Social Media Exposé

Source: Vulcan Post

How often do you find yourself searching for reviews from bloggers’ social media platform? Social media is gaining popularity each day and it would be more surprising to know that one is not using instead. I personally follow many bloggers and review accounts on Instagram and they are basically my source of information in regards to knowing about new products, cafes, restaurants and activities. Bloggers review were always trusted more than advertisements as they were supposed to be their honest opinions while advertisements are mostly exaggerated specifications of each products. Bloggers tend to use a less formal tone in their reviews and post too, it helps the consumer to feel like they could relate better as compared to advertisements, thus more companies are resorting to engaging bloggers to help them “advertise”, in hopes of gaining more awareness for their products and services.

Source: Xiaxue Blog

There was a pretty big issue regarding masking of adverts on social media last year. A social media management, Gushcloud, was exposed of their unethical practices, where they made their bloggers to fake their advertisements as reviews and inflated their views and followers on their social media sites. [1]

Source: Xiaxue Blog

From a consumer perspective, it is highly astonishing to know the works behind a bloggers’ blog post, Instagram post and Facebook mention etc. From these entire exposé, we learn that Gushclouds’ influencers’ post are all fake and paid for, instead of being an honest review, where they were supposedly to have stumbled upon the stated product and services.

Astrosurfing – or masking ads. It’s dishonest for a blogger to pretend that something they are paid for to advertise was their honest true opinion when it isn’t. It’s cheating the consumer.
-Xiaxue (source)

As a consumer who is constantly out there searching for reviews on products before I actually purchase them, all these information has now got me into thinking twice about what I am reading from all these bloggers. Advertisements are mostly made of exaggerated truths of a certain products, which has lead many to switch to blogger reviews. However, if bloggers are now being paid to do reviews, it would defeat the entire point of it being a review.

Masking of advertisement is not illegal here in Singapore, but it is definitely unethical as you are lying to your readers and followers. Would you feel good about yourself for lying to all your loyal followers? Reviews are meant to be honest opinions from someone who has used the product or received the service. Being paid is not a shameful thing, but hiding the fact that you were paid to write a review on how you stumbled on the product and service is. Like in the video, “Bottomline, don’t pay for reviews and use original content.

(467 words)


References

Xiaxue. 2014. [ONLINE] Available at: http://xiaxue.blogspot.sg/search?updated-max=2015-04-23T12:51:00%2B08:00&max-results=7&start=1&by-date=false [Accessed on 9 November 2015].

Xiaxue. 2014. [ONLINE] Available at: http://xiaxue.blogspot.sg/2014/12/the-big-gushcloud-expose.html [Accessed on 9 November 2015].

Xiaxue. 2014. [ONLINE] Available at: http://xiaxue.blogspot.sg/2015/01/the-xiaxue-and-nuffnang-expose.html [Accessed on 9 November 2015].

Yilin. 2014. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.linlovesall.blogspot.sg/2014_12_21_archive.html %5BAccessed on 9 November 2015].

Video. 938LIVE. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SNhhD-wBW5k&feature=youtu.be&t=8m58s [Accessed on 9 November 2015].

Basic ethics for bloggers. 2012 [ONLINE] Available at: https://ijnet.org/en/blog/basic-ethics-bloggers [Accessed on 9 November 2015].

Jennine Jacob. 2009. ‘Free’ Ethics: How to accept products for review, or as gifts… [ONLINE] Available at: https://heartifb.com/2009/01/19/free-ethics-how-to-accept-products-for-review/ [Accessed on 9 November 2015].

Adam Bienkov. 2012. Astroturfing: what is it and why does it matter? [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/feb/08/what-is-astroturfing [Accessed on 9 November 2015].

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15 thoughts on “Social Media Exposé

  1. Hey Shannon,

    Firstly, I definitely agree with you that reviews are meant to be one’s honest opinions after using the product or service. However, it seems that sponsored advertisements are very common nowadays. Besides that, online reviews by consumers like us can be fake as well. Hence, how do you think that we can measure the reliability of such online reviews, so that we won’t be cheated?

    Good job on sharing the vote statistics on whether “Is it ethical for bloggers to mask their ads and pretend it’s an organic, genuine review?” However, why do you some of voters still find it ethical? Share with me your thoughts on this!

    Lastly, do you think that these brands have ever considered about the ethical issues of paid advertisements? If so, why they are still using it as a form of advertising?

    Like

    1. Hi Tianyi,

      Sure I understand that sponsored advertisements are common nowadays, but what I blogged about is the issue of masking the advertisment. Where the bloggers or reviewer hide the fact that they are paid and actually made it sound like they somehow stumbled upon the product and service. Like what Xiaxue reported, Yilin didn’t even follow Kaykay’s blog and did not know about the banner advert before she was told by her company about it.

      Online reviews by consumers could definitely be not be as reliable since everyone has difference taste, but you could also compared the different reviewers that are available online and make a decision yourself.

      The people who find masking an advert ethical is really small percent compared to the overall participants of the survey. I have absolutely no idea why they would think masking an advert is ethical, but have the thought that they did not understand what it means of masking an advert actually really mean crossed your mind? I feel that many people are not aware of this issue and I, too, was not aware till Xiaxue brought it up.

      Ethical or not, they are always practices done by businesses that are questionable. However, no business is ever perfect. Maybe, they are not aware of the term astroturfing or masking an advert and this could be mistake that they have made.

