Do you think leaving an Amazon review is a waste of time? Then, an Amazon program that’s been around since 2007 might have you thinking twice. Amazon’s Vine Program consists of a group of handpicked reviewers who get products for free in exchange for honest reviews.
Amazon doesn’t give away too much about how reviewers are selected, but there are some basic guidelines that you can follow in an attempt to be one of the lucky ones receiving free swag.
What Is the Amazon Vine Program?
While plenty of companies offer a review program, Amazon’s Vine Program is an anomaly. Put briefly, it’s an invite-only group of reviewers that receives products for free in exchange for impartial reviews. The reviewers will often receive products before they are released. Amazon explains its purpose:
“[…] an invitation-only program which selects the most insightful reviewers in the Amazon store to serve as Vine Voices.”
Anyone who is a member of the Vine Program will have a badge on all the reviews they leave on Amazon, distinguishing them as Vine Voice.
That doesn’t mean every single review they leave is the result of a freebie. If they received the item as part of the program, that review will be labeled Vine Customer Review of Free Product.
While Vine members used to receive a monthly newsletter featuring books and other products they chose from to review—with products valued at anywhere from a few dollars to close to $1,000—they now have access to a rolling list of items they can order at any time.
According to NPR, Vine members cannot sell items as secondhand offerings or give items away. Plus, Amazon can ask for the items back, although it doesn’t appear to do that. Amazon says that Vine reviewers are not expected to leave positive reviews, and that writing a negative review will have no impact on an Amazon user’s ranking.
How Do You Get an Invite to Amazon Vine?
So, how do you become one of Amazon’s most trusted reviewers? Amazon will reach out to you if they feel you are a good fit for the program, but the company does offer some guidance on what it’s looking for in a Vine reviewer.
Rather than focus on the quantity of reviews, they are focused on quality. It’s no good if you’re out there on Amazon leaving one-word reviews left and right. Being a prolific reviewer is no guarantee of joining the Vine program. Amazon’s guidelines for a Vine Voice are:
- A reviewer’s rank, which is based on the overall helpfulness of reviews, while also factoring in the number of reviews.
- Demonstrated expertise in one specific product category.
- More weight is given to recent reviews. (Rankings are updated every couple of days.)
- An interest in products similar to those enrolled in the Vine program.
While an interest in the products enrolled in the program is key to getting an invite. Besides looking for Vine reviews on Amazon (which is not an easy task, but you can filter Amazon reviews to make things easier), there’s no real way to know which products are enrolled.
All we know is that vendors pay to have their products included—a fact that Amazon did not initially disclose, leading to some negative coverage of the program in the past. In any case, in its explanation of the program, Amazon writes:
Ultimately, Vine Voices become eligible based on the value and trust other Amazon.com customers place in the Voices’ ability to provide helpful and insightful reviews.
There are some factors you can work on that might improve your chances of getting an invitation:
1. Helpful Votes
So if you want to be considered, avoid leaving extremely brief reviews. Avoid complaining about something in the product that is clearly stated in the description. Think about the questions you were asking yourself before you took the plunge and ordered that $200 gadget that you knew you didn’t need but really, really wanted.
Amazon likely scours the thousands of reviews left on products available on the site and looks at how those reviews are being received by fellow customers.
Reviewers whose feedback is consistently marked as helpful have a better chance of being invited to the program.
2. Stick to One Category
As for the second criteria—Amazon looks for your interest and expertise in specific product categories. Anecdotal evidence shows that sticking to one product category, and becoming a recognized and helpful expert in that field, gives you a better chance of becoming a Vine member.
There’s No Clear Science
Amazon doesn’t provide much information on how it makes that decision. For example, we found Vine Voice reviewers who received 4,000 helpful votes. Some Amazon reviewers have received over 88,000 votes but are not a part of the program.
There is clearly no exact science in play here. One Vine Voice reviewer posted on Quora that he received his invite with over 30 reviews and over 300 helpful votes.
One major piece of information that Amazon does not share is how often it invites users to the Vine program, so it’s never clear if Amazon is actively recruiting new reviewers. So if you want to be considered, you’ll simply have to keep at it. Most anecdotes found online of Vine members being invited are somewhat dated at this point.
Tips for Writing Useful Amazon Reviews
The last thing to consider if you’re trying to get an invitation to the Amazon Vine club is to pay attention to Amazon’s own review guidelines. This is what Amazon suggests when you’re about to write a review:
- Explain why you liked or disliked it.
- Compare to similar products or services and share how long you’ve used this product.
- Identify specific attributes (such as the battery life of a camera) and whether items met your expectations.
- Don’t describe your seller or shipping experience.
- Steer clear of promotional content of any kind or reviews written in exchange for compensation.
Make sure that the review you’re writing is actually useful. It’s fairly easy to spot a fake or useless review, so you won’t be able to fool Amazon with quantity over quality.
You’re In Amazon Vine, Now What?
Once you’re accepted as a Vine reviewer, you will want to make sure you follow the guidelines of the program. You are limited to two products at a time, and you must write and post your reviews of received products before you can request additional items. Be sure to leave a review within 30 days of delivery.
Only choose products you’re genuinely interested in, and don’t feel compelled to select something just for the sake of a review. If you don’t really want or need the item, you can just skip a month or two. A 2016 study by ReviewMeta found that, while they may not be perfect, Vine reviews are often better than incentivized reviews.
Becoming an Amazon Vine Reviewer
For all the criticism that it’s received, there are some really dedicated reviewers among their ranks, including the current top-ranked Amazon reviewer, who has written 3,451 reviews and received over 84,000 votes from other Amazon users for the helpfulness of her reviews.
And, you can’t disagree about the value of a good review when you go shopping on Amazon. But keep in mind that you might not always be able to trust a review online.