How to get into reviewing, part 2.

coupon clubMy original post about how to get into reviewing was (and remains) quite popular but it occurs to me that I should write an update, as the reviewing world has changed drastically since that post with Amazon’s TOS changing.

If you have not done so already, familiarize yourself with Amazon’s new reviewing policies if you are going to review primarily on Amazon.

There are still other sites you can review on besides Amazon.   Xberts, Fat Wallet and Slick Deals come to mind.   And probably the best way to review is on other social media or your own blog.  Admittedly, getting into reviewing now is hard if you don’t already have a large audience or a solid reviewing reputation.   Everyone has to start somewhere though.

Here is my advice then for starting out:

  1. Review all items you bought where you bought it (if you bought it on Amazon, review it on Amazon).   Amazon now limits the number of reviews per week you can do for items not purchased through your site.   You can review 5 items per week, but it might be worth it to do that.   I focus a lot on Amazon, because it takes so much of the retail spotlight these days, who DOESN’T shop at Amazon?
  2. Review your items on other social media, as well as the place you bought them.   The point of this is to begin to build an audience.   If your reviews are good, and enough people like them you will succeed.
  3. Start your own review blog in addition to your social media channels.
  4. Seek out the myriad of groups on Facebook and elsewhere that are geared towards reviewers with free giveaways or super low cost items.  If you were going to buy items anyway why not get them at a discount?
  5. Contact retailers directly and ask for samples to review.   Mention your website or number of followers if it is relevant.   You will get a lot of rejection, but every once in awhile you will get someone interested.
  6. There are also review groups out there that you can join and get free samples, although since Amazon’s TOS has changed the numbers have reduced.   But doing an online search you can find others out there.   Green mom’s review is one that would appeal to a niche audience, for example.  Some of these review outlets have stricter requirements than others so do your research.   Amazon continues their own reviewer’s club, but it is strictly invitation only.
  7. Work as hard at building your audience as you do at leaving reviews.  Consider being a niche reviewer of one type of product and become an expert in that arena.


Instagram for reviews

instagram-1581266_1920I like reviewing on Instagram because it’s such an easy way to review.   I use Instagram as a supplement to my other Amazon Vine reviews or my YouTube reviews.  I don’t have a huge following on Instagram, but it’s so easy to send photos there that I already have on hand from the main review process I don’t know why you wouldn’t consider it.

The main advantage/drawback to Instagram is that you can only post to it via mobile device, which can be a bit limiting.  At first this was a huge mental hurdle for me, but now I am quite accustomed to it, and I have even linked other social media outlets to Instagram via IFTTT, so posts I make to Instagram can auto post across the rest of my platforms.  You can also do this kind of thing with Hootsuite which I am a HUGE fan of as well.   Hootsuite works with Instagram, but you still have to manually post all Instagram via your mobile. Still, using these tools is a huge time saver, and I highly recommend employing one or both of them.

Gaining followers on Instagram is not as easy as it is on Pinterest or Twitter, but if you spend time on there on a regular basis, you can gather a following.   It requires a lot of liking other people’s posts, posting regularly, commenting on other’s posts and befriending other people.   Basically networking!  I don’t have the kind of time to spend on my own Instagram, but I do manage other Instagram accounts as part of my job, and with those I do put in the effort and it does show.

Instagram is also the most visually appealing of all the social media outlets.   I like it even more than Pinterest which sometimes seems a bit cluttered looking.   Instagram is very simplistic and clean looking.   Definitely worth a look I’d say!



xbertsThere are many outlets for reviewing and I’d like to talk about one in particular that I have used and liked called Xberts.  Xberts is not a coupon club, they are more exclusive and choosy about who they allow to review.  Reviews are posted on their site directly (and you can post your reviews on your other social media sites, if you desire).  You are required to go through an application process to get items for free to review, it’s not guaranteed you will get every item you request, but they do give you discounts on the innovative products featured there, if you aren’t lucky enough to be chosen as a reviewer.

The process takes longer than most may be used to, and you have to apply to be a reviewer for each product that interests you, the offers don’t come to you automatically.   You can apply for as many products as you like, there is no limit.   Because there is only a limited number of products being given for review (usually less than 10 are given out), and many people desiring to review them, it may take many tries before you actually get chosen.   I applied for 5 or 6 items before I got my first review opportunity.   Once you get selected  to review the first time, assuming you complete you review in the amount of time they give (which is always ample) and you complete all the criteria they have, it seems that getting selected to review again is a bit easier.   This could be a coincidence, but that was my experience.   Once I completed my first review, I had two more applications accepted right away.

Their items tend to be innovative tech type items, but the spectrum is broad on what can be offered and is continually changing.  Some items are very high end, some more common, but all are interesting.   I urge you to check it out,  I guarantee there will be some items on there you will want to put in an application in for.

My disclaimer?  Xberts did not ask me to write this review – I’m just sharing a unique review opportunity to try because I’m a helpful person.

Check out my blog archives for other helpful tidbits!

Ridiculous disclaimers

Is this a jokeSometimes people get ridiculous with their disclaimers, to the point of being obnoxious.    I stumbled upon some that were over the top and had to share.   Partly for entertainment, and partly as a warning about what not to do.

