Business Leaders Should Be Wary Of Crowdsourced Technology Reviews
by Jim Lundy
In 2016, I was approached by an employee of crowdsourced review site G2 Crowd asking me to do a paid review for some software offerings. I declined and posted the invite on LinkedIn. Since that time, a number of companies have gone public with stories of G2 Crowd soliciting customers for reviews—and they’re not happy about it.
This blog discusses G2 Crowd as well as the state of crowdsourced review sites. We’ll dive into how these companies obtain new reviews—and whether we can trust the veracity of those posts or not.
Like many crowdsourced review sites, G2 Crowd can pay people to write reviews of software (and services), such as eCommerce, Content Management, and CRM (and tons of other categories). G2 crowd does admit in its Community Guidelines that it may offer incentives to reviewers, though it leaves it ambiguous as to what the incentives actually are. It also states that it offers the incentive regardless of whether the review is positive or negative. So it’s fair to say the incentive should not affect the content of the review itself.
How Does G2 Crowd Recruit Reviewers?
Here’s the much larger problem. G2 Crowd has outreach specialists and they have become much more aggressive in going after customers to do reviews. The founders of Honey have documented their story and the aggressive tactics used. Apparently, G2 Crowd studies a vendor website for customer names and then reaches out to them—so it’s understandable that vendors like Honey are frustrated and feel violated, especially because their customers are left wondering if G2 Crowd reached out to them on the vendor’s behalf. This practice is not transparent and G2 Crowd should work on improving it.
The Problem That’s Difficult To Prevent
One of the major problems plaguing crowdsourced review sites is fake reviews. Dominic Smith tracked a fake G2 Crowd reviewer in his blog and proved that one person, Elliot Rounds, had a fake Linkedin profile (see Figure 1).
While G2 Crowd states that it conducts a review moderation process, the reality is that many fake reviews still slip through the cracks, and it may need to re-examine its process if it wants users to trust its platform.
G2 Crowd and Gartner Peer Insights
A CEO of a major software firm was telling me about a competitor that is using Gartner Peer Insights to make their firm look bigger than they are. The reality is that firm operates in only a few countries, but that is not the impression when you see their profile on Peer Insights. The difference between G2 Crowd and Gartner however is that Gartner has more than Peer Insights—it has actual independent research.
Will You Get Fired If You Make A Product Selection Based On G2 Crowd?
For people at an enterprise who are making software purchase decisions, this is a warning notice. While G2 Crowd is great for marketers to promote their offering, the inconsistency of reviews means you can’t count on the veracity of the content. This is a buyer beware situation and you have been warned.
Instead, look to independent research. Aragon, Forrester, and Gartner all produce market evaluation reports that compare vendors. The Aragon Research Globe is in its 8th year of helping buyers understand markets. The recipe for making a decision is to read a report—or with Aragon to watch the video and read the report—and then to talk to the Lead Analyst about some of the providers you are considering. Not every factoid goes into a report and given the situation in an enterprise, some vendors may be a better match than others based on requirements.
Bottom Line: Do Your Homework
The real issue is the volume of fake reviews that are appearing on nearly all crowdsourced review sites and the questionable tactics used to get customers to review a product. G2 Crowd is not able to verify all users and it is unclear if Gartner is either (on Peer Insights). Of course, Amazon helped start all of this, but the world of consumer goods is far different than buying technology—due to the implications involved in deploying technology across an enterprise.
Business leaders and decision makers need to take crowdsourced reviews with a grain of salt. Insights from users of a product are valuable, but only if they’re real. Instead, start a conversation with your real-life peers, and rely on objective sources, such as independent research, when making purchasing decisions that will affect business outcomes in your enterprise.