Why tell the truth when you can fake social proof?

Honesty is the best marketing.

Sadly some of our competitors disagree. They're willing to bend the rules (see: break false advertising laws) for a quick buck.

How do I know this? I went undercover.

My mission was simple: ask our competition if I could fake social proof notifications. I told them my business is new and I don't have any orders to show off.

Some gave me an answer that was unrelated to what I asked. Others... well, decide for yourself. Here are results from 7 social proof marketing apps I contacted.

Proofly - Dishonest

Besides their name being a poor spin-off of another company in the market, Proofly will let you insert "dummy" data in your notifications so you can trick your visitors:

proofly let's you use dummy data to trick your visitors to think that "other people"are buying
"dummy"

The audacity to break the law with a smiley face – impressive!

Nudgify - Dishonest

Another company with no shame in admitting you can fake sales notifications is Nudgify from the UK. God save the Queen and have mercy on your soul, Nudgify:

We're not a Nudgify customer, so can't say for sure, but I'm thinking custom notification == insert whatever you want, like a fake sale that never happened. The Nudgify team is welcome to correct us if that's not true.

But it gets worse.

Trust Activity - Dishonest

Here's a "company" you should avoid at all costs.

Trust Activity – and don't let the name fool you for a second – exemplifies dishonesty. How so? Because without even asking, they tell you upfront in their Telegram channel:

yes, fake notification that looks very real are super lit. Keep it up!

Note how they even call it Fake Notifications, as in, a proper noun.

The consequences of fake social proof

I'm no mind reader, but perhaps these companies think nobody will get hurt with this behavior. Unfortunately there is a thing called "second order consequences."

See, if social proof tools develop a reputation for fake data, the category fails. Credible entrepreneurs using honest tools, honestly, won't realize improvements to their bottom line. Consumers won't make informed purchase decisions.

Fake social proof is a deadly blend of at least 3 failures at once:

  • Tragedy Of the Commons, because a shared resource (consumer goodwill) is being collectively abused. It may one day not exist.
  • Goodhart's law, because a measure of sales activity, once inaccurate, ceases to be a good measure.
  • Desperate poverty, because competitors desperate to make a buck tip the inflection point of competitive strategy upside down from "price" and "service" to "whose morals will stoop lower?"

Summary

It's tempting to blame these replies on rogue support agents. But most support reps aren't incentivized by new signups. At best, when a company doesn't train reps to handle sensitive issues, it reflects poorly on management's values.

Of the 7 companies we investigated...

  • 3 were dishonest
  • 2 gave non-answers, ignoring our pointed question
  • 1 instructed us to make "custom notifications" but did not use the word "fake"

The 7th subject, Proof (who we wrote about here), firmly stated they do not allow fake data. This may be the first honest thing we've witnessed them do.

So where do we go from here?

For starters, it's a free market. There are no Fomo signup links in this post. But as a favor to consumers everywhere, promise yourself to be honest with website visitors.

And if you're feeling frisky, make our vision, yours.