'Customer' reviews are often fake. Social advocacy NEVER is.

Online reviews mean nothing. Social advocacy is everything.

Never move house. Just don't do it. You pay a fortune to own the same old stuff in a different place. And then, to cap it off, your better half decides that you need a new washing machine when everyone knows it's perfectly adequate just to take your smalls down to a riverbank and whack them with a stick.

Yeah, I'm feeling the pinch.

Anyway... buying a washing machine. With a million online shops and a trillion online 'customer' reviews, you'd have thought picking a brand, model and retailer would be a doddle. Well, guess what? It ain't. And that's mainly because you just can't trust what you read in online reviews anymore - why else would one retailer have 59 negative reviews on ciao.co.uk with barely any positives, but almost exactly the opposite on Google seller reviews?

The problem is: online reviews are so scammed by businesses hyping themselves and slating their rivals that it's next to impossible to figure out what's a genuine, balanced perspective from a real consumer and what's 'seed content' or 'tactical interference'.

Everyone really is a critic... including the shops themselves.

Luckily, the one thing you just can't fix is social advocacy from people with traceable histories. When your friend Debbie tells you that Appliance Online are absolutely brilliant (they are, by the way), you know she really means it. And, even if you don't know Debbie, you can check out how long her social media account has been around, how often she posts and how prone to insane ramblings she is.

You just can't do that with an anonymous review from 'Disappointed Of Staten Island'.

So, the trick is to give your customers crystal clear reasons to say nice things about your brand in the places where they usually do their talking - on Facebook, on Twitter, via email, on their blogs, etc. We think making shopping fun goes a long way towards making that happen.

And you need to give your customers compelling things to talk about - timely events, moments, special occasions. If you're lucky, you'll catch their audiences in a pincer movement, where the positive advocacy hits them from all sides ("Debbie loves this... and Claire? And Kevin? It must be amazing").

THAT'S how you get online word of mouth working for you and your brand, and we'd love to help you get started...