Telstra gave me a HTC Desire to review as part of their ‘Social Reviewers Program’ this week, and what is most interesting is not the phone itself (which is certainly interesting), but the reaction to it by some pockets of the social media landscape.
As a background, Telstra chose 25 people (out of more than 2,000) from an application process to be a part of the program, looking at the list of reviewers it’s reasonably clear that while certainly a cross section of people have been selected, many at the very least have significant reach via social media or are influential to others through their medium of choice.
Now seeding products with ‘influential’ people is not something new, ‘cool’ marketers have been seeding the latest products with teenage influencers for years, be it sneakers, music or the latest Xbox game. What *is* different about the Telstra Desire review is the company is not seeding products surreptitiously with influencers, but doing it out in the open as part of a larger social media campaign.
Transparency is in my opinion, the only way to maintain credibility with an initiative such as this, and Telstra has been very clear from the start with reviewers that we are to make certain those with which we are communicating with understand that yes, we got a free phone, and that the company has asked to give our honest and forthright opinions through the process.
Now many have been critical of the #telstradesire (twitter hashtag for the program) review process, with participants being labelled as “selling out” or “prostituting” themselves to Telstra for a free phone. Participants in the program have felt it necessary to defend their participation as a social reviewer, including @trib and @mpesce, who both maintain that they aren’t in this for the free phone (And I honestly believe they aren’t).
Me, I’ve a long history with HTC phones, having had 3 (Windows Mobile) based handsets in the last 5 years, I’ve had my eye on the Desire for some time, but been cautious about splashing down the cash on an Android handset. Being a part of this program solved two problems, I get to try Android to see if I like it, and I get a free phone if it turns out I like it. (or don’t like it as the case may end up).
My point being, rather than attack the people who are participating in the social review program. Listen to what they have to say, understand that yes, their opinions may be influenced (even subconsciously.. it’s impossible to be completely unbiased, we all carry existing biases) by the free phone, but take that into consideration when asking whether you can trust what the person is saying.
Then make up your own mind taking into account any perceived bias, don’t be a hater.
I have been given a HTC Desire handset by Telstra free of charge to review. The comments expressed by me reflect my user experience and personal opinion.