Amazon reviews can often make or break a seller’s success. Product testing on the part of an Amazon reviewer plays a large role in all the reviews shoppers see when selecting the best products for their needs. With some effort on your part, you can join a team of thousands of Amazon reviewers who test free or discounted products (that you keep) on Amazon and then leave honest, helpful feedback.
The big question is: Can anyone do this? Technically, the answer is yes, but truly it’s more of a sort of. But don’t worry, we’ll tell you everything you need to know.
To become an Amazon reviewer, you need to join Amazon Vine. This is an internal service allowing brands and third-party Amazon sellers to solicit trustworthy reviews from consumers. Amazon acts as the go-between so things don’t get awkward between the reviewer and the company asking for the review. However, joining Amazon Vine isn’t something you can just take by the horns and do. You have to be invited. It’ll take some work and a bit of luck, but it’s possible!
Here are the answers to your burning questions about becoming an Amazon reviewer and, in turn, getting some sweet, sweet freebies.
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1. Why does Amazon give away free stuff in exchange for reviews?
Customers buy products based on reviews. You’re an Amazon shopper, I’m sure, so you know this is true. If a product has an overwhelming amount of positive reviews, it’s compelling. That’s especially important for Amazon since we can’t try on, touch, or test out products only available online. (Well, unless it’s included in Prime Try Before You Buy).
That said, products that don’t have a lot of reviews don’t sell as well. Think about that — they don’t even have to be bad reviews! You’d rather buy a product with five stars and 4,397 reviews than a product with five stars and 11 reviews, right?
So to increase reviews, companies say, “Hey Amazon, I’ll give out 100 free products to 100 people who have a history of writing solid reviews.” Then Amazon holds up those 100 free products and asks their Vine community (made up of seriously dedicated reviewers) to call dibs. Vine community members jump at the chance to review the product because they get to keep it.
Sellers are happy to have their review count upped, and reviewers are happy to have free products. It’s a win-win.
2. Do I have to be an Amazon Prime Member to review products?
Nope, you can create or use an existing free Amazon account.
TIP: Whether you have a free account or a Prime member account, fill out your profile under “Ordering and Shopping Preferences.” You can also view your reviewer ranking and bio where you can share info about yourself, which may increase your chances of being picked as an Amazon reviewer.
You should read about these little-known secrets about Amazon Prime before signing up.
3. Are there other requirements before I write reviews?
As noted in Amazon’s community guidelines, you must have spent at least $50 within the past 12 months before you can write a review. Promotional discounts and purchases made with gift cards don’t count towards that number.
4. Can I sign up to become an Amazon Vine member?
Nope. It’s a little more complex than simply signing up. You need to be invited by Amazon. But keep reading to find out how to increase your chances of being selected as an Amazon Vine Voice.
5. How do I get an invite to join Amazon Vine?
The first step to getting an invitation is to become a good reviewer on things you already buy! Vine members, or Vine Voices, are invited based on the quality (not necessarily quantity) of their Amazon reviews. If you are consistently posting useful, substantial, detailed reviews of Amazon products you’ve purchased yourself that are ranked as “highly helpful” by other shoppers, you could be chosen.
One way you can up your chances is to aim for expertise in a product category! For example, if you have better-than-average knowledge of photography equipment, and your reviews reflect that you may receive a higher ranking for that particular category. If that category needs more Vine Voices, you may be invited faster.
TIP: Add photos or videos of what the product looks like and how it works to support your review.
6. How often should I review products I’ve purchased?
Reviewing items you’ve purchased frequently can increase the likelihood you may receive an invitation to join the Vine program, providing the reviews you create are considered helpful by fellow customers.
TIP: Be sure to give some time in between reviews to ensure they’re published so Amazon shoppers can view them and hopefully give you positive ratings.
7. Is there a catch to reviewing free Amazon products?
Taxes! You’ll need to file a 1099 tax form and pay taxes if you receive free products worth a combined retail value of $600 or more over the course of one year.
So even if a gadget you receive is on sale for $500, but the retail value is $1,000, you’ll still owe taxes on $1,000.
You’ll have to decide if the products you receive are worth the taxes you’ll pay on them.
Luckily, you get to choose which items you want to review (and keep) so you won’t be paying taxes on two microwaves and five vacuums that you never wanted in the first place. Instead, think of it as paying a tiny bit for items you want (instead of thinking of the products as totally “free”).
RELATED: We’ve got the inside scoop on how you can avoid Amazon scam reviews.
8. Can I sell the items on eBay after I’m done reviewing them?
Nope, sorry. Items cannot be sold after receiving them in exchange for a review.
9. Realistically, as an Amazon reviewer, what kinds of items will I be testing?
Before you have visions of free big-screen TVs and luxury grills making their way to your humble abode, you should note that most of the testing products are small, as opposed to the big-ticket freebies we fantasize about. Review opportunities are also limited to what’s in your product queue. You have to get through your queued products by posting thoughtful reviews within 30 days before you’re allowed to request more.
If you want a little more control over what you review, become an expert in a product category which you want to receive products from.
10. Do I need to have a blog or a social media following to become an Amazon Vine member?
If you add social media and/or blog links to your Amazon profile page, it may help you be chosen, based on the size of your following. Or possibly, you could stand out based on the niche demographic that’s already following you (e.g., you have a popular parenting website and you’d like to review children’s products, or you’ve gained popularity as an avid book reviewer by posting all over Twitter, Instagram, and your website).
So while a strong social presence may help in a roundabout way, focusing your reviews on a product category that you have deep knowledge of is your best bet.
TIP: If you have a strong social media presence, try posting your reviews to your followers who are interested in the product. They may click the link and naturally vote that your review was helpful, which would increase your reviewer ranking.
11. Can I review products for free on Amazon without becoming an Amazon Vine member?
Kind of. It’ll be infinitely easier if you’re an influencer of sorts and you have a social media following. (For example, Giveaway Service only works with social media influencers.)
Another thing to look at are sites that offer steep discounts because they may indicate they’re working with Amazon sellers who want to increase visibility for their products. This is the reason Amazon Vine exists as well — to help sellers, new and growing, to get more buzz around their items and thereby build their Amazon business. (We’re talking about third-party sellers here, not direct sellers or brands.) These won’t be free products but can be steep discounts.
You can start by checking out SnagShout.com. It’s a popular site for many die-hard Amazon shoppers — look for nice discounts across an array of categories like Clothing & Jewelry, Electronics, Sports & Outdoors, Home & Garden, Beauty & Health, and Under $5.
If you’re like the rest of us non-Vine members who aren’t getting freebies for reviews, you’re still going to shop Amazon, so you might as well check out our secret ways to get the best deals on Amazon.