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I May Be a Delinquent, But at Least I’m Not a Phony

by Jenny Sussin  |  September 24, 2012  |  11 Comments

It’s been two months since I’ve last blogged. Many corporate executives, celebrities and politicians aren’t even blogging for themselves. They aren’t even tweeting for themselves (although I think Chelsea Handler is because she thanked me one time on Twitter and I felt the truth in it.)

While I may not be Justin Bieber (take a moment to acknowledge how sick you are of him…and continue)

Jimmy Fallon as Justin Bieber

I feel like there are times, in this case the last two months, where I am straight up too busy or burnt out to blog. I don’t want to give you half of me – I may be a delinquent, but at least I’m not a phony and I will never let someone blog or tweet on my behalf. Can I get an AMEN?!

Let’s get down to business: phonies. Holden Caulfield wasn’t down with them and while I’m no longer an overly dramatic teenager, I can say I’ve got beef.

Some of you may have seen the recent press release Gartner had issued that centered on some research the smarter British version of me (Ed Thompson) and I had done a few months back on the number of social media-based likes, comments, fans and reviews that are phony. I had some Twitter conversations over the last week with some of you so I’ll explain a little bit to you all who don’t have access to Gartner research but need a little more Sussompson (that’s a combo of Ed and I.)

Here’s what you need to know:

Pay attention.

  • Consumers’ increased reliance on social media ratings and reviews will see enterprise spending on paid social media ratings and reviews increase, making up 10% to 15% of all reviews by 2014.
  • Increased media attention to fake social media ratings and reviews will result in at least two Fortune 500 brands facing litigation from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) over the next two years.
  • Consumer perception of tightened government regulation and increased media exposure of fake social media ratings and reviews will increase consumer trust in new and existing social media ratings and reviews.

These aren’t random numbers but very conservative extrapolations of surveys and studies from Econsultancy and Cornell University. I’m not trying to freak anyone out because I check Yelp and TripAdvisor on the regular, but from the consumer perspective, the audience I’m trying to reach in this blog post – look at more than one source, would ya? Look through the reviews for the product/service/trip you’re looking at. What is consistent? What doesn’t fit in with the other reviews? Are there pictures? How detailed are we getting? Catch those phonies.

What if you’re reading a CEO’s blog? What information do you know about the CEO? Is there anything remotely personal or relate-able in what is written? Are there long running references, maybe mini jokes for the consistent reader? Don’t allow yourself to be delusional, and I say demand genuine engagement from your resources on social media.

If you’re reading this from the business perspective and what you should be doing about it – you’ve unfortunately or fortunately got to have access to the full research on

What do you think? Do you think we’re being too conservative? Too crazy? Are you frustrated with obviously fake reviews? Have you ever been duped?

PS – As always, spelling errors and grammatical errors are always abundant. I know.



Jenny Sussin
Research Director
6 years with Gartner
7 years IT industry

Jenny Sussin is a Research Director in the ITL Enterprise Software group of Gartner Research, with primary focus on social for CRM. Read Full Bio

Thoughts on I May Be a Delinquent, But at Least I’m Not a Phony

  1. seo Jack says:

    great post ! the video’s are impressive

  2. eBills says:

    I really enjoyed reading your article! Great Stuff!

  3. I’m concerned that this is one of those stories that the media picks up and passes around like it’s gospel, with little or no digging to determine where this data (and more importantly the future estimate) came from. If the current rate is 2-6%, how is estimating that it will be 10-15% in 2-3 years a “conservative” estimate when that translates to a 300% increase? How can you make an estimate of future fraud levels when you don’t know what kind of pressure might come to bear to solve the problem?
    I understand your post is supposed to be more conversational and light in tone, but there are brands out there who have businesses based on review services, or who are considering investing in review services who read these things and assume a certain level of scientific rigor when an organization like Gartner publishes something. In other words, this is serious stuff to some of us, so it’s a bit frustrating to see you post and treat it like it’s not very serious and that the takeaway from the research is, “look at more than one source, would ya?” Not trying to hate here, just a bit frustrating.

  4. Jenny Sussin says:

    Hi Jeff,

    Understand what you’re saying but this isn’t something we take lightly. There is advice that is geared toward the enterprise (so you and your business) and then advice that is geared toward the consumer (like me and you as consumers of every day products.)

    The blog is geared at we the consumer. The research note is geared at the enterprise. Within the note, the conservative estimate is further supported by the number of consumers who currently trust a person like themselves over alternative sources as well as the number of people who read reviews prior to making a purchasing decision.

    I know the term “conservative” seems frivolous when the increase is 300%, but considering the other research we identified which cites the current number of fraudulent reviews as well as reliance on reviews in making a purchasing decision to be much higher than the figures which we moved our research forward with, 10-15% is indeed conservative.

    Within the full research note, we do take into account future pressures that will come to bear around solving this problem including both litigation and media attention.

    I appreciate the feedback and you are undoubtedly entitled to your frustration, but the research I do and we do takes the enterprise into consideration first and foremost and I do hope you’ll check out some of the additional research we plan to publish around this topic moving forward.

  5. Ok that’s reasonable enough, thanks for replying.

  6. Jenny Sussin says:

    Thank you for taking the time to share your POV. I really want people to use this as an open forum to discuss their perspectives so I appreciate the thoughts and frustrations Jeff.

  7. Hi, Jenny-
    I’ve just stumbled upon the Gartner Network Blog and perused a number of bloggers — your posts really resonate with me! I’m pretty new to social media, and I resisted in part because of the the things you discuss here. Who knows who’s really talking??? Just because there a headshot of the “author” doesn’t guarantee she’s actually the author!!! On the other hand, do you think that people now assume much/most is “ghostwritten” — and do you think they care? Has technology/social media killed the spirit of genuine-ness?
    I’d love to hear your take-
    – Erin Larson,

  8. Jenny Sussin says:

    Hey Erin,

    You bring up a super interesting point and I think one that is the secret fear of smart marketers and communications directors: if everyone is under the impression that everything is ghostwritten, then who will care about our content? Have the phonies killed the spirit of a genuine engagement medium?

    “We’re not dead yet,” I’d say. Not everyone is as disillusioned as the few of us who have been asked to ghost write. I do think people care if something is ghostwritten – especially if its an executive or influencer message. People read for their insight, not the top level marketing message they could get from your website or spam emails. There is a sense of intimacy that is established on social media between people who’ve never even met face-to-face (shout out to my tweeps!)

    But to answer your question more directly, no I don’t think technology/social has killed the spirit of being genuine. I do think it’s brought the fakers to the forefront and put them in a position where it becomes obvious to an amplified group of people that they don’t have time to speak for themselves, which is one right you never want to give up in my POV.

    Does anyone else have a thought on this? I like the direction you took this Erin.


  9. Thanks for the reply, Jenny! Your optimism made my day:) What are some of the “tells” you look for when you suspect a message is “fake”? (I’m probably a sucker: I actually — used to? — believe it’s Ryan Gosling or Samuel L. Jackson tweeting for themselves…)
    Erin Larson,

  10. Jenny Sussin says:

    It may be Ryan Gosling or Samuel L. Jackson – but if all they’re doing is promoting their movies, then it probably isn’t them.

    Look at the history of what people have contributed to the site – impersonal or only one/two remarks usually means you should look for another source.

  11. Hey, great tips! (You really think that Sam Jackson is sitting around tweeting hilarious stuff for fun, just like the rest of us?? If so, I like him even more!) Would you have any interest in writing a quick guest-post about this for our blog ( I really think our readers would benefit from your experience.
    Thanks for considering…
    – Erin Larson,

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