Update: Part 2 Here. Arnas Stuopelis defends Hostinger's Trust Pilot Reviews and uses 'brand ambassadors' to manipulate communities.
So what's wrong here? Let's take a look at all those likes.
So the CEO, Head of Acquisition, former Customer Success Manager (and now running a review site promoting Hostinger), Head of Customer Service and Customer Success Specialist from the company all liked this status posted by a Junior Software Engineer at Hostinger. The followup comment by the Head of Acquisition, which links to their good reviews on TrustPilot, is also liked by the CEO and the Junior Software Engineer.
This seems a bit manipulative in a post asking for recommendations to have your employees all commenting/liking yourselves to give a false sense of popularity.
But how did we get here?
So a huge influx of Hostinger employees all showed up to participate in a poll asking which company was the community's favorite (hint: they voted for themselves). So their entire presence in this community was started because they wanted to manipulate a community vote to give themselves a false sense of popularity. Their manipulation got them a nice 4th place out of ~65 companies. Technically there wasn't a rule against voting for yourself and I'm sure other representatives from companies voted for themselves too, but not in such a massive group that the admins were commenting on it. But this adds context to why all these employees joined the community with regards to timing.
So what's the big deal?
Some of their employees are pretending to be customers and offering unsubstantiated (and clearly biased) comparisons against their competitors.
"Hey, checkout our TrustPilot score!" or "Look at this review comparing us to the heavyweights in the industry!"
At least there is a disclosure from this employee that he works there.
Problem is that the review is published by themselves (always a good comparison source). They also like to use TrustPilot again and pick negative reviews about their competitors. They like comparing themselves to SiteGround.
So they pick a negative review for SiteGround (and HostGator) and a positive review for themselves to highlight how the 'real users speak for themselves.' Except when you look at the overall score, SiteGround scores a 9.6/10 on TrustPilot versus Hostinger's 9.3/10. They probably don't want you to know that though. It doesn't fit the narrative when you actually have worse reviews than your competitor on your darling review site.
Hostinger is so focused on TrustPilot and how "real users" and "customer replies cannot lie."
Are you ready for the surprise?
So who is posting these glowing reviews about Hostinger on TrustPilot? It's none other than.... drumroll please.... themselves!
But wait, there's more!
So that glowing Trust Pilot score they are using to advertise their own service? Fake and manipulated. I guess their 'customers' (also known as their staff) can lie.
As a further bonus, as I was working on this article I was contacted by Paulius Zemaitis. The name might look familiar from the top of this article where he was liking their statuses. He used to work for Hostinger as a Customer Success Manager for nearly 4 years. Now he runs a review site called Hosting Review where you will be shocked to know he has ranked Hostinger as the #1 host. He was kind enough to try to buy sponsored content on Review Signal to promote his reviews. And when I called into question his integrity ranking his former employer as the best, he wrote "What kind of reviewer would I be if I placed Hostinger lower when it's cheaper, faster and more reliable than other hosts?"
000webhost is another brand owned/operated by Hostinger.
So I pointed out it's hard to trust anyone who pretends to be a customer of his own company and writes reviews for them while an employee there. I wondered if that posed any problems for him. He never responded.
Instead of behaving like an ethical company, they simply manipulated a community, a review site and a former employee created another review site which promotes them.
Whether they are technically competent is still unknown, but it's hard to think we as a community should be rewarding this type of behavior. It's beyond simply being overly self promotional, it's a operating a campaign to deceive consumers. It's hard to want to ever trust a company that thinks that is ok, especially when the CEO is often one of those people commenting on Facebook.
Of course, they got called out right as I was publishing this and their official response is just priceless.
Instead of simply punishing Hostinger for their bad behavior, I wanted to create something good as a result of this investigation. I reached out to a lot of thought leaders in the community to talk about the proper way for companies to engage with communities.
Their CEO, Arnas Stuopelis thinks this behavior is ok. Would rather Review Signal didn't exist to expose their bad behavior. Classy organization from the top down. By classy I mean fraudsters, obviously.