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The Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) Seeks Comment on Proposed "Authenticity Guidelines" for Consumer Ratings and Reviews

CHICAGO, IL--(Marketwire - Dec 20, 2012) - The Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) has introduced a proposed set of guiding principles designed to help safeguard the authenticity of consumer ratings and reviews. Developed with input from industry leaders like WOMMA member Bazaarvoice, the proposed guidelines are intended to equip brands and marketing practitioners with industry-leading practices necessary to give consumers confidence that ratings and reviews content is reliable, genuine, unbiased, and transparent. WOMMA is now seeking public review and comment before formally adopting the guidelines into the organization's Ethics Code of Conduct. The proposed guidelines and instructions for those who wish to provide comments can be found at http://www.womma.org/authenticity-guidelines

"Reviews have emerged as one of the most valuable forms of content that influences consumers' decisions to use a particular product or service, whether they're researching their next technology purchase, choosing a tax advisor, or looking for their very first car," said Suzanne Fanning, President of WOMMA. "As part of our continued effort to advance and advocate ethical word of mouth marketing, we've engaged with our membership, including industry leaders like Bazaarvoice, to propose a framework we believe will inspire and increase consumers' trust in the ratings and review content they rely on every day."

The proposed guidelines, which can be applied by any marketing organization regardless of technology platform or association membership, delineate three key criteria for authentic content:

  • Free from fraud and spam: Companies will use reasonable means to prevent the submission of fraudulent content from any submission source, including disruptive or trolling behavior, commercial messages, and automated submissions (i.e. bots, programs, and scripts); illegitimate or degrading content by a client's competitor, and self-promotion.
  • Free from edits, classification, and alteration: Reviews will not be altered in any way by anyone other than the person who has written it -- including corrections for spelling or grammar. Reviews will not be filtered, edited, or deleted because they are negative or are lower rated.
  • Transparent: Direct solicitation of positive reviews is prohibited. If consumers are incented via monetary or other means such as discounts or coupons, the reviews must disclose that the consumer was given something of value in return of providing the unbiased review. Further, employees and vendors of the organization may not submit content without disclosing their relationship to the product or service.

"The authentic voice of the consumer drives business," said Jim Houlihan, Director of Content Authenticity at Bazaarvoice. "Customers depend on authentic reviews to make informed purchase decisions, which creates an opportunity for businesses to grow when they incorporate the consumer's voice into their online presence. It's absolutely critical that we help protect that alliance between companies and consumers. That is why we have worked tirelessly to develop new processes and technology to help reviews remain authentic and trusted, and why we are working with WOMMA to promote the establishment of guidelines for the industry as a whole."

The Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) is the official trade association dedicated to word of mouth and social media marketing. Founded in 2004, WOMMA is the leader in ethical word of mouth marketing practices through its offline education such as WOMMA Summit, professional development opportunities, and knowledge sharing with top industry marketers. WOMMA's membership is made up of the most innovative companies committed to progressing the word of mouth marketing industry through advocacy, education, and ethics. For more information, visit www.WOMMA.org