Yes, it is illegal to incentivize reviews in the United States. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has made it clear that businesses are not allowed to offer any form of compensation in exchange for a positive or negative review. This applies to both online and offline reviews.
There are a few things you should avoid if you don’t want to run into legal trouble:
- Offering discounts or coupons in exchange for a review
- Asking customers to leave a review to enter a contest or sweepstakes
- Paying customers or employees to write positive reviews
You should avoid these things if you don’t want to get in trouble with the law. Remember, the FTC is cracking down on businesses that engage in these practices, so taking the risk is not worth it.
What Are the Downsides of Incentivizing Reviews?
Incentivizing customer reviews can have some downsides:
- It can create an incentive for customers to write fake reviews.
- It can lead to a biased sample of reviews, as customers who are offered an incentive may be more likely to write a review than those not offered an incentive.
- Offering customer review incentives may violate some review sites’ terms of service.
The legality of reviews and review platforms
It has been challenged in some jurisdictions, with critics arguing that the products or services being reviewed are illegal and that the review itself is also illegal. In some countries, unauthorized reviews have been declared illegal. Companies have taken legal action against reviewers who have posted negative reviews.
In the United States, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act protects online reviewers from liability for their reviews, even if they are defamatory. The law protects online publishers of user-generated content from defamation lawsuits as long as the publisher did not post the defamatory material himself. This protection has allowed sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor to become some of the most popular online review sites.
However, this legal protection is not absolute, and there are some situations in which online reviewers can be held liable for their reviews. For example, if a reviewer posts a defamatory fake review, he could be sued for defamation. Additionally, if a reviewer posts a false and misleading review, he could be sued for fraud or deceptive business practices.
It is important to note that the legality of reviews may vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. In some countries, unauthorized reviews may be declared illegal. Companies have taken legal action against reviewers who have posted negative reviews. Therefore, checking with local laws and regulations is always advisable before posting any reviews online.
Best Ways to Run Your Review Campaign
You can do a few basic things to ensure your review campaign is successful:
- Create attractive and compelling visuals that will grab attention and get people interested in your product.
- Target your audience precisely, so you know who you’re reaching out to.
- Use social media and other online channels to spread the word about your campaign and get people talking.
If you follow these simple tips, you’ll be well on your way to running a successful review campaign that will help boost your business.
Federal Trade Commission Guidelines on Fake Reviews
As the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has made clear, businesses cannot post fake reviews about themselves or their products on review websites. This is unfair to consumers, who then may mislead, and it’s also against the law.
The FTC has brought cases against companies that have posted fake reviews and issued guidelines to help businesses understand what they can and cannot do regarding reviews.
Here are some of the key points from the FTC’s guidance:
- Businesses cannot pay for reviews, whether positive or negative.
- Businesses cannot post fake reviews about themselves or their products.
- Businesses cannot offer incentives to customers in exchange for writing a review.
- Businesses should clarify that they are not affiliated with any review website.
The FTC’s guidance is clear: businesses cannot post fake reviews about themselves or their products. If you see a fake review on a website, report it to the website and the FTC.
Does the Federal Trade Commission investigate?
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is the primary federal agency that investigates complaints about possible unfair or deceptive business practices. Consumers can file a complaint with the FTC if they believe they have been victimized by fraud, deception, or another unfair business practice. The FTC also works to educate consumers about their rights and to help them spot, stop, and avoid fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices. You can learn more about the FTC and what it does on its website at www.ftc.gov.
FTC Can Put Companies on Notice For Fake Reviews
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has long been concerned about fake reviews. The agency has acted against companies that have engaged in this deception. However, the FTC’s ability to crack down on fake reviews is limited.
The problem is that the FTC can only act when a company has misled consumers. For example, if a company says it will give away free products in exchange for positive reviews, that would be considered misleading.
However, if a company pays people to write positive reviews, the FTC can’t do anything about it. This is because there’s no law against paying people to write reviews.
The FTC can notify companies of fake reviews, but it can’t do much more.
The best way to avoid fake reviews is to only buy products from companies you trust. You should also read reviews carefully before making a purchase. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Why would I get a letter from the Federal Trade Commission?
The FTC sends letters to people who may have been affected by a company’s illegal practices. The letter will explain what happened and what you can do if you’ve been involved. If you think you may have been a victim of fraud, you should contact the FTC.
How to Get More Online Reviews
The Internet has given consumers a powerful tool to research businesses and make well-informed decisions about where to spend their money. Over 70% of Americans say that positive online reviews influence their buying decisions, and this number is only growing.
If you’re not actively working on getting more online reviews, you could miss out on many businesses. Here are four tips to help you get more online reviews:
1. Make it easy for your customers to leave reviews
The first step is to make it as easy as possible for your customers to leave reviews. Add links to your review profiles on your website, email signature, and social media profiles. You can also include QR codes that link directly to your review profiles.
2. Send review reminders
Sending review reminders is a great way to increase your chances of getting reviews. You can send email or text reminders to customers after they’ve made a purchase or had a positive experience with your business.
