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Explain to your boss why you risked the company’s reputation with an illegal stealth marketing campaign

TechCrunch has outed Reverb Communication for posting fake reviews for iPhone Apps. They sell a service where their PR clients pay them to post fake reviews in the App Store. Apple should ban both Reverb and all their clients for one year. TechCrunch should win an award for continued excellence in uncovering sleaze.

Remember, paying for fake reviews is not an intellectual debate between social media experts. It is clearly, completely illegal and has been for decades. 

If your social media expert is advising you to try a few "sponsored conversations" without mentioning that  the NY Attorney General just fined a company $300,000 for it, you should fire them on the spot. (And "disclosure" doesn't make it OK. It's still illegal to pay for fake reviews.)

If you post fake reviews (or hire someone to do it for you), remember this:

  1. It is a crime
  2. You will get caught
  3. You will humiliate your company
  4. You will be forever known as a cheater and a liar

Do you want to explain to your boss why you risked the company's reputation with an illegal stealth marketing campaign?

Why go there?

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  1. Ho Nam August 24, 2009 at 4:07 pm #

    When in doubt, remember Warren Buffett’s rule of thumb:
    ‚Äú…I want employees to ask themselves whether they are willing to have any contemplated act appear the next day on the front page of their local paper ‚Äì to be read by their spouses, children and friends ‚Äì with the reporting done by an informed and critical reporter.‚Äù

  2. Robert Moskowitz August 24, 2009 at 8:29 pm #

    Help me out here: how and where is this illegal? Does that illegality extend to all such reviews, or only software.
    I ask because there are plenty of PR firms who routinely do this same kind of thing for the publicly traded stocks of small companies. Sometimes, the “analysis” is labeled as bought and paid for; most times, it isn’t.
    Thanks for any links you can share to help me understand how far this “illegality” extends.

  3. Josh Patel August 25, 2009 at 4:26 am #

    Unfortunately lot of people are doing this nowadays. People are being hired just for the sake of writing fake reviews. This is a sad trend.
    Just stumbled and submitted your site to Viralogy. Hope you get some great traffic from it. Your blog is here
    – Josh

  4. Andy Sernovitz August 25, 2009 at 7:30 am #

    Robert –
    It’s always been illegal to solicit false endorsements, in any form of media. Example: Payola in radio. It false under the FTC consumer deception statutes, and many states have similar rules.
    More info here:

  5. Brooke Higgins August 26, 2009 at 11:08 am #

    Amen Andy! As communication becomes more viral, consumers can be more out in front of this. A lawsuit is one thing, but a wave of negativity from the same folks that could spread your good word could be devastating.

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