In 2009, the FTC released the Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising. The FTC determined that paying for positive reviews without disclosing the nature of the relationship between the reviewer/blogger and the business was equal to a deceptive advertising practice and that, in such cases, both the reviewer/blogger and the business would be prosecuted.
Still, reviews, much like any other source we use to inform buying decisions these days, are being manipulated. Reports of vendors paying for reviews, creating false profiles to publish fictitious reviews, even hiring reviewers to slander competitors continue to rise. Although consumer interest in reviews continues to be a part of the decision making process for many, confidence in the veracity of reviews has begun to wane. In a report released last month, Gartner predicts that by 2014, 10-15% of Social Media Reviews will be fake or paid for by companies.
Every business wants a good reputation. It’s natural to want to increase the instances of flattering mentions. The gut reaction of many business owners is to try and bury or delete an unflattering review. There’s a better way.
The Grasberg mine in Papua, Indonesia, is primarily a copper mine and over its lifetime the mine has produced 610,800 tons of copper. A byproduct of the copper mining has been 58,474,392 grams gold. Today’s copper is priced at $3.72