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The Ethicist Gets It Wrong: Rally Your Fans to Write Good Reviews

Randy Cohen, the New York Times‘ Ethicist, says that it’s not OK to ask your fans to review you. He says that if you are getting negative reviews, you should suck it up. (Full story.)

I disagree.

It is absolutely OK to ask your fans to review you. It should be a fundamental part of your marketing program.

Here’s the reality:

Angry people write reviews. When we’re pissed off, we tell everyone. We yell and scream and post nasty reviews.

When we’re happy, we never do it.  Do you ever wake up and say, “Today’s the day I tell the world that my dishwasher still works”?  Have you posted more reviews for your favorite restaurants or the ones you hate? The happier we are, the less likely we are to have the urgent motivation to post a supportive review.

Your job as a word of mouth marketer is to ask your fans for help. Tell them you need them.  Show your appreciation. Let them know that their support helps you continue to serve them well.

(There are ethical issues: It’s never OK to tell them what to say, to ask them to only say good things, or compensate them.)

They’ll be happy to help. They’ll be glad you asked, and they’ll feel a little guilty that they didn’t do more to help you earlier.

In an ideal world, we’d all rally to support our friends. But most people would rather complain.

Instead of fighting the complainers, focus on the happy, positive people.

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  1. Gregory (@piplzchoice) November 11, 2009 at 10:04 am #


    I have to disagree with you strongly on your premise, but not your conclusion.

    In fact there are more people writing positive reviews than negative ones, and I have statistics to prove it. I have read many strong opinions from respectable sources, such as CustomerThink bloggers, with diametrically opposite point of view, saying that people only leave positive reviews and therefore the whole reviews thing is useless. Everybody is entitled of their opinion of course, but unless you have done meaningful analysis to prove it, it is just that – an opinion.

  2. Val Workman November 11, 2009 at 10:15 am #

    This sounds like the Armadillo hunt in Texas. You need to know what your going to do with it, to determine what to hunt with.

    Customer feedback is like this. One of the main values of customer feedback isn’t what they’ve said. but the fact they’re saying it. People want to say stuff, they feel good when they get to say stuff. So let them.

    What you do with all that chatter is another matter, but if the goal is to make the customer happy, then go hunting with ear plugs and let them chatter.

  3. Andy Sernovitz November 11, 2009 at 12:47 pm #

    Here’s a video of me doing an armadillo race in Texas:

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