This disclaimer was longer than the actual review:

“I did receive this product at a discounted price for product testing and review. With this said please know I do not give everyone a 5 star rating and that in no way giving me the product at a discount or for free changes how I feel about the product. I am under no obligation to provide a positive review and receive no incentives or rewards for doing so. My goal is to highlight features and drawbacks that I would want to know about as a buyer, not praise the product for the manufacturer unnecessarily. My feedback is sincere. I work very hard trying to write meaningful and thoughtful reviews for each item. I hope that these reviews will be helpful to others. Would you please let me know how I am doing […] If it was not, please comment with how I can improve. This will help me to be able to write more helpful reviews in the future. While it is true that many items are received at discounted rates or complimentary rates, I strive to give a completely honest review and my personal experiences with the product. Again, it is just my opinion, your own thoughts or opinions may vary. I received no monetary compensation and am not required to give positive reviews for any product and would not endorse any product I would not personally use. In terms of analyzing value, I always consider whether I would consider the item a good value at the current listed selling rate, and do not consider any discount I may have received. This disclosure is in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission Guidelines on Testimony and Advertising.”

Here’s another review disclaimer that’s less wordy but more hilarious:

Note: I purchased this product at a discount in exchange for an honest review, and this IS my honest and unbiased thoughts on this product. Now you may be thinking to yourself “Suuure it is…there is no way that this jerk is not at least a little bit full of BS. Anyone else would have at least a slight amount of bias in his particular situation.” And you would usually be correct about the latter, but I can tell you that I am not just anyone. I am a man who has way too much time on their hands and who cares far too much about what random people on the internet think about his opinions. Some say that the ability to leave honest reviews is a blessing, but I know for a fact that it is a curse.

And here’s another gem:

Like you, My final decision to purchase on amazon is heavily influenced by another’s product review. Only after my initial intent to already buy this item, did I received this product at a discount or offered a chance to sample the item free of charge.. It in no way has influenced or altered my opinion when reviewing ANY product and When reviewing THIS product and only after trying and testing the product, this review is 100% my honest, unbiased and genuine opinion.. It is important to me that I leave a real and informative review for you to make your own decision. My reviews are completely honest and are my personal experiences with the product. This disclosure is in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission Guidelines on Testimony and Advertising.

SooO, if you are curious and are someone wondering (or making comments about reviews that state *discounted or free”) that they tend to be “5-star” reviews or think they are a paid review. Those reviews that are exchanged for a discount or even free of charge mainly because the individuals reviewing those products were already interested in the item BEFORE accepting any offer for a discount in any amount. At least in my experience, it has been this way. You wouldn’t offer Girl Scout cookies to a Girl Scout haters club free for the taking if they leave an honest opinion of them and expect it to do any good for your marketing. HA No one could ever say they don’t care for Girl Scout cookies, right?! Hopefully that made you laugh but it does makes sense, doesn’t it?!?
If you found my review helpful, please take a moment to let me know by clicking “Yes” below. Thanks and happy”

Hope you got a chuckle reading these!



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Common Reviewing Questions, part 2

questionQ and A about Reviews (part 2):

What happens if I get offered a review item that I accept, but the seller does not respond back with a coupon code?   It is pretty common that sellers will contact you about a review item, and you enthusiastically accept, only to have the seller never contact you again.   It happens to me all the time, so much so I don’t even give it a second thought.  In the last year that I have tracked such things, I have had almost 250 items that I was promised, but never received.  That’s several items that don’t materialize each week, a few of those even were actually ordered with coupon codes on Amazon and the seller just never shipped.  So don’t sweat it when it happens to you.    It could be that the seller only had so many items to give out for reviews, and had more interest than items.  It could be any number of reasons!   There is no harm in contacting the seller to inquire, although I would not expect any answer.   My personal philosophy is just to let it go, I don’t have time to try to manage all the sellers that bailed out on me.

What happens if the seller requires me to give a 5 star review AFTER I already accepted the item?   You should never comply with such a request.   It is somewhat deceptive on the part of the seller to “throw that in” after the fact, and in these cases (it has happened to me) you should email back informing the seller it is impossible to know before you receive an item whether or not it is 5 stars.   Be sure you let the seller know where you stand, even if they didn’t give you the same courtesy.

What happens if I get an item, but I lost the product link to review and I can’t remember who sent me the item?   This is where good record keeping can really save you.  Sometimes though you may forget to save information.   I admit, it has happened to me recently.   What I did first was to go through my records, not finding anything there, I then went through my saved emails- and luckily the seller had an email that matched the brand name of the product.   From the found email, I was able to get the product link.  Had I not found it there, I would have gone back through my purchase records online (hoping it was not a direct ship item) to see if I could find it.  But if you aren’t so lucky, in most cases after a few weeks the seller will send an inquiry as to why a review has not been posted.  Be watching and waiting for it.


