Does Your Online Presence Pass the Truth Test?

Published: Monday, December 10, 2012 at 03:43 PM.

What's the fastest-growing marketing trend on the Internet?

I'm sad to say it's the "fakeosphere." Yes, fake blogs (called "flogs"), fake web news sites and fake testimonials. They look like the real thing, right down to comments posted by "bloggers" and their supposed readers. Those comments appear to be written by people discussing the pros and cons of a particular product or service, and they even include some naysayers.

"But in the end, the bloggers and their readers always win over the skeptics and persuade them to buy the product from a convenient nearby link," writes Bob Sullivan in his blog on msnbc.com.

He cites Internet marketing analyst Jay Weintraub, who believes the fakeosphere has become a $500 million-a-year industry.

These fake sites and phony conversations are often more than simply misleading - OK, fraudulent - marketing. For consumers, they can be downright dangerous.

"The end game for most of these sites - no matter what they sell - is to persuade a consumer to sign up for a 'free' trial of a product, then make it incredibly difficult to cancel before the trial period ends," Sullivan writes. "A similar technique ... is to offer a free product and charge a web user a token shipping and handling fee, just to get the consumers' bank account information. Larger charges soon follow."

Consumers are - and should be - increasingly wary. They're scrutinizing websites more closely, especially if they're considering making a purchase there. They're avoiding social media interactions with anything that smells less than genuine, and they're more careful about who they share information with online.



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