Social Media has taken the internet by storm. People are staying more connected and having access to all kinds of new information now more so than ever. Instead of finding a restaurant, doctor, or any other product or service and blindly trying it, people go online and research the business to see what kinds of experiences other people have with it. It’s not so much word of mouth anymore, but more so “word of fingers” that can make or break a business.
Google, Amazon, Yelp, Citysearch, and many others provide the platform for such experiences and reviews to be posted, and these can act as huge determining factors as to whether or not people will actually visit that establishment or buy the product. One would think that people would be more willing to post negative reviews or experiences about a business to let it be known to avoid that place, thus causing a downturn in business. It’s a way for them to get back or even after being wronged themselves.
The popularity of online reviews and review sites has created a new market entirely on it’s own. Now there are people you can hire (for cheap) to go online and post glowing reviews about your business. Giving away products or offering discounts can also incentivize people to post positive reviews. Anybody can go online and post reviews of products, even if they haven’t even tried it. So who’s to say what’s real and what’s not?
Partially a grey area, it is hard to say what exactly is true and what is not on the internet. A company could be creating their own positive reviews, or hiring someone else to do it for them. At the same time, competitors could be posting negative reviews and horror stories to try and draw more business their own way. In some cases it can be fairly easy to tell which is which. If the website is overloaded with reviews that are all simple, basic and along the same lines, it most likely false information. If it is full of bad reviews and low ratings, it could be competitors lashing out or an accurate representation of the business.
It is up to one’s own judgment to decide what is true and false, but there are some new technologies and studies are out there trying to decipher the truth. A Cornell research team has published a paper on creating an algorithm that can detect false reviews. Along with this, there are programs developed that can track IP addresses and track the reviews to check the amount and scope of their reviews to determine credibility. More and more websites are using these new technologies to find and flag misleading information.
If there are positive reviews, you will most likely benefit from them, and can use them to your advantage in a sales and marketing campaign. If negative reviews are posted, they are most likely hurting your business and turning potential customers away. To fight this problem, reputation management companies are becoming more and more popular, but be careful when choosing, because they too can become victims of false positive or negative reviews.
McNichol, Tom; Fixing the Reputations of Reputation Managers. Bloomberg Businessweek INTERNET February 02, 2012. http://www.businessweek.com/
Streitfeld, David; Ferreting out Fake Reviews Online; In a Race to Out-Rave, 5-Star Web Reviews Go for $5. NY Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/