Fake reviews and fake news – The currency of trust - Showtime Digital

Fake reviews and fake news – The currency of trust

12 June 2019 Read 2283 times

In two previous articles we discussed the 14 ways you can build trust on a landing page or a website page. As a part of the 14 trust centres, two were focused on consumer reviews and client testimonials.

While we found some good examples of consumer reviews and testimonials, we also saw some plainly poor and even outright misleading ones. 

The regulators can heavily fine you for posting fake reviews and writing misleading testimonials.

What raised an eyebrow for us was a recent ruling against a weight-loss company, who commissioned a marketing company to write fake reviews on Amazon. In Q2 2019 they were fined $12.8M (US) for doing so.

As well as the bad press, the loss of trade, the investigations by regulators plus the substantial fines incurred you would think it’s not worth the hassle. Here is Australia, the ACCC now has 500 odd staff and with this only comes more power to cast a wider net for the perpetrators.

What’s really being affected is consumer ambivalence. On a global scale the effect of distrust is incalculable. From multinational scandals to the local restaurant review, everyone is trying to get an advantage, even if it means disgracing yourself.

You may say, why not? People have very short memories…right?

You don’t think so? Let me ask, have you bought a VW recently? So, you’ve forgotten about Dieselgate? Did you buy Gillette razors last week…even though their ‘The Best Men Can Be’ campaign put you offside? Do you still buy pizza from Dominos or shop at 7-Eleven, even though they both underpaid their employees?

Did you vote for the same political party again, even though they didn’t deliver on what they promised…again?

Did you buy Uber Eats from the same restaurant even though they messed up your order twice already?

If it suits our needs, we’re happy to settle for compromise every day of the week.

Fake news

Another gaping hole of compromise we interact with every day is our ultra-narrow cast view of the world served to us by the media. Rather than reading a newspaper with differing opinions, we’re served snippets via algorithms which feed our intolerance to consider differing perspectives.

Today, the 11th June 2019, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee held it’s first hearing on ‘Online Platforms and Market Power – The Free and Diverse Speech’. These hearings will question the power of the social platforms. What is to come out of it remains to be seen.

What we do know is our growing reliance on both the mainstream media and social giants has eroded our capacity to both empathise and socialise.

Only recently the social platforms of Facebook, Twitter and Google have quashed conservative voices on social media, extinguishing them for reasons they describe as ‘Hate Speech’.

Hate Speech is a speech the intolerant hate to hear.

Similarly, in the business community, honest online reviews seem to be the speech companies would hate you to hear, hence why they manipulate them at will.

Let’s be honest, if you’re sporting a 4.9 rating or higher no one believes it. You’d be better to be a 3.9 and learn by the failing’s consumers are pointing out to you.

The erosion of trust

Deloitte’s have been monitoring how consumers are influenced in their buying decisions since 2013. Image1 clearly shows with every passing year consumers are losing their willingness to trust what they see and read.



When compared to a recommendation from a friend or family member an online review is less effective.

What’s interesting is there is not much advantage between an online review from someone you do not know and someone you may know of within your social circle.

In another study from BrightLocal in December 2018 most indicators show people have less trust of online reviews (Image2).



The younger you are the more trust you have of online reviews (Image3).

The same study found the older you are the less likely you are to care to write a review, even when asked.


The younger you are the more likely you have read a fake review (Image4) and therefore it’s more probable you can identify a fake review. The interesting point is even though this is the case the 18-34 audience still trust online reviews more than other age groups.

To overcome mistrust in a product/service, people expect to see 40+ reviews and will read 10 reviews to make their own conclusion on the offer. They will also discard older reviews as irrelevant.

Going even further, in more sophisticated environments, people believe they need to review five information sources to feel like they know the truth about you.

If our opinion doesn't suit the narrative of the publisher, whether that be the media outlet, social platform or company, we are at risk of not being heard. In contrast, the narrative seems more like a square peg in a round hole, and one forced to be in line with our beliefs. But, the more things change the more they stay the same. 

Steve Palmer

Steve Palmer is the Joint Founder and CEO of Showtime Digital. Steve has been in B2B sales since 1997 but influencing people and behavioural science has been a long-term passion.

The magic he brings to his clients is in knowing how to engage their audience. His goal is to help businesses understand the deeper reasons of why consumers convert online with them.