Every Thursday, I will republish my best articles from Technorati.com. Since Technorati redesigned its website and is under new managements, tens of thousands of articles that were previously published on the site are no longer available. I have been given explicit permission to republish my work on my own website. According to a recent study by tech research firm Gartner, 10 to 15 percent of social media reviews will be fake by 2014. With growing emphasis and credibility on social media as the "new word-of-mouth", its crucial that we be able to trust the opinions we find on Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks.
"With over half of the Internet's population on social networks, organizations are scrambling for new ways to build bigger follower bases, generate more hits on videos, garner more positive reviews than their competitors and solicit 'likes on their Facebook pages," said Jenny Sussin, senior research analys at Gartner, in a news release.
Gartner found in this study that the nearly all of the fake reviews are coming from people who were paid to provide that positive review, whether that payment in cash, coupons, or other promotions. In 2009, the Federal Trade Commission determined that paying for positive reviews without disclosing that the reviewer had been compensated equates to deceptive advertising and would be prosecuted as such. Even so, many companies are seeking out fake reviews in the hopes of making a few more sales or getting a few more hits on the website.
How do you ensure that none of your reviews are fakes (and can be 100% trusted as a true reflection of what your customers think about you)? Here are a few tips:
- Don't pay for reviews - Earn those reviews, especially since the FTC is cracking down on fake reviews and even pursuing litigation with two Fortune 500 companies caught paying for fake reviews. However, it is okay to ask your customers to take the time to write a review, as long as you don't compensate them for taking a positive stance, or control what the reviewer says in anyway.
- Respond appropriately to the bad reviews - It's tempting to counter or to cover up those bad reviews by encouraging or paying for an onslaught of good reviews, but that course of action only shows that you're unable to improve and to take criticism as a business. Instead, note those bad reviews and make changes, perhaps even responding by saying you're going to do something about whatever was wrong. Also consider that you can't please everyone. If a reviewer just says the food was terrible, simply accept that not everyone will like the food you serve.
- Encourage honest reviews - There are many ways to get your current customers to write great reviews for your business without paying for them. For example, create case studies and blog posts highlighting your best customers. This way, the reviewer not only gets attention for being a reviewer and a great customer, but potential customers can honestly see and hear what your business can do. You can also let your customers know where they can write a review for you by taking control of your Yelp or Google Places page. By keeping your information on those pages up-to-date and telling your customers about them, they are more likely to go to those pages to write a review.
- Delete Fake Reviews - If you've paid for reviews in the past, then remove those reviews from your pages at once, or at least disclose that these reviews were paid for. Fake reviews only ruin the credibility of your business, and if you're caught with fake reviews that lack the disclosure, you could lose a lot more than your customers.