Mark it down. Within the next three years, social media will replace online testimonials and review sites as a major confidence factor used by consumers. I say this because as a marketing professional and a website designer, my industries of choice have always figured out a way to destroy a good thing.

From manipulating meta tags to keyword stuffing to fake reviews, people in my industry have taken platforms that were once perfectly viable and destroyed them by over-optimizing or just plain old-fashioned gaming.

On to the Next Victim
The next item up for manipulation in our Showcase Showdown is going to be online testimonials and reviews. In fact, review sites are hanging on by a thread. Most are trying to maintain their relevancy by keeping the data that they collect as pure as possible. At the same time, they’re killing the proverbial golden goose by offering advertising to "manipulate" reviews.

Anyone old enough to remember the good old days of newspaper will remember a distinct line drawn between advertising and editorial. Now those lines are increasingly blurred.

That's Where Social Media Comes In
I can see a day when social media takes the reins as a leading confidence factor for consumers and here's why: It takes years of effort to build a social platform that lends itself to trust and validation. I mean, sure, you can buy likes and followers, but consumers are pretty slick these days and can see through all that.

Think about it. If you’re a local plumber and most of your "likes" come from some far off land, you probably gamed the system a bit.

Or this scenario: You had 20 likes for six months then one day you were up to 2,000…yeah, that right there is gaming the system.

Don't get me wrong, a good testimonial will still help, but consumers are going to weigh more heavily on the number of followers, likes, and posts you have on your various social media outposts—and they take time to build. Bottom line: If you’re putting off getting involved in social media, start now, because playing catch up isn't going to be easy!

Darren Slaughter runs a boutique social media management, website design, and content marketing shop that serves contractors in the home improvement space.