With too many self talks on internet forums that are mainly posted by companies owners and their marketing department, genuine prospects and consumers may not get the best review to support their buying decisions. Smart consumers are able to see through any signs of self talk on the internet. Hence, forum marketing today may not as effective as before.
Most online forums always have a special group of participants known as the “Astroturfers”. Astro-turfing is a taboo word in PR that is traditionally used in some ‘un-fabulous’ political campaigns in history. In this article, we will focus more on companies and business owners who pretended, in their multiple roles, to be their company’s loyal customers by putting up untrue positive reviews on internet forums about their products and branding.
Genuine consumers today, have to judge, with their instincts, the authenticity of the forum reviews posted from the “disguised consumers”. Forum administrators, on the other hand, will also need to be very objective in moderating comments on the forums and not to be biased towards any company or any brand. If there is an increasing number of biased forum administrators on the internet, we will definitely see a drop in the effectiveness of forum marketing today.
Here are 4 ways to help real consumers detect astro-turfing on internet forums.
#1 Use of Superlative Phrases
For example of such phrases are,
“I bought this sofa from YYT Furniture, when I rested on it, it’s feels so comfortable as if I’m in heaven!”
“The product is so amazing, I cannot believe it that I had slimmed down by 20 kg in only 3 months. Wow!”
“This product is so good that I want to recommend to all my friends.”
“At first, I am very skeptical about this money making software, until I installed it on my laptop. Amazingly, everyday all I need to do is just to click 5 times, and automatically I am on my way in making 5 figure income every single month! Unbelievable.”
Superlative phrases are usually kinda like ‘over the top’ and ‘too good to be true’ phrases . There are still many examples of superlative phrases out there on internet forums today; therefore, consumers need to be wise enough not to completely believe with the online statements until they have done their due diligence and research.
#2 Product Specialists
Sometimes on forums, you can also see that the disguised consumers are pretty much into the technical details. They would often address their own products by their specs, model names and features. A genuine consumer usually won’t do that.
#3 Attacking Competitors Product and Defending Ones Brand
Sometimes the astroturfer will go deeper by challenging his or her company product features against the competitors’. And then you will start to see the competitors’ astroturfers joining the debate by defending their features. Most competitors, while in their roles as ‘consumers’, will sometimes criticize one another on the forums about the bad features of the other product, the bad attitude of their rival’s staffs’ customer service and so.
The ‘fight’ will continue on non-stop since everyone thinks that their product is better than the rest. Hence, it is very tiring for the marketer to market and defend their brands on forums in this way. As the warfare between brands continue to bombard on forums each day, consumer confidence on the brands will also drop; people will begin to see that forums will no longer be a good place for consumers to look for ways to support their buying decisions on your brand.
#4 Buy Multiple Times
Sometimes, we can also see that a ‘consumer’ announces that he or she bought and used a number of products for a particular brand. People can actually see through this tactic easily, especially when the product is a big ticket item such as TV, furniture and such. This multiple times of buying different models of big ticket items from the same brand, will make the company and its brand un-authentic. Genuine consumers when they see through such tactics, will lose their trust on the company brand.
In summary, forum marketing can be useful, if you as the marketer for your brand, do it well by always thinking in the shoes of your customers of what do they expect to gain from the forum about your brand. As a forum administrator, try to be fair in moderating your threads. The administrator shouldn’t have any gains from supporting a particular company or brand. And as a real customer trying to find good information on the forums, be wise in making your buying decision from the countless self-talk by the astro-turfers on the forums.