Three Reasons to Steer Clear of the Fake Review Trap

by: Kathleen Martin

A new report published by Gartner Research this week has reignited the conversation around social media reviews. With numbers as large as 10-15 percent of all reviews predicted to be fake by 2014, how can your business make sure it stays competitive without succumbing to the pressure for paid or made up reviews?

Word of mouth has been around since the first prehistoric Advertosaurus Rex asked a recent Mammoth transplant to share his experience buying a new home in the La Brea Tar Pits. Ok, maybe not that long (and please, be kind and ignore all my mixed up references in that last sentence). The term itself didn't actually exist until somewhere in the 1970s. Nevertheless, the rise of Web 2.0 and social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Yelp, etc. etc. etc. have seen this hallowed form of promotion skyrocket in importance.

In this increasingly digital, social age, businesses are under increasing pressure to get more Likes, more Follows, more Thumbs up or Thumbs down, more anything that signalled approval to other potential buyers and users. Is it really any surprise the number of fake reviews is predicted to rise so high so quickly?

Written by Kathleen Martin

But here's the sticking point. Building up a stockpile of fake reviews doesn't just feel unsavory, it actually breaks down word-of-mouth marketing as we know it. The biggest selling point for word of mouth in the first place lies in its believability--the idea that you're being sold not by advertisements, but by the product or service itself. So what happens when these sources of knowledge from "users like us" fail to give a realistic view of products and services on the market?

And what can you do to counter-attack the Rise of the Fake Review??

Luckily, the answer is simple. Keep doing what you've been doing, and your honest efforts will not go unnoticed. The good news is the spirit of authenticity that makes word of mouth advertising so effective is still alive and well. And the businesses and websites that can build a reputation for creating these honest reviews will, I'd wager, start seeing an upswing in their favorability. Trust still translates to good business. It is the breaking of that trust that turns off potential customers. 

This doesn't mean reviews don't matter. On the contrary, real reviews--testimonials, case studies, social media reviews and the like--will matter even more when the user knows they are coming from an actual reliable source. 

Why test the waters, and the patience of the good folks at the FTC, by paying for reviews when you could be pulling real clout with honest, actual feedback from your customers. The trick becomes, are you asking for it? Are you letting your customers know you value their input by giving them a chance to have a voice in your business?

Three things you should be doing to avoid the Fake Review Trap:

  • Ask your current clients for reviews, or get permission to interview them for a customer testimonial or case study.
  • Follow your customers on social media and ask them to follow you back. INTERACT with your audience on a regular basis.
  • Take pains to ensure people can trust the reviews they do see. Tie reviews back to social media account profiles so people know where the reviews are coming from and know they can trust them.

And if you start to doubt this tactic, if you start feeling the pull of the Fake Review? Just remember: long-term success beats short-term gratification approximately 100% of the time. 

 

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