Fake beauty/skincare reviews? How do I spot them at work and how you can spot them on your own

Monday, 22 October 2018

Fake beauty/skincare reviews? How do I spot them at work and how you can spot them on your own

I had a small chat with Sharmili - the author of sharmtoaster about fake reviews online - something I have to deal every day at my work. Recently, someone leaked on Reddit an e-mail from one beauty brand to their staff about fake reviews. I'm not here to judge and tell you to buy or not the products from this brand since I believe you can make decisions on your own but I want to focus on the problem which I deal at work daily and which usually people that started working with me had at first - figuring out the line between fake and real content. 


What I'm doing in my life?

I work as a community manager, I do that for almost 5 years and I started as a volunteer. Even if I hate this job because daily you deal with small things like bugs or DDos attacks which I personally love and treat like a personalized gift because when DDos is happening all I do is refresh the page and if you don't know what does that mean I recommend you read an article on Mashable. But sometimes you have to deal with serious shit like breaking the law - people selling substances bad for your health like drugs, suicide attempts, domestic violence or human trafficking. The challenge is that you have to figure out which information is fake and which is real and if it's real information you have - you then spend overtime at the police station reporting everything, losing your time and health because it's not like your emotions are not involved, they are even if you don't know. Not to mention that you spend a couple hours on your butt in one place. Online spam is somewhere between bugs and law problems. Obviously, it's not all I do since I do reports, SEO and other stuff including sharing my knowledge with others. Why we try to catch every spam and by spam we do not only talk about penis enlargement pills but about a short review of a product - with a link to a website or not. You have to remember that the product might be not related to our business, for example, the brand I work for has its own online platform but they bought a skincare store and some brand hire an agency to make some noise about their new product - a lawnmower. Is lawnmower related to a skincare or similar platform to ours? Nope, but you try to promote your product without our permission and the one keyword - MONEY. 

Before you judge 

Before I tell you how to spot fake reviews I want to mention one thing - lots of companies - not ever company but some of them are trying to fuck a lot with your brain. I had a situation that my boss told me that I'm with a company or I have my own view on the situation and I'm not with them so I'll lose my job. Before you judge people doing stuff like writing fake reviews remember that sometimes they have no choice, the brands - especially the small new ones don't have a lot of choices too since even if we have Instagram now and good design + product can make lots of success just look at the current situation of Skinfood - getting to the larger audience or staying at one position for a long time and trying to gain more is not an easy thing but it doesn't mean that posting fake reviews is totally okay - it's not. 

Fake beauty/skincare reviews? How do I spot them at work and how you can spot them on your own

Is finding a fake review easy or had?

I read once on The Verge about research on Google Ads - do you believe that younger generations have problems with figuring out what's an ad and what's not an ad? Yes, it's really a thing. If you follow German influencers on Instagram you can see that almost every photo has a hashtag #werbung to the photo. Werbung means nothing else than an ad and according to what I heard from conversations with German bloggers and influencers they have to add this hashtag to every post with a visible brand name - I totally agree at one point with the reason. Think about an average mother, let's call her Anna. Anna doesn't want to make a career as an influencer but she uploads photos on Instagram because she wants to keep in contact with her family and friends, show them her life, etc. One day Anna decides to share a photo of her family breakfast with visible cottage cheese from a brand - let's call it a C-cheese - her intention is not to promote C-cheese but her friends get the signal, they see Anna's photo and next time when they are shopping and they want to buy a cottage cheese it might happen that Anna with her photo influenced a choice of her friends. I got myself with that later because while checking conditioners and hair mask from the brands I got a brand that all my friends and many bloggers rave about and I literally took my phone out and checked one blog I trust to see which conditioner the author of the blog recommend. For a brand - a post made by your non-influencer friend is also an 'ad' in some way. There's a thing as buzz marketing/word of mouth when it works like old tales when one person shares their tale with others and then it goes to next people and next people and we prefer to believe our friends or people on the Internet while making a choice than buy something recommended by the seller because we usually think that seller needs to sell us a product while people on the Internet or our friends have no intentions, maybe they don't have any intentions but it's still a good recommendation for a brand. The difference between the paid ad and just a friendly recommendation is very thin these days but still, fake reviews are quite easy to figure out in most of the ways. 

Fake beauty/skincare reviews? How do I spot them at work and how you can spot them on your own

How do I spot the fake reviews/ads?

There are some things we all can do while checking reviews but some are only for web owners. By the way - sometimes you can see some fake reviews/ads in blog comments as well. Remember that the tips I got are mostly from the perspective on working for portals still, I hope that this post will help you verify what you find online since not everything online is true. 

Timing

Something that makes me laugh is a wrongly planned brand promotion made in collaboration with influencers. You can easily spot when the brand has a campaign because you're gonna be spammed with posts about this one brand or product in almost the same time. It's not bad as long as the people that work for you on a campaign mention that it's an ad/promoted material. 

Copy/paste

Maybe not the whole text but when I see a large number of copy-pasted reviews on one platform or even 30% of a review is copy-pasted to another review I already know what's going on. By the way usually, the reviews will show up in related topics like if you promote a product for acne - you'll see that old acne posts on a forum are somehow at the beginning of the page even if for 2 years no one used them. Sometimes brands make fake posts on a thread to make it alive again and then spam the thread with their commercial. 

