers blame social disapproval; they found that people are uncomfortable receiving payment for reviews because they fear criticism from their followers and friends.

Here are the pros and cons to crowdsourcing:

Pro: Get a boost from online influencers.

Today, online influencers are popping up everywhere, and some have amassed millions of followers and subscribers. A great way to increase paid reviews is to find an influencer whose views support your company’s beliefs and whose followers fit your target audience. If the influencer fits these criteria and agrees to write a review for your company, a hefty proportion of your target audience could see information about your product. According to Linquia’s The State of Influencer Marketing Survey, 94 percent of those who used influencer tactics found them effective.

Pro: Save time.

When you do it correctly, crowdsourcing can save you a chunk of time. If users with a large following are leaving reviews, their many followers are hearing about your company and products through them. Rather than having to dedicate time on promotional material, you’ll be able to spend this time working on other areas of your business.

Con: You have little control over the outcome.

Samples, discounts and payments are costly. With a paid review, you can’t be sure what you will get. For example, what happens if your payment results in a bad review, or if the reviewer writes great reviews only to milk more offers from your company? While more reviews of a product may help your company, just be sure to ask yourself if paid reviews are the best way to get them.

Con: Reviewers endure disapproval from their followers.

Most people don’t want criticism or to have their motives questioned. Reviews are meant to be a person’s honest opinion of a product or service. When a person is paid for a review, people begin to wonder whether that review is still honest. A quick Google search of “paid reviews” results in lists of companies that will pay for reviews, with some even directing you on how to get away with fake reviews for money. While some companies do benefit from offering discounts or free samples of products, just be sure your company is paying for honesty.

While crowdsourcing reviews can be helpful, it can also be detrimental. Before you begin, be sure to sit down with your team and discuss what works best for your company.

ReviewMaxer is a great tool for your business to collect and manage your customers’ online reviews. You can also post or stream positive reviews directly to your website and social media channels. Watch our free demo today to see how easily and efficiently you can protect and improve your online reputation.

Photo credit: Pablo

Written by: Kelly Delgado

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