In a virtual world of online polls, reviews, shopping and marketplaces, it can be tempting to fake positivity toward your company.  Even in an anonymous online world, people are by nature somewhat suspicious, especially if a reviewer sounds a little too knowledgable about a product or company.

In order to be effective, word of mouth marketing MUST be genuine.

Here are some examples of word of mouth marketing that may seem to be a good idea at the time but will ultimately work negatively against your efforts:

Fake reviews: people are getting increaingly better at spotting fake reviewers.  There are actually lots of sites explaining how to find fake reviewers (presumptually from the company that is producing the product or service, thus negatively impacting your company even more than actual negative feedback from an actual customer)

Paid reviewers: have you ever seen a commercial with a disclaimer that the person speaking is a paid actor.  It doesn’t do that great of a job convincing you the person is actually that enthusiastic about the product. However, if your parents, friend or sibling told you the same thing, you would be much more likely to believe them.  Paying someone to promote your product can negatively impact your company unless they are convincing enough. Even if the promoter is truly your biggest fan, consumers will question how genuine the promoter is if they are getting paid.

Email Spam:it seems like no matter how hard I try, I still end up getting inundated with unwanted communication from companies I have never solicited.  Not only is this illegal, it can greatly negatively impact your company.  Keep in mind, even if you require your customers to opt in to your email list, they will not take the action to actually opt in.  But when you solicit consumers without their permission and bombard them with unwanted information, they will have a negative reaction.  Make sure if you contact your customers with a bulk email, that they have clear ways to change their subscription or unsubscribe and also that you have a clear message about  why you have contacted them.

Comment Spam:there are programs or bots that will post comments unrelated to the topic or item listed and promote your company.  While you may initially see an increase in your audience, it won’t be long before these bot comments are marked as spam and your message gets lost as an annoyance rather than an effective marketing message.

Deception:people don’t like to feel like they’ve been deceived so offering a deceptive marketing device should be an obvious no-no.  However, that doesn’t stop companies from spreading false or misleading information about their company to try to gain fans.  Sure, it’s exciting to think you can lose 20 pounds overnight, but in most cases, this is not a typical result and will lead to consumers dismissing your message before they’ve even considered your product or service.  By being up-front and honest, you will gain many more supporters than by being deceptive.

You should always strive to keep your company in a positive light.  Being deceptive will only get you ahead for a very short period of time then negatively impact you for much longer and with much more expensive and long-term repurcussions.

Practicing ethical business marketing methods will prove positive results over time and you will reap the benefits long-term.  Reputation is everything and it only takes a few moments to damage it.