Language

Do you know that lots of short reviews/ads online are made by people from other countries. Let's make an example - you speak English and you live in the US and the agency has to cut the cost of every post, they think - okay let's hire someone from a poorer country because they won't ask us to pay as much as people in our country. They hire a person from a poor country and give them short guidelines what to write in a post like 'paste the link, write how amazing the product is' or 'write shit about our competitors' - yep that happens as well. The problem is that people from poorer countries don't always have a bad level of language but it happens that you can simply see a mistake that should happen like "your" and "you're" - I really recommend you 'Your grammar sucks' on Youtube. I'm not going to mention that sometimes style of every post is the same and that's how you can figure out a fake post.

Links

Yeah because no one suspects your post is paid if you post a link... Totally legit.

New product with 1000+ reviews? Seems impossible?

Yes it is, I know that some brands share products with brand fans and influencers to share the reviews before the product is released and make you wanna buy it but if the number of reviews is very high then something is not okay

5/5

The reviews seem to be too good? That might be a sign too!

Account history

Just click the account that made a review on such platform and you'll see when it was active, if it's a single post with a review or if this person has never posted any other post than reviews/ads. Some agencies try to make accounts with longer history so it'll be harder to spot but other agencies try to make accounts with longer history but the history is in 100% based on ads and links. 

New accounts

Yeah because we all trust new accounts with 1-20 posts wrote in 5 minutes of the activity on a website. 

E-mail address

Yes, if e-mail addresses are visible because you're an administrator or because the website allows that you might be surprised how people are unaware of what do they do. 

IP

Even if there are VPN's and other things to hide your IP - just google it and see how many results you will see - we still have some ways to track your doings as you can see here but lots of agencies hire people that know nothing about the Internet and IP and then I see how many accounts they made, how they are linked, etc. 

See where the reviews come from

If you're a website owner you usually have tools to see where the users came from and which part of your website was the most interesting for them. 

That's all I can remind myself of but believe me spotting a fake review is possible - not always.

Fake beauty/skincare reviews? How do I spot them at work and how you can spot them on your own

How to use the internet to make a choice? What bloggers and influencers can do?

Nothing is black and white and online reviews aren't different. I didn't make this post to scare you but to make you aware that the decision is yours. In current days you have to be a specialist. I'm not gonna tell you that this or that blogger is the only one to trust or you shouldn't trust that blogger. If you're a blogger - try to think what you can do to make a difference and make content for people. It's nothing bad in sponsored posts or collaborating with brands but you have to show that there's a line which you as a person with following and trust of many people cannot cross. Try to show your followers when the post is paid or if the product you post a review of was bought by yourself. 

Is it okay to write a review for a brand I work for?

I don't see anything bad about it as long as your review is true - for example look at Cult Beauty and how they share the reviews of their staff. Same for beauty editors at newspapers - do you know that sometimes products recommended by beauty editors are not because brand paid for use or sent PR package but because beauty editors took their own products and shared them? I also love how Klairs and Neogen show their staff sharing their favourite products and I don't see anything bad in it since you can clearly see these people work for a brand and they don't hide it! At my old job we used to test the new options first and honestly, at my old office when a brand made a stupid choice I wasn't scared to share my review on Google about our new app update and share the review with the team since we didn't make apps only for users but also for ourselves and we used the website we worked for on a daily basis. 

Final question - would I buy a product for a brand that used fake reviews?

Yes and no - it depends. There are some brand that for a while was banned for me like Deciem and I guess I don't have to mention why - even this Elle article on Deciem Drama can tell you everything about my reasons not to go for Deciem for a while hopefully because the situation has changed I'm regaining my trust to this brand again. But there are some brands and agencies that offered offensive propositions to me or my friends that are into blogging and usually, when I see their products I'm out - obviously because of the problems I can get I'm not gonna mention which brands are they but I can only tell you that when I see brands and agencies give people shitty deals asking them to hide information that the content is sponsored and then write only positive reviews all I can say is "okay bye, I have a day job so it's not like I need money or in 99,9% cases - your product, I wouldn't buy it anyway lol". Small tips for bloggers - don't always agree with every proposition that brands give you, select the offers and don't feel scared of asking the brand to pay you for your work since what you do - photos, editing, writing a post, testing product on YOUR OWN SKIN, it all takes your time which you could spend at work or with family and friends. Plus the equipment you use has it's own price too. So to sum up - it depends if I know the brand or not, I might not gonna try this brand for a while but it doesn't mean that I won't give it a second chance - but remember the choice is yours and if you follow the brand or not - you have to decide how much do you trust the brand. 

Fake beauty/skincare reviews? How do I spot them at work and how you can spot them on your own

Let's end this post, I hope that in some way this post will help you find the difference between what's true and not on the internet. Let me know what do you think of fake reviews and if you would buy products from a brand after hearing that this brand asked people to write fake reviews on a new product or not?


*** this post is not sponsored but at least I can show you what bloggers do to let you know if the post was sponsored or not. The photos are used by choice, it doesn't show any brand I'm against - I totally love all the brands and products you can see on photos***

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