Being an Amazon top reviewer is highly-competitive and kind of surreal.
“I get hate mail. I’ve had death threats. But then I also have fans who seem to follow everything I do,” Mandy Payne, Amazon’s #10 top reviewer, told The Boston Globe’s Billy Baker. “It’s bizarre.”
Payne is part of the company’s elite, invitation-only Vine program, which means that she gets boatloads of new products sent to her for free.
Amazon started the Vine program seven years ago to help increase its number of useful reviews. Its only stipulations are that participants need to write reviews of the objects they receive and they can’t resell the products afterwards. Companies pay a fee to Amazon to participate.
The system used to be that Vine Voices would receive a list of goods to choose from every month, but now, they constantly have a queue of new products that they can browse and ask for.
However, prolific top reviewers also often catch the eye of companies desperate for reviews who will send their products over unbidden. Payne told The Globe that every day she receives 15 to 30 boxes of free products (she has received so many Bluetooth speakers, she gave them out on Halloween).
Joanna Daneman, Amazon’s #1 Hall Of Fame reviewer, told Business Insider in October that the trove of stuff Amazon sends her each month is “almost an embarrassment of riches.”
Like Payne and her hate mail, Daneman admits the Vine program has kindled jealousy in reviewers who aren’t part of it. Other Amazon reviewers will sometimes ding a review just because a Vine Voice wrote it. Daneman insists that free items doesn’t necessarily equate to a glowing review.
Daneman receives a wide range of free products through Vine, from the super-expensive to the strange, including strobe lights, green tea powder, a “zombie dissection kit,” memory cards, knives, a printer, a soldering iron, baby toys, and a Japanese kitty litter system. Often they’re things that Daneman never would have thought to purchase herself otherwise.
When Daneman spoke to Business Insider she had just received a welder, which she planned to test out on a friend’s farm over the weekend..
Right now, Amazon’s current #1 reviewer is a woman name Ali Julia. Julia has written 2,867 reviews. Payne has penned 2,529. Daneman, 3,067. Amazon won’t give away exactly how it determines its rankings, but users speculate it’s a combination of frequency and how often a reviewers posts are marked as helpful by customers.
Daneman told The Globe that she knows from experience that the rankings can be competitive.
“There is definitely targeting. It’s well known,” she told The Globe. “You just have to keep calm and keep reviewing.”
But there’s also a strong community aspect.
Daneman’s fast-paced review-writing habit started in the early 2000s. She was living in Germany at the time and fell in love with Amazon because it was the easiest way for her to get her hands on English books. Daneman is a voracious reader — whipping through 30 or 40 books a month — and since shipping costs so much, she’d carefully pick through reviews before ordering a book.
Daneman started posting reviews in earnest in the early 2000s, when she was living in Germany and used Amazon to feed her reading addiction. After she read each book she had ordered and recieved, she’d write a fun, thorough review. Her insights attracted a following, and when she came back to the states, she actually had several people come visit her. She’s still friends with several other reviewers.
“Amazon created a community,” Daneman says. “Wherever else you might buy things online, you’re not talking to anybody. On Amazon, you’re yakking away to a bunch of people.”
Disclosure: Jeff Bezos is an investor in Business Insider through his personal investment company Bezos Expeditions.
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