Telstra stacks the deck in social review

It seems as if Telstra was aiming for a certain type of person when it selected the 25 people to get free phones in return for providing a Windows Phone 7 "social" review.

commentary It seems as if Telstra was aiming for a certain type of person when it selected the 25 people to get free phones in return for providing a Windows Phone 7 "social" review.

Deck of cards

(Ace of Spades image by Steven Depolo, CC2.0)

Before we begin, a definition for your consideration:

Review: (v, n) a published account or criticism of a book, play, etc.

Source: The Australian Concise Oxford Dictionary, Fourth Edition, Oxford University Press, 2004.

The opportunity to become a social reviewer required applicants to provide critical analysis (it is a review after all) of the HTC 7 Mozart handset from a social networking, gaming, business, developer, family or gadget-obsessed point of view.

With 25 reviewers in total, one would imagine that you'd get a variety of opinions on the handset, giving an unbiased final result, right? I'm not so sure.

Telstra posted a one-paragraph biography of its social reviewers on its Exchange blog, sourced directly from their Twitter pages, and it makes for interesting reading.

Reading the bios reveals that three of the reviewers are self-professed Microsoft tragics. Enough said about them.

Nine are technology obsessed and love gadgets. If it's shiny and half works, it'll probably just put stars in their eyes.

Four of them are IT industry types, which could mean they'd be careful reviewers, although one of them develops for Microsoft of all companies!

That leaves nine individuals left ranging from family man to sports fan to review the handset, although five of them are gadget bloggers and journos, so not sure this is an accurate cross section of society?

Now I understand that Telstra needs to get people who are keen on tech to review the latest gadget, but stacking the deck with a large number of people who are likely to say favourable things about a product right off the bat is a mockery to the very definition of a review.

However, I won't have it said that I don't like social media reviews or don't like companies getting people to say nice things about their products. I just don't expect them to find skeletons in the phone's closet.

Because, really, this joint review is probably about as serious as those Microsoft encouraged customers to do when it released Office 2010.

Microsoft gave away free copies of the base Office suite to mayors of social geo-game Foursquare and offered winners an upgrade to the ultimate, super-duper version if they posted a feature they liked about Office within the 30 days, either in a blog post, tweet or status update. Simple! It didn't pretend to be something other customers should reference when buying the product. Just a fun competition to drive sales.

What do you think? Is Telstra providing the ingredients of a useful review?

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