First, what’s “astroturfing?”
Roughly, it’s when formal political, advertising, or public relations campaigns seek to create the impression of spontaneous “grassroots” behavior, hence the reference to the artificial grass, AstroTurf.*
On Friday, The Daily Background Blog revealed that a Belkin employee was doing just that: Paying 65 cents for perfect reviews on Buy.com, NewEgg.com and Amazon.com’s Mechanical Turk, where people can receive micropayments for small technical tasks computers can’t do.
To their credit, Belkin’s CEO responded over the weekend, stating that “Belkin does not participate in, nor does it endorse, unethical practices like this.” The company went on to take responsibility, asked forgiveness and claimed Belkin will remove all the false reviews and posts on Mechanical Turk.
Hats off to Belkin for the quick response—this is exactly the way this should have been handled and they’ve surely avoided even more negative word of mouth.
But I ask you, Responsible Marketer, at what point do we hold a company accountable for the actions of its representatives? Is all forgiven with Belkin? Could this have been avoided?
Seems like a great argument for social media training to me, but what do you think?
Thanks to Freddy Nager at Atomic Tango for sharing the Belkin story with me.
*My revision of the Wikipedia definition