This is a guest post from Andy Sernovitz — CEO of WordofMouth.org and SocialMedia.org and New York Times bestselling author of “Word of Mouth Marketing: How Smart Companies Get People Talking.”
You’ve got a more important issue
Too often, incentives for reviews are used by lazy marketers who are avoiding a bigger problem: They’re just not doing anything remarkable enough to earn word of mouth. If you have to bribe people to say something nice about you, your money will do more for you if you invest it in making your product, your service, and your customer experience better.
Beloved companies don’t have to pay for recommendations
The most loved products and companies out there — the ones with glowing 5-star reviews? They didn’t buy those recommendations. They earned them with fantastic products and incredible service. That’s the stuff that gets your customers to tell other people about you — not coupons, cash, or free passes.
You can’t fake it
Consumers know the difference. When you incentivize reviews, sure, you may get more — but they’re never as genuine, as helpful, or as powerful as honest love from raving customers. Once they find out even some of your recommendations are fake, they won’t trust the real ones either.
And besides, it’s illegal
You quickly get into complicated legal water when you start incentivizing things like this, especially when you’re talking cash or gifts. The FTC has strict laws for disclosing who you work for, if you were paid, and if it’s an honest opinion. It’s just not worth risking an embarrassing fine and a ruined reputation — all for a few more reviews.