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Reviewing How We Look At Reviewers Part 2: Can You Spot A Shill?



Full disclaimer: my opinion is sponsored by your viewership or maybe not.  By the way this product I have been using is the greatest.  That is all!  Thank you for reading this article!

Before I get into the meat of this topic, I want to tell a story about a client of mine who lives in a neighboring city.  After looking at my website and seeing my pricing, he called me on the phone about detailing a very rare car he was going sell.  He informed me that initially his primary goal was to have someone to do touch up paint on the car.  I told him I was concerned that I may not be able to do a great job and that it definitely won’t be perfect.  This conversation evolved into me detailing 3 of his vehicles, lunch together out on the town, and a few beers while sharing with me what he does as a occupation.  In hindsight I could recognize the tone/energy of the dialogue in our initial conversation changing when I did not give him an expected generic response.  The irony of my awkward moment, telling him I might not meet his expectations, led to a new client dropping his guard.

As you nod your head in exuberance about this story, I want to remind you something.  He did pay me money.  With the incentive of a potential financial exchange (my rates for a detailing service) in the balance, my personal standards of integrity did not waver.

We want to be sold we just don’t like feeling misled.  I hope you really evaluate what that means, and the emotions you feel when you hear the words “this review is sponsored” etc.  I hope this provides an opportunity for you to objectively look at these professional reviewers with an open mind.  More often I hear those who put out such content being looked at exclusively under the lens of cynicism.  The popular YouTube reviewer may be in a position of influence due to continually putting out quality presentations and everything else we do not easily see that leads to growing a YouTube channel.  If you think I am suggesting we completely drop our guard and treat one stranger’s opinion as gospel reread my first article (part 1) on this topic.

The real world reality of product analysis, we are unique human beings.  Our human experiences are going to shape our perceptions of facts.  The label of someone being a shill is likely overused.  When I hear someone use that term over a product review in a variety of industries I often think that means you are focusing on the wrong things.  I think that person is looking for that one source to tell them what to buy, instead of using their presentation as one tool to make a thoughtful decision.  I think again of being told “nowadays most brands have good stuff”, from a representative of a popular brand.  It is not hard to have something nice to say about a product from a reputable brand.  Nor is it hard to poke at a product for a attribute you don’t like.  It is usually a issue of good to great (checking nearly but not every box).  Often discerning between good to great can be issue of diminishing returns for some. That is where some people then, with their own bias, question whether the premium price is ‘worth it’ or ‘over priced.’

Does that mean direct monetary incentive, business exposure, or whatever you can imagine is not relevant with respect to bias?  Of course I cannot rule that out.  But to say I blindly trust someone else because their marketing tool of monetization is indirectly being unlike the shills is arguably much more problematic.  In the big picture of you are getting exposure for your brand by catering to your target audience under the auspices of ‘look at me’ me I wasn’t paid to review a product on YouTube, it would be ignorant of us to not look at those individuals under the same critical lens.  Trying to expose popular brands for being ‘expensive’ knowing that will lead to views and subscriptions appears to be the other side of the same coin. We all have biases, I like reviewers that invest time in explaining how their inherit needs and preferences may or may not be applicable to someone with different needs.  Many reviewers have certain styles.  Some are of the mind if you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all.  Some consciously and passionately look only for negative attributes.   I may even be in the minority, but I do not put much thought on the question is the company paying this person for the review.

Before I began writing articles for Detailed Image as a professional, I started writing on the forums as a new detailing enthusiast.  I was just sharing my experiences, full of enthusiasm and pride about pampering my car.  I do not know if I necessarily was helpful in presentations during those times.  Keep in mind I was not as knowledgeable about how certain products work.  I was also much more motivated to merely show of my detailing processes than to review a product.  My feedback was casual and informal.  There is something to be said about that.  I had less incentive than I do now.  With that said, I believe I am much more helpful to the general audience here.  Throughout I tried to be as authentic as possible.

I have while writing this article questioned myself, the value I provide.  ‘Am I too nice with my reviews!’  I do not have a clear answer to that question.  Can you trust Rodney Tatum (me)?  A better question is do you have the trust in yourself to make an educated decision using what I have to offer as a tool.

Rodney Tatum
Mirror Reflections Auto Spa
Gainesville, Florida
YouTube | Facebook

4 comments on Reviewing How We Look At Reviewers Part 2: Can You Spot A Shill?

  1. John Mantova says:

    Scangrip SUNMATCH 3 best setting for a black paint

  2. rlmccarty2000 says:

    The second paragraph is very confusing. Your customer changed his tone because you couldn’t/wouldn’t touch up his car? What would we be “nodding exuberantly” .

    I know writing is difficult and you always do a great job getting your point across, but this time I’m lost. Please do not take this personally, it’s probably me.

    • Rodney Tatum says:

      I understand, that is on me. I probably put too much into recreating the dialogue between me and my client, where I failed to articulate the message.

      Essentially he called me (a stranger) for the detailing of one of his vehicles, with a specific issue he wanted me to address with a car. A minute into conversation I just in a matter of fact way, informed him I might not be able to address his primary concern in a way that makes doing business worthwhile for him. In a detailing world where U gave been told by many clients other businesses are very quuck to answer yes and oversell, my genuine effort to manage expectations immediately made me more trustable in his eyes. He went from sounding somewhat annoyed to needing me to set aside an a week for his expanding list of detailing needs.

      I was just using that experience as an example to explain how we want to be sold or influenced but also are equally guarded against bias and scam artistry.

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