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 endorsements, false 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 ninja, serenading 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.
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.