Earlier this summer, word leaked out about Microsoft using a “reputation management” company to astrotuf Reddit. In the months since that, people have claimed that the person who unveiled the astroturfing was just a troll, but that’s exactly the sort of response these reputation management companies make when they’re exposed for doing what they do.
Now, on the eve of the PlayStation 4 launch with social media exploding over FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt) concerns about the console’s reliability; I’ve learned from a few industry sources a bit of news that causes me to not trust anything. At all. It’s really hard to trust many things I hear about either console that I read on Reddit, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Twitch, a forum, or even certain blogs/websites due to this news…
According to multiple industry sources, Micrsoft has over 1,000 viral marketers in the field right now “managing the reputation” for the Xbox One versus the Playstation 4. These “reputation managers” are operating over all forms of media, so this just isn’t limited to a few Tweets or message board postings. This includes YouTube videos and Twitch streamers as well. They want all bases covered. And it’s not just to pump up the Xbox One, they want to spread FUD about the PS4 to hopefully convince people on the fence to not buy the system.
To be clear, these aren’t Microsoft employees doing this so if Major Nelson denies it, he’s right from a certain point of view. These are people who work for marketing or reputation management companies, who have been contracted by Microsoft. Plausible deniability.
Microsoft isn’t the only one to do this, EA is also really active with these “reputation management” companies now (especially after being voted the worst company two years in a row).
Also, Sony has done this in the past. Back in 2006, Sony hired a marketing company known as Zipatoni to create a really stupid “All I want for Christmas is a PSP” viral marketing campaign. It was exposed as being fake, and the whole thing blew up in their faces. So I’ve heard they’re not resulting to those sort of tactics this time around, as if a viral marketer is exposed it just makes your company look deceptive. Nintendo doesn’t do it either, as their fans do it for them for free.
Now I’m not coming out and accusing anyone specific for being a viral marketer, I’m just saying to take everything you see or hear that’s vehemently negative or super positive over the next couple weeks with a grain of salt.