You will be found out if you try to break the online rules

David Friend is doing the right thing – but rather too late. Who is David Friend you may ask. Well, he’s the CEO of Carbonite, one of the most popular online backup services. The problem is, his staff don’t appear to have been doing the right thing – at least when it comes to marketing.

It seems that his Vice President of Marketing and one of the company’s senior engineers were writing things about Carbonite on Amazon. Indeed, they were saying very good things about the services of Carbonite. So what’s wrong with that, you might also ask.

Well, neither of these individuals owned up to the fact that they were employees – senior ones at that – of Carbonite. In other words, Amazon users were reading reviews of Carbonite blissfully unaware that the people recommending the company were in fact employed by Carbonite itself. It’s rather like Richard Branson writing an anonymous review of Virgin Atlantic, saying it is marvellous, but not revealing he owns the airline.

Fortunately for Mr Friend, his colleagues were found out. He has now stepped in to ensure that the relevant reviews are changed. But it is all reminiscent of the great WalMart Blog Scandal. PR people working for WalMart wrote blogs that provided a positive view of the WalMart world. All very well – that’s what PR people are supposed to do. True, but not while pretending they have nothing to do with the company.

Transparency is the issue. If your web site isn’t transparent – if it pretends to be something it isn’t. Or if your online activities include any element of “fiction”, or “cover-up” you will be found out. For the consumer it is all too easy now to find you out. And once they do, it could take ages for you to rebuild trust. If you must review your own products or services, or write blogs promoting your company then be honest. Your customers will respect your honesty far more highly than they might take on board the original reviews anyway.

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