'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

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HMV's £50m social-commerce turnaround plan

HMV’s £50m Social-Commerce Turnaround

It's not often we're treated to a bona fide good news story in retail, but Hilco's rescue buyout of HMV most definitely qualifies. First, Hilco have an excellent track record with these things and, secondly, hopefully some of HMV's amazing team will be retained to help paddle the boat back upstream. I worked at HMV for a short time and, take it from me, some of the people there are the most extraordinary, passionate and gifted folk working in retail today. We wish them the best of luck.

But - and you knew there'd be a "but", right? - if HMV wants to rise from these ashes, some pretty critical things have to change. And we're not convinced that refocusing on music and entertainment is the be-all-and-end-all solution some people are suggesting (remember: HMV was forced to trade in tech and other lifestyle items because entertainment was effectively being sold as a loss-leader by its rivals). Nor is some mad dash to catch up with old technology the answer. It's easy to say that HMV missed the boat with ecommerce and downloads, but that's not strictly true: for every Spotify, HMV had an HMV Jukebox. For every Blinkbox, it had

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Five ways social commerce can make YOUR online community profitable

Five ways to monetise YOUR online community with social commerce

For years, monetisation has been the elephant in the room for online communities. On the one hand, all that moderation, content creation, love and - let's face it - server capacity doesn't pay for itself. On the other hand, you didn't set this community up to make money, and no one joined to make you rich.

The brilliant writer Patrick O'Keefe went a huge way towards smashing that taboo with his latest book, Monetizing Online Forums (he's from North Carolina so we'll forgive him the spelling). But what about social commerce? Can you tap into the latest tools and trends to make money out of your community without alienating your members?

We think so. And here's five tried and tested ways we've helped communities from Mumsnet to Robbie Williams's gigantic fanbase do just that.

1. Quite simply, brands pay to run Co-buys. We've helped set up thousands of Co-buys with partners ranging from The Mirror to the motorcycling mecca, Visordown - and brands have been queueing up to get on board... at a cost.

2. Co-buys can be sold either as one-off marketing events, or as entire Co-buying channels. Brands can either take over those channels - supplying and promoting

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