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Common Reviewing Questions

questionQ and A about Reviews:

What if I get a product for review but it arrives broken?   It does happen from time to time that an item will arrive broken, especially if it had a long transit time from China or was not packaged properly, and you never know what can happen during transit.   In this case my standard practice is to contact the seller to see if they want me to return the item, if they would like send another replacement item or if they would like me not review that item (since I can’t because it’s broken).

In most cases, the company will send me a replacement product and then I do the review after I have gotten the replacement.  Some companies do not respond to my inquiry.  In that case I just toss the item and do not review it.  I have never yet had a company ask me to return an item, and this is likely because it would cost them more money for me to do this.

What if I get an item, but I really hate it – should I give it a bad review?  Of course!   Reviewing means you are trying to help people decide if they would like it.   I always read negative reviews of a product first, because sometimes those are the most instructive.   You don’t have to be mean with your review using inflammatory words, but you can give a thoughtful (and honest) review that highlights why you didn’t like it.   Be as specific as possible to help people understand your rating.  Maybe you didn’t like a piece of clothing because it was sized too big, but perhaps someone else will see that and think they would like a little extra room.   A bad review doesn’t always dissuade a purchase, it informs the consumer which is the point of doing reviews.

The hidden fear behind this question is likely “won’t the seller get mad at me and not offer future products for review?”  Sometimes that may be true.  Not always though, if it is a reputable seller.    But how can you grow your reviewing hobby if you don’t give honest reviews people will appreciate?

What if I get offered the same item twice, can I still review it?  If you want to, sure – as long as it isn’t the exact same listing that you reviewed before (and you would be prevented from leaving a second review).  I have reviewed several “identical” items from various sellers… but I always leave a different review each time.  NO COPY PASTING!  That is bad etiquette, and if others pick up on this you will be looked down upon – perhaps even ridiculed publicly.   Each product gets their own unique review.

Can I sell or give away the item when I am done with the review?  If the company or entity you are getting the review item from says that’s ok – then it’s ok.  Some entities require that you retain ownership and never resell.  It is vital you find that information out first so you don’t violate anyone’s terms of service.

What if a seller contacts me after the fact and asks me to change my review, or some other request like adding the item to my wish list?  Changing a review at the sellers’ request is usually a no-no in my book.   If they point out something I forgot to mention that I think would add to the review, then I might consider it (this has never happened though).  If the request does not violate any terms of service, you may feel free to comply, or not comply based on your own conscience.  I do not add items to my wishlist that the seller asks me to, just because my wishlist is used by family to buy gifts.  I consider it a personal list, therefore not for “business” use.


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To review or not to review… that is the question

Sometimes people ask me what kinds of things I review in my professional life.    The short answer is “anything”, but that isn’t necessarily true.   I can only review things that people offer me, and there are some items I choose not to review.

product reviewI have noticed that certain lower ticket items (inexpensive items) seem to go in cycles.   For awhile it was selfie sticks, and I was getting offered at least a handful of those on a daily basis.   After that it was battery operated Christmas lights.   Next it was silicone oven mitts.   Now it seems I get an inordinate number of review requests for light bulbs and Bluetooth headsets.  (Update – now it’s watermelon slicers.)

People have offered me everything from car accessories to jewelry and furniture to survival gear.  And I’ve reviewed a lot of things; but there are two categories of items I do not review.   Adult items (dildos, vibrators, bondage equipment -etc.) and eBooks or Kindle books.

Why don’t I review adult items?  Because I don’t want to associate myself with something I would be embarrassed by if my kids found out I reviewed or my own friends and acquaintances found out I reviewed.  I like to keep things PG where possible.

Why don’t I review books?  I actually have reviewed a few books, a Bible, some devotionals, and some books on North Korea… but only because I was interested in those topics and would have potentially read those anyway (and because they were physical copies, which I prefer).  The main reason why I don’t review books is when you review a book you are “locked in” to finishing it even if it really sucks, in order to give it a proper review.   I don’t have that kind of time, or energy.  But I also find book reviewing not to be great for business.   That’s a bad way to put it, but what I mean by that is books are so subjective and sometimes people take it personally if you hated a book they loved, or vice versa – it tends to generate a lot of negative feelings.

I have even heard some anecdotal stories of other reviewers who have reviewed books negatively, only to have the author of the book retaliate against the reviewer by harassing them, launching complaints against them to Amazon, and having all their friends and family down-vote the review.  Book reviewing can get personal!

There are reviewers out there who are niche reviewers.  They review only books, or only clothes, only one certain type of product.   My perception is that niche reviewers are usually very knowledgeable in the genre they have chosen and tend to get a lot more review requests in that category (obviously).  If you lean towards certain items, you tend to get offered more items that relate to it I have noticed.   For instance, I bought some shorts from Amazon, and then a week later I was offered several pairs of shorts for review.   I think companies must track purchase history.  Creepy to be sure, but you’d be surprised what people can track about you online, but that is a topic for another blog!

My advice is review only items you are interested in trying or using, or have a lot of knowledge with then gear your review around that.   If you are new to something, write your review from a newcomer’s perspective.  If you are a regular user of a certain type of item give an expert’s opinion.   If you are passionate about a certain kind of item, say camping supplies, try reviewing only camping supplies to build your reputation in that area.


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