Walmart’s credibility was questioned in the past few years when it was learned that the company hired people to post fake-positive commentary on its products and services online. Walmart was caught for doing this and essentially received a slap on the wrist since money was used as an incentive for the positive reviews.
Unfortunately, I can to relate to the situation. During the summer, I worked at Warner Bros. Records (WBR) as an interactive media intern. There were seven other interns who sat at a table with me as we monitored social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and of course, iTunes since WBR is a music label. WBR manages artists such as Michael Buble, Jason Mraz and Meek Mill, along with other big names in the music industry.
Add as many “positive reviews” as possible
During our down time at the office, the interns were instructed to go on iTunes, Facebook and YouTube to find wherever a new WBR album promotion was listed, or the actual album itself and
add as many “positive reviews” as possible. Once we located the album or song, we were instructed to “promote,” which meant generating a random posting name or fictional account in order to gain access then post a positive review. However, we were specifically instructed not to make it obvious that we were working at WBR while posting those comments; they were to look as casual as possible. At one point, it was even suggested we text our friends outside of the office and have the friend add a positive review as well.
This concept did not sit well, because of how deliberately fake it was. When I go on iTunes to buy a song or look at reviews, I want to rest assured that my $11.99 is worth dropping on new music. The type of commentary posted and disguised as everyday music listeners is misleading and untrue. The music we were promoting might have been great or terrible, but the point is that none of us actually listened to it in order to know and yet we were instructed to post stellar reviews.
A record label should be honest and dependable. I understand it’s WBR’s job to get the word out about its artists in the most positive way. However, there are probably ways to do that outside of instructing its employees to post illegitimate reviews about music to which they may not have listened.
I was ashamed to post these reviews because I wouldn’t want to read fake reviews when deciding whether to buy an album. It makes you question other commentary too. How many companies hire people to post the best reviews about products just to boost a name or service? How many of those reviews are actually legitimate? How will consumers even know the difference? The reason WBR was probably able to get away with putting interns up to this task is because interns are unpaid and employees (paid or not) working under the Warner Music Group name are required to sign a confidentiality agreement stating that our tasks cannot be discussed outside of WMG, for the most part, for a period of time.
Ethically, I did not agree with these posts and I did not want to speak out about it since I was just an intern and obviously wanted the name on my resume. There were six other interns perfectly willing to post those reviews if I decided it wasn’t for me and after the second time I was assigned to post those reviews, I stopped. I worked on other ongoing projects or asked for another task to complete.
People’s trust is already depleted when it comes to the media. What’s next?