Keeping it Legal: Using Customer Testimonials Without Breaking the Law
Consumers today do a ton of research online before making a purchasing decision. They read specs, compare prices, and – you guessed it – they read a lot of reviews and testimonials.
Why? Because reading testimonials gives consumers an idea of how the product/service will work out for them (or not). This type of social proof is important because it tugs at the emotional strings of consumers; it puts the reader in the shoes of the reviewer.
Using social proof has become a key marketing strategy for brands today. There are a number of ways social proof can be highlighted on a website:
- Case studies
- Media mentions
- Social shares
Each of these methods of using customer testimonials can help bolster social proof to website visitors and have the potential to sway leads into customers.
If you are still doubting the importance of real user reviews, endorsements, and testimonials, here are some statistics that will help you understand:
- “85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.”
- “93% of consumers say online reviews do impact their purchasing decisions.”
- “50% of consumers will question a business’s quality after reading negative reviews.”
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 actually 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.
Take a look at the FTC Endorsement Guide:
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:
It is acceptable 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 customers) do not include any misleading or unverifiable information in your review.
The best way to show authenticity with your reviews is by using a customer testimonial platform, like Spectoos, that has real photos of the reviewers and links to their social media profiles. This helps to show they are real people — not computer-generated avatars.
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 “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.
This is just one easy way to get customer testimonials that are authentic and help build trust with the brand.
3. Affiliations must be disclosed
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:
It is a common trend today for brands to connect with influencers who have popular blogs or a lot of followers on social media. Brands will team up with these influencers to promote their products or services with reviews, testimonials, giveaways, and general mentions on their blogs or social media channels.
It’s important to make sure any partnerships or affiliations are disclosed to the public. This infographic highlights a number of best practices influencers should use across social media channels when highlighting brand affiliations.
These kinds of expert opinions can still be very valuable. Make sure your endorsement is legit by asking the influencer to start 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.”
Here’s more information on how influencers should disclose brand deals:
Using 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 tools) 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.
Do you want to start using customer testimonials in your marketing strategy? If you’re looking for more effective ways to collect and manage testimonials for your brand give Spectoos a try, today.
Also published on Medium.