A shill is someone who works for an organization, but claims not to in order to be a reliable source. These shills use shill marketing to promote products. Basically, they act like they are regular consumers, unaffiliated with the company. Then, they promote good personal experience about the product or service and convince the public to purchase from this company. Often times, shill marketing works, because individuals seek out viable sources outside of the company. They’ll come to these shills and read about their experience or ask about their experience. Because they’re assumed to be unaffiliated with the company, they’ll further trust their opinion.
One of the most classic examples or places where shill marketing still happens today is the Internet. A shill can create a message board of sorts, and then, post a question from an anonymous person. Then, that same shill can anonymously answer his own question with an entirely different profile. Questions might be about anyone who has had experience with a certain brand or service or suggestions for purchasing particular products.
Other industries, known to use shills or shill marketing, include the gambling industry, auctions to create higher bidding, journalism, and research and experiments.
Why does shill marketing matter?
Shill marketing is deceptive and biased. It’s simply a ploy to get consumers to purchase a product by falsifying experience with a brand or falsifying an opinion. Further, it diminishes legitimate feedback from real consumers, promoting other products. For example, commercials on television, which advertise with testimonials, lose all credibility, because consumers do not know if these people are real life cases or if they work for the company being promoted. Another bad thing about shill marketing is that consumers cannot get the real facts on products. They may invest large amounts of money into a product based on a shill’s opinion, which may be completely off base. Employing the use of shills in the science world can pose great threats to individuals using the supposedly tested products. For example, if shills push for a prescription to be passed and skew results, consumers who use these drugs could be potentially harmed.
How can one expose a shill or rather, refrain from biased opinions?
One of the things consumers can do is to utilize widely used websites, where much feedback is given. For example (although this website is obviously not a shill marketing website), I frequent AllRecipes.com often to find new recipes. Typically, I know what I’m searching for and I’ll type in that type of menu item. From there, I search out recipes, which have hundreds of ratings. This can help me to observe that multiple, multiple people agree. One person is obviously not going to fill out 800 different profiles and then, give the recipe 800 different responses and different things to try with the specific recipe. Consumers can apply this same method to other products and services they are looking for on the Internet. The more opinions of a product, the better chances the opinions are legitimate and not part of a marketing scheme.
Consumers should always be aware of products and services they are purchasing. They need to seek out multiple opinions from various sources. If they will do these things, they decrease their chances of getting scammed by shills or shill marketing scandals.