Keeping it Legal - Customer Testimonials without Braking the Law

Keeping it Legal – Customer Testimonials without Breaking the Law

If you are still doubting the importance of real user reviews, endorsements, and testimonials, here are some statistics that will help you understand:

  • 90% of online buyers say that positive reviews influence their buying decisions, according to a 2013 study by Dimensional Research [1].
  • 79% of consumers trust online customer testimonials as much as they rely on personal recommendations, according to another 2013 study [2].
  • Customer testimonials have the highest effectiveness rating in content marketing at 89%, according to yet another study [3].

Still not convinced? Why not try it out for yourself. Add customer testimonials to your own site and watch your conversions sky-rocket.

But, wait, before you do, there is something you need to know: many online customer testimonials are illegal. Before you disobey laws that you may not have even known existed, make sure you follow these tips to keep your customer testimonials legit and in line with the Federal Trade Commission’s truth in advertising laws:

1.    Customer testimonials must be authentic

Because customer testimonials must reflect the user’s actual experience and opinions, you cannot “feed” your clients the reviews you would like them to leave. Also, all claims have to be provable. That is, if a customer says your product increased their sales 500% or made them lose 500 pounds in 5 days, they need the scientific proof to back it up.

How to do it right:

Present your customers with an easy way to leave testimonials in their own words about their own experiences. It is OK to guide your customer with directions like “please tell us about your actual experience with XYZ product” or “we are interested in your thoughts about our customer service.” Just make sure that you (and your customer) do not include any misleading or unverifiable information in your review.

2.    Customer testimonials must be typical

Is it possible that one customer saw a 500% increase in their sales by using your product? It is! It may even be verifiable. However, if this is not the typical customer experience, you must disclose that by including a statement like “your results may vary.”

How to do it right:

In addition to the customer testimonial that claims results well above average, you may also want to offer survey results or studies that show average results of multiple customers.

3.    Affiliations must be disclosed

In online marketing especially, often times bloggers are paid money and/or given gifts to promote a product. If this is the case, the affiliation must be disclosed and the review cannot be published as unsolicited.

How to do it right:

These kinds of expert opinions can still be very valuable. Keep it legit by starting the review by saying something like “XYZ company paid my sponsorship fee to review their product. Though my time is paid for, my opinions are my own.”

FTC Endorsement Guide:

Customer testimonials can be both legal and effective

As studies show, customer testimonials can be extremely effective in building trust and reliability (not to mention, sales!)  for new or lesser-known brands. Follow these tips to maintain their legality and they will surely help your business soar:

  • Provide an easy way for your customers to provide their feedback (we recommend our social testimonials toos) and give permission to use their testimonial.
  • Guide users about the kind of information you would like them to review, but not the content of the review itself.
  • If customers experience results that are atypical, disclose that “individual results may vary” and/or include information about what kind of results are typical.
  • Disclose any affiliations that may be viewed as skewing the testimonial such as paying for reviews or providing gifts.
  • Test different reviews on your site to gauge which ones are most effective.