Game Marketing Tips, Analysis, and News

Monday, September 20, 2010

Astroturfing Can Be Illegal

Astroturfing is the practice of fake grass-roots efforts, as in marketing firms or political consultants pretending to be just average folks. You can see the practice with iPhone apps, and the reviews.... many seem to be posted by friends and family, since their laudatory views are at odds with most of the other posts. This was driven home by the FTC in a recent agreement with a marketing firm over the practice, as detailed in this memo. Reverb Communications, a PR firm for video games, was caught red-handed posting reviews for clients in the iTunes store.

So the FTC is watching, and giving notice that it's not kosher for a person or company with a material connection to a product or company to post publicly without mentioning that connection.

I predict a sudden decline in the number of "OMG this game is AMAZING!" reviews in the iTunes store.

As marketers, you must be aware of these little legal niceties before you charge into social media marketing. It's OK to ask your friends, family and investors to post reviews, but they have to mention their connection. Which will tend to devalue their efforts. It's better for you to encourage the fans you don't know to post reviews, than to try and make up your own.

Here's what PR professional Dave Fleet posted on his blog: "Going into PR doesn’t mean giving up your own ethics." Marketing shouldn't, either.

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