3. Offer incentives
Offering incentives is another excellent way to encourage customers to leave reviews. You can offer discounts and coupons or enter customers into a drawing to win prizes. Just be sure that you don’t provide anything that would violate the terms of service of the review site.
4. Respond to all reviews
It’s essential to respond to all reviews, both positive and negative. Thank customers for their positive reviews and address any concerns raised in negative reviews. Responding to reviews shows that you care about your customers and value their feedback.
By following these tips, you can start getting more online reviews and boost your business.
Worst Examples of 5-Star Review Programs You Should Avoid
Regarding 5-star review programs, some companies are doing it right. But unfortunately, there are also plenty of examples of businesses that are entirely missing the mark.
If you’re thinking about starting a 5-star review program for your own business, avoid making these common mistakes.
1. Not Asking for Reviews in the Right Way
The first step to getting great reviews is to ask for them correctly. And yet, so many businesses make the mistake of either not asking for reviews or asking for them in a way that’s likely to annoy customers.
For example, some businesses send automatic emails after purchasing, asking customers to leave a review. But since these emails are often generic and not personalized, they come across as impersonal and can even be seen as spam.
Instead, try a more personal approach by asking customers for their feedback in person or through a handwritten note. You can also send a follow-up email a few days after purchase, thanking the customer for their business and politely asking if they’d be willing to leave a review.
2. Offering Incentives for Reviews
It’s no secret that people are likely to leave a review if offered an incentive, like a discount or freebie. But offering incentives for reviews is actually against the terms of service of many review sites, like Yelp and Google. Not to mention, it can also come across as desperate or even manipulative.
If you’re looking to encourage customers to leave reviews, focus on providing exceptional service and making it easy for them to leave a review. For example, you can include links to your business’s profiles on popular review sites in your email signature and website.
3. Focusing on Quantity Over Quality
When it comes to reviews, quality is more important than quantity. A few well-written, positive reviews are worth more than dozens of generic ones.
Additionally, fake reviews are not only against the terms of service of most review sites but also easy for customers to spot. If caught writing fake reviews or paying for them, you could be banned from the review site. Not to mention, you could also damage your business’s online reputation.
4. Responding to Negative Reviews in a Negative Way
Getting a negative review can be frustrating, but responding in a positive, professional way is essential. After all, potential customers will read your response and form an opinion about your business based on how you handle criticism.
If you’re not sure how to respond to a negative review, try following these steps
- Thank the customer for their feedback and apologize for any issues they experienced.
- Offer to make things right by providing a refund or exchange.
- Ask the customer to contact you directly so you can resolve the issue.
5. Not Monitoring Review Sites Regularly
Finally, staying on top of all the review sites your business is listed on is essential. Otherwise, you could miss an opportunity to respond to a negative review or take advantage of a positive one.
Many tools and services can help you track your reviews, like Google Alerts and Mention. You can also set up notifications for your business’s profiles on popular review sites, alerting you whenever a new review is posted.
By avoiding these common mistakes, you can set your business up for success with its 5-star review program.
How can you tell if reviews are fake?
Looking for patterns is the best way to tell if reviews are fake. If you see the same user posting multiple reviews for the same product, or if you know a lot of reviews that use the same language, likely, they’re not real. You can also try Googling the product name plus “review” and seeing what comes up. If there are a lot of results from sites that look like they’re selling the product, chances are the reviews are fake. Finally, you can contact the company directly and ask about their review policy.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you give incentives for reviews?
Yes, you can give incentives for customers to leave reviews. For example, you can offer a discount on their next purchase or enter them into a contest to win a prize. Some businesses also provide loyalty points that can be redeemed for discounts or other prizes. However, it’s essential to ensure that your incentive program complies with the terms and conditions of the review site so that you don’t run into any problems. Additionally, it’s a good idea to make the terms and conditions of your program clear to customers before they leave a review so that there are no surprises.
Is asking for reviews illegal?
There is no definitive answer to this question since laws vary from country to country. However, it is generally acceptable to ask customers or clients for reviews of your business or service. It is essential to ensure you do not offer any incentives for writing a positive review, as this could be considered bribery. Additionally, be clear about what you are asking for—a review of your business, service, or product—to avoid confusion. Finally, be prepared to handle bad reviews graciously and professionally.
Can you incentivize Facebook reviews?
Yes, you can incentivize Facebook reviews. However, we recommend that you not offer monetary incentives in exchange for reviews. Instead, you can provide non-monetary incentives such as coupons, discounts, or free products/services. Make sure that your incentive is something that will not create fake or biased reviews. Finally, disclose to customers that you are offering an incentive in exchange for reviews. This will help to ensure that customers are aware that they may receive something in return for their review.
Can I pay people for Google reviews?
No, you cannot pay people for Google reviews. This violates Google’s terms of service and can lead to your reviews being removed. Furthermore, it is difficult creating fake reviews, and Google may be able to tell if you are doing this. Finally, even if you could pay for Google reviews, they would likely not be as effective as organic reviews, which consumers trust more.