      Thanks for you sharing with me your thoughts, it really got me thinking through more about what I blogged about.

      Like

  2. hi Shannon !
    i also follow this saga and quite a fan of XiaXue and seems like you too
    i agree with you fake review count as lying and it is unethical. However, in xiaxue’s blogpost, she got mention sponsored post must be stated. What’s your opinion on this?
    For me it is okay if they didn’t state it is sponsored as it is a common sense. Once i see the post, i know they are paid to promote it.
    On the other hand, different blogger will have different experiences and opinion towards product or services. What do you think would be a good measurement so we wont be mislead ?

    Like

    1. Hi Silviana!

      Good to know that you’re a reader of Xiaxue too!

      I believe that it is important to know if a post is sponsored or not. After being so exposed to all these social media marketing, it is definitely becoming harder for me to tell what is a real review from a paid one.

      I am sure that are still other bloggers out there who aren’t paid to post a review! So I think notifying us before hand if it is a paid or not would be a good indication. I have learnt from my old lecturers that there are certain points that a blogger has to indicated in their post if it is paid, even if they do not mean it whole heartedly. Thus, by knowing that it is a paid advertisement, we could actually take her opinions lightly.

      Everyone have different opinions, taste and interest. It would definitely be hard to gain a good insight base on one review that you have read. What I usually do is to actually research on the product, and look through more than one reviews! It is very helpful when you search for more information since different people tend to spot different highlights and downside of a product. It is always good to have more options and information before you ever consider purchasing something! 🙂

      Like

  3. Hi Shannon!
    Totally can relate to your post! I do rely on blogger reviews when I visit cafes or trying out new product(s), how trust-able it is, we are not sure about it now after we know the ‘behind-the-scenes” of a blogger’s post.

    We probably able to gauge how much the bloggers are being paid (maybe by the number of followers they have?) But despite being paid, do you think there should be like a standard code of ethics they should follow? Organization’s code of ethics, as most of the bloggers are under advertising companies. Rather than letting the amount paid decide the quality of the post. What’s your point of view? 🙂

    Feel free to drop by my blog to share your views!
    Cheers! Happy PH! 🙂

    Like

  4. Hi Shannon!
    That was a good read on the topic about how unethical organisations are abusing the blogger’s credibility to increase popularity and also their sales!

    “If bloggers are now being paid to do reviews, it would defeat the entire point of it being a review.” I agree with this stand whereby reviews are not truthful because bloggers are paid to say nice things about the product. Then, what’s the point right?

    Bloggers tend to be money driven. And yes, as you mentioned above, I would agree it is a more ethical way to separate what are the paid or sponsored reviews and their own experience reviews. However, they still receive benefits from companies that sponsored products to them. Bloggers will still have a tendency to comment good things about the product, they still sugarcoat their words.

    Here’s the thing… Will you still trust these sponsored advertisements and reviews? Why?
    By the way, lovely post! Enjoyed reading it! Thank you!

    Cheers,
    Yixin 🙂

    Like

  5. Hello Shannon,

    Personally, I also share the same view.

    As you mentioned, “Bloggers’ reviews were always trusted more than advertisements as they were supposed to be their honest opinions while advertisements are mostly exaggerated specifications of each product.” Being more affordable and effective as compared to traditional marketing, this may be the main reason why companies are willing to pay for written reviews.

    As a consumer, I believe that it is unethical for bloggers to mask reviews. If they were being paid to write a review, they should indicate and reveal it.

    However, on the other hand, disclosing the fact that they were paid to write reviews may affect customers’ perception of the product or service. In fear that reviews may not be as honest and reliable, followers will tend to ignore and will not be willing to test the product out. In such scenarios, would companies still prefer bloggers to disclose such information?

    Looking forward to your reply! 🙂

    Cheers,
    Constance

    Like

    1. Hi Constance,

      You have came up with a really good question. And to the best of my knowledge, most companies still engage bloggers for their paid reviews due to their loyal readers or how influential they are on the public.

      An example would be Xiaxue, she has been blogging for almost 10 years or so and she has managed to accumlate a lot of loyal readers through these years. They have been constantly reading her posts and they trust her view and opinions on things since she is known to be straight forward and wishes to only blog about the truth. Not sure if it is relevant, but she has won Most Influential Blog twice in a row at the Nuffnang Awards: http://xiaxue.blogspot.sg/2012/01/napbas-2011.html

      Most bloggers have their own certain unique image that attracts their readers. Businesses may use this advantage and still engage with them to advertise their products with them! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi Shannon!

    I have enjoyed your post tremendously and do agree to the points you have relayed in this post. I have followed this saga that happened a few months ago and although wasn’t nice being exposed online at that scale but it was definitely wrong for them to do so!

    As consumers, yes we do rely a lot on reviews before making purchases and very often we turn to these social influence for their recommendation and reviews. After this saga, many people have rethink the reliability of these bloggers and no longer trust them. Which of course affected these social influencers and companies who frequently engage them to advertise their products. What i was wondering is, is there any way for these bloggers to communicate their honest reviews about this and still tell people they were paid? As many people assume if they’re paid, their words are all instructed by the company and not their own honest opinions! Let me know what you think! 🙂

    Cheers.
    Nicole

    Like

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