Fiverr.com offers great value, but bogus testimonial are costly

What do a Shakespearean sonnet, a man in a banana suit,  and a message written in spaghetti on toast have in common? They’re all objects that can drive social interaction. And, they can all be yours for  $5.

Unfortunately, so can bogus product reviews, testimonials, and endorsements.

Fiverr.com is a $5 marketplace where people exchange ideas, services and products for a five-spot.  Roughly a year old, the discount marketplace site attracts thousands of new, experienced, and would-be entrepreneurs.  Offerings range from ranging from the practical (such as transcription services) to the bizarre.

“Fiverr has become a go-to place for people to monetize their skills, big or small,” said Micha Kaufman, co-founder and CEO of Fivver.”We’re living in a new world where 9 to 5 isn’t the obvious career choice for everyone. People are working multiple jobs, working as contractors, consultants, work remotely, use outsourcing often, etc, and – we understood that.”

The site’s only problem? It doesn’t adequately police its marketplace. Posts that violate the site’s ‘terms of service’ or deemed ‘in bad taste’ are deleted. However, it doesn’t prevent individuals from selling other items that are unethical or illegal such as  fake endorsementsfalse reviews and bogus testimonials.

“It is not really that different from commercials where an actor, often looking like an average Joe, recommends something to you, right? And also, sometimes it’s not really that different than asking your friends in your social networks to come and vote for you as a favor.” Kaufman said, defending such practices. “But I agree that it’s a tricky subject and I’m aware of it.”

On this point, Kaufman’s views and mine diverge. Transparency, authenticity and credibility are the most important currency on social networks.  Seeing individuals disregard these principles at any cost — let alone for $5 — disturbs me.

It’s not tricky. It’s improper. In all likelihood, it’s also illegal.

Bogus testimonials and reviews violate Federal Trade Commission guidelines (effective Dec. 1, 2009) that limit what can be done with endorsements and testimonials. The FTC Act prohibits unfair or deceptive advertising in any medium. Advertising must tell the truth and not mislead consumers. A claim can be misleading if relevant information is left out or if the claim implies something that’s not true. Testimonials and endorsements must reflect the typical experiences of consumers, unless the ad clearly and conspicuously states otherwise. A statement that not all consumers will get the same results is not enough to qualify a claim. Testimonials and endorsements can’t be used to make a claim that the advertiser itself cannot substantiate.

Connections between an endorser and the company that are unclear or unexpected to a customer must be disclosed, whether they have to do with a financial arrangement (aka $5) for a favorable endorsement, a position with the company, or stock ownership. Expert endorsements must be based on appropriate tests or evaluations performed by people that have mastered the subject matter.

The site, ranked in the top 250 for US sites by (Alexa), has a lot of great content that is overshadowed by the bogus stuff. It offers a endless supply of inexpensive, customized social objects.  If a buyer wants something, they place an order, and once completed, the $5 is placed in the entrepreneur’s PayPal account.

Why send a greeting card, when you can send a custom video featuring a ninjaserenading cowboy or South-American surfer instead? There’s something for everybody. And, there’s probably something that everybody can do to earn $5.  For example, I posted a Fiver gig offering 20 eco-friendly guitar picks for $5. In less than a month, I delivered 8 orders and netted $32 in profit (Fiverr keeps $1 from each transaction). During the same time period, I spent $60 on a variety of offerings.  I had someone transcribe some videos. I bought by wife some earrings. I purchased videos featured in this blog post.  I found the site addicting. And, I’m not alone. Kaufman said its uncommon for new buyers to stop at one transaction.

“The experience is fun and you get to meet cool people,” he said. “You typically get awesome results for your money. Think of it like this – if you go to a store where everything is for five dollars, you probably won’t come in just to buy one thing, right?”

I had a lot of fun on Fiverr.com but I can’t recommend the site to others, in good conscience, until bogus testimonials are prohibited in the site’s ‘terms of service’ and removed from the site.

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF COMPANIES THAT USE FAKE TESTIMONIALS? Leave a comment below.

Credits: Shakespearean sonnet, a man in a banana suit,  and a message written in spaghetti on toast are valid Fiverr examples for your consideration.

 

Fiverr Mashup

I spent $10 creating this post-reel for socialmeteor.com by leveraging two individuals on fiverr.com and paying them $5 each. ‘Ruttger’ provided the stop animation. Zacarip wrote and recorded the audio track. Bits of each were spliced together on my mac. The output was pretty good.

  • http://flavors.me/merubin75 Michael E. Rubin

    *sigh* I can’t believe that we’re in 2011 but there are still people who believe that putting a price tag on advocacy is a viable business strategy.

    Here’s the thing — I love the idea of Fiverr. But if he truly wants to make Fiverr a full-blown mainstream marketplace, Mr. Kaufman should step up and take action to keep the site clean from the fake endorsements. Just because people are willing to whore out their opinions doesn’t mean he has to condone it. Offer a way to people to establish credibility for themselves or their opinions, as well as a way to vote down someone’s credibility, too (i.e. an eBay-like reputation system).

    What companies need to understand is that there is no shortcut to advocacy. You want a great testimonial? Make a great product or offer a great service. You want a fan-for-life? Make good on your promises or execute on your customer service. When you cheapen advocacy by endorsing the creation of fake testimonials, you are going into a tawdry place that cheapens the value of word of mouth marketing as a whole.

    – Michael E. Rubin, Social Media Strategist, Fifth Third Bank
    Disclaimer: I am a Fifth Third Bank employee, but this opinion is my own.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Troy-Janisch/1095484363 <fb:name linked="false" useyou="false" uid="1095484363">Troy Janisch</fb:name>

    Agreed. There are so many creative things available on the Fiverr site. I can think of 100 ways to use some of these items as fun and effective ‘social objects’ that can drive engagement, conversation and traffic to a company website or blog.

    I just couldn’t get over the availability and use of fake testimonials. And, the fact that some providers of fake testimonials are actually highlighted by Fiverr.com as great examples on their blog here: http://blog.fiverr.com/2011/03/07/international-womens-day-2011/

    When Fiverr.com changes their terms of service and eliminates the fake testimonials, I’ll be recommending them to everyone!

  • http://www.experiate.net Paul Flanigan

    But doesn’t the fact that you have exposed this type of behavior already diminish the value? It seems too easy that this was exposed. And this is the type of stuff that can get viral in an hurry.

    Here’s the thing: The good companies don’t need this type of activity, and would not condone it. I agree with Mr. Rubin – there is no shortcut. But the well earned review/testimonial carries way more impact.

    Would love to see Fiverr change its policy.

  • http://www.ramblingsofawahm.com Allie

    Ok, I looked around and it only took me 2 minutes to find someone to do homework for someone else. Really? This site has the potential to get out of control if not monitored. I’m sure you could ask the same person to write a paper for you for $20. I know this happens all the time in the real world but companies shouldn’t be endorsing it by not regulating it.

    $5 endorsements could really hurt a company if they are false, but then again, people think they could get rich quick online. So why not pay for endorsements.

    Thanks for bringing this to my attention. The site is a great resource but they really need to regulated or it has the potential to turn cheap.

  • Pingback: Blog Ideas Community Members

  • Pingback: An interview with Micha Kaufman of Fiverr.com | Social Meteor

  • Jada

    You know there are some people like FriendlyGirl777 that produce high-quality sales videos and not just testimonials on Fiverr. I used FriendlyGirl777 to create several sales videos for my websites, sales page, blog and affiliate products. I was really amazed by her creativity to say the least. If you want to check out her FIVER-ONLY sales video demo page at http://salesvideodemos.weebly.com/index.html. She provides a link to her Fiverr video gig page from her demo page. FriendlyGirl777 has also worked on other creative projects for me as well. I give Fiverr a big THUMBS UP!

  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/troyjanisch Troy Janisch

    Posted by Debra Russell, via LinkedIn: “I have used Fiverr with great success. Most recently for tasks that are too time consuming i.e. submitting my blog to social bookmarking sites and for submitting my RSS feed. My visitors increased dramatically as are result.”

  • Chris

    The new site deucerr.com is even better it offers services from $2 to $100 and it’s FREE! No commissions!!! This site is going to kick some Fiverr and Fiverr like sites butt!     

  • http://www.fiversworld.com Tephanie

    fiverr is nice but i can’t sell on it.

    this is why i rather selling on http://www.fiversworld.com 
    on fiverr i am limited to paypal which is banned in my country, fivers world allow me withdraw my money using moneybookers or alertpay

  • http://www.facebook.com/jnet.leigh Jnet Leigh

     All money making methods are here http://www.wsohelpers.com/ test it. What I did was I subscribe for a month only for $4.95 really cheap, its much cheaper than fiverr.

  • Jeff

    I agree, with Jada. I used lustique (her youtube vids at http://youtube.com/misslustique) she did various sale videos and not testimonials for my business. It worked great! 

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_PR4RC3AFFRK5UU7CYXJ3DYEZ24 JayG

    Disgusting. We have CEOs and the Military Industrial complex selling human lives for billions in cash. People on this site are too mentally feeble to understand the link between that and selling our integrity for 5 stinkin’ dollars. No wonder this country is going down the toilet.

  • http://www.facebook.com/steve.marker19 Steve Marker

    Fiverr is good for video testimonials, dancing, etc. But most of the time, people come to Fiverr to outsource SEO service. And on SEOClerks.com , there are only SEO and SEO services so that buyers can be focus on what service they like best. SEOClerks is growing faster than Fiverr as I think SEOClerks is best among both the websites as their payment methods and support is awesome.

  • Drake Florience

    fiverr,seoclerks,gigbuck etc.. the list goes on we all know… are all way to much we just need one site lol and fiverr isnt it ive had way to many problems with them ! horrible support. trying out http://www.5spot.ca/ and so far so good

  • Johanna

    I personally like ListingDock.com, great site to start your business, buy, sell, trade anything specially crafted items. Their support is very fast and active and I’m making good sales with this marketplace.