How to spot fake social proof signals (comments, reviews, testimonials, sales notifications)?

Comments, reviews, testimonials, and sales notifications are the strongest social proof components widely used on the internet.

They can easily influence the visitors decision to consume content, buy products and services, share their personal information, or make whatever action is required from them.

Some sellers will do whatever it takes to push you to buy their offering. And that includes crafting fake social proof signals.

It's crucial to learn how to spot forged materials when dealing with products/services using social proof.

Here is a couple of hints:

Repetition

Human behavior is ruled by patterns.

Don't trust the likes of:

  • Repetitive words and synonyms.
  • Extensive use of positive words (great, awesome, cool, must have, life saver).
  • Repetitive use of specific sentence structures.
  • Repetitive use of punctuation (exclamation points more particularly).

Faked writing is usually done by one person. And that makes finding patterns much easier.

Trust the likes of:

  • Different writing style, tones, voices.
  • When you see typos, grammar errors.

Non verifiable names, companies, and email addresses

The goal behind using social proof is to "prove" that someone in real world bought, uses, or vouches for a specific offering.

Removing any way to verify the authenticity of whoever added the input should negate its effect.

Don't trust the likes of:

  • Using the first name only and/or an initial of the last name.
  • Using non traceable nicknames.
  • Company names with no presence on the Internet, no website, no record on public registries.
  • Public/free email services.

Trust the likes of:

  • Full name, company, and position with a link.

Stock photos or using the same picture under multiple names

When the picture is part of the review or testimonial avatar, it should be easily verifiable that it belongs to the same name where it was used.

A simple way to verify that is to run a reverse search for the picture using:

  • https://images.google.com/
  • https://yandex.com/images/

If the result return a stock photo or different names, you have your answer.

Praise

Social proof's main goal is to relay the pros, value, and convey usefulness of the business, product, or service.

But no product is perfect. And in real world conditions, their must be neutral views and a bunch of opposing ones.

Don't trust the likes of:

  • When every single review or testimonial is praising the business, product, or service.

When authoritative names are mentioned

You can see it on visible sections of homepages, landing pages, or sell pages as:

  • As seen at.
  • Published by.
  • Used by.

When an authoritative businesses or public figures are mentioned as part of the social proof efforts, things change a bit.

For visitors, it's more of an endorsement than just a review or testimonial.

This is not the kind of things that can be done random. Any respectable authority on their field have PR processes. If they like or endorse anything, they publicly state it and support it. And therefor, the seller, or page author, needs to have tangible proof that it's legit. Otherwise, it will be just a "claim".

Don't trust the likes of:

  • Broken links when they are meant to lead to the proof of the endorsement.
  • When researching the authoritative source, you can't find any mention of any type or form of the "claimer".

Go the extra mile by verifying things on the authoritative source's end directly:

  • Emailing them and ask questions.
  • Reaching out through social media and asking for clarifications about the endorsement.

Comments

One thing to look for is what kind of commenting system is used.

Native and social media commenting systems are easy to control and fake.

Don't trust the likes of:

  • Native WordPress comments and any of its variants (CommentLuv, Decomments, wpDiscuz).
  • Facebook commenting.

3rd party commenting systems based on accounts/reputation are harder to fake.

Trust the likes of:

  • Commento.
  • Disqus.

Social signals

Social signals tricky. They are meant to share with the visitors what actions were performed by other uses.

For that part, we are looking for how these actions are recorded and if there is anyway to fake them.

Just like comments, self-hosted social proof plugins are easy to control.

Don't trust the likes of:

  • LetConvert.
  • NotificationX.
  • Provely.
  • WP Real-Time Social-Proof.
  • WooCommerce Notifications.

3rd party social proof with tight authenticity social proof systems can still be faked, but will require a lot of skills and advanced use of their API, and of course, paying for a specific monthly views cap in order to use the tool itself.

They can be considered overall authentic.

Trust the likes of:

  • Proof (getproof.com).
  • ProveSource.
  • Fomo (getfomo.com).
  • TrustPulse.

Reviews and Testimonials

The only way to make reviews and testimonials valuable is by using verifiable people on them. Otherwise, chances are very slim for them to be real.

Social Media

By far the most biased source of information when you need more information or make a buying decision.

Social media have two main things to watch out for:

  • Fake likes and shares.
  • "Ambassadors."
  • Affiliates.

Ambassadors and affiliates are the worst thing that happened to social media... Both are die hard partisans whatever the opposition says. You will find them either praising and shilling the business, product, or service, or defending it when needed.

At some point, you just can't distinguish between genuine comments and shilled ones.

Back to the Answers Hub
Talk to me