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Marketing and Product Management Leader, Forbes Columnist, Software Expertise in Analytics, Cloud, CPQ & ERP Solutions. Principal at IQMS, formerly with iBASEt, Cincoom, AMR Research.

3 responses to “Why Completely Trusting Enterprise Software Review Sites Is A Bad Idea”

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  2. Vinay Bhagat

    Louis – since this is a cross-post from your article in Forbes, I thought it was appropriate to re-post my comment.

    I’m CEO of TrustRadius – one of the review sites you mention. I am glad that you’re bringing attention to this important issue. I agree with you that trust is a critical issue. It’s one of our core values at TrustRadius, and a principal reason why we chose our brand name. I’d like to describe some of the approaches we use to maximize trustworthiness of our community:

    1. Beyond LinkedIn Authentication, we stage and check every review
    We are the only site that I’m aware of that stages every review before its published and has a human being review its legitimacy. Beyond LinkedIn authentication, we verify that the review is not written by a competitor or the vendor itself. The human check also assesses whether the review seems balanced, legitimate and from an actual user. We regularly reject 3-5% of inbound reviews, either because we suspect fraud, or because the review contains insufficient details to provide value to a reader.

    2. We qualify reviewers
    We reject reviews from people who say that they have only seen a demo etc, or have not used the product recently. Our cut off is typically 6 months.

    3. We declare important affiliations
    We add a summary at the top of every review which includes key factors, like if the reviewer is consultant who generates fees from implementing the product.

    4. We are the most vendor-independent site
    87% of our reviews are based upon our own sourcing efforts – where we’ve identified people with specific product expertise, or they’ve profiled themselves previously in our community when using it.

    5. Our review totals are just that – real reviews, not just ratings
    Unlike G2Crowd, we do not allow people to rate products without providing a full review as that’s too easy to fake/game.

    6. We invite vendor comments
    We encourage vendors to comment on their own reviews so long as they do so appropriately, being respectful to the reviewer etc. They are also an extra safety check for legitimacy.

    7. We have no vendor affiliations
    I concur with you that it’s problematic for any review site to have an affiliation with a software company. As I raised capital for TrustRadius last year, I had the opportunity to take capital from some prominent software company CEOs and I did not do so.

    8. We are focused on collecting in-depth, high quality insights
    Our average review is 500 words, and the average reviewer spends 18 minutes writing their review.

    9. Our reviewers can update their review at any time
    Sentiment often changes. Our reviewers can update or augment their review at any time. We display the previous ratings and comments, so our audience can understand how opinion has changed.

    Since our launch in May, we’ve sourced ~3000 in-depth reviews. In that time, only two reviews have been published that were later found to be illegitimate.

    Here is an article that I previously wrote on this topic:
    http://www.shoretelsky.com/modern-company/blog/what-can-b2b-learn-from-tripadvisor/

    How Reviews Fit Into the Buyer’s Journey

    Reviews are a wonderful additional source of information, but not a substitute for vendor engagement. They help buyers identify good choices, narrow to a short list, and assess their candidates. It helps the buyer ask smarter questions of the vendor, and make a decision faster and with more confidence. We also encourage our users to connect with reviewers to talk live to them. I will however say that an increasing number of buyers are looking to do independent online or back-channel diligence before they engage vendors. We’ve found that 90% of the people are on our site are in an active purchase cycle and 42% of them have not yet engaged a vendor.

    We have not covered the ERP space, but for a representative set of coverage for a large enterprise oriented solution, please take a look at our coverage of Workday or Eloqua:

    http://www.trustradius.com/products/workday

    http://www.trustradius.com/products/eloqua

    Vinay Bhagat
    CEO, TrustRadius
    @vinaybhagat

  3. Godard Abel

    Louis, thanks for the post and for stirring up a good discussion around enterprise review sites. I would like to respond to points you raised in your post:

    1) At G2 Crowd, we agree that preventing fraud and providing transparency are key. Thus from day 1 we have required users to sign up with their LinkedIn profile which allows us to validate identities and filter obvious fraud such as reviewing one’s own or a competitors products. Furthermore software buyers can drill down into reviews and see the profiles of the reviewers and to filter reviews by their LinkedIn connections. Our users have shared with us that they will most likely trust the opinions of people they already know, and so we have made it as easy as possible for them to find and leverage their social connections. In addition reviewers can validate their reviews by submitting screen shots of them using the application and submitting for additional screening by our team. The whole model is transparent to users of our site, who can for themselves decide which content to trust. Furthermore our user crowd helps to identify the best content by grading other reviews.

    2) You rightly point out that some categories on our site such as ERP are still lacking in review content which is fair. We launched our G2 Crowd Beta 12 months ago and have initially focused on CRM and marketing software categories where we have also published our first Grids. Many software buyers have already made successful software selections based on the content in the CRM (http://www.g2crowd.com/categories/crm) and marketing categories (http://www.g2crowd.com/categories/marketing-automation) featured on our home page for which we now have a critical mass of content.

    3) Unlike the traditional analyst model, all rankings on our site are driven algorithmically by applying our ratings engine to data we gather from user reviews, social sources (e.g. LinkedIn, Twitter, Klout) and online sources (e.g. Google, Alexa). Thus they are not influenced by my or our own staff’s opinions. All the data is transparent for any product rated on our site and SteelBrick’s positive reviews from real users with their LinkedIn profiles are a big part of what gave me the confidence to make a significant investment.

    Look forward to continuing the dialogue as this enterprise review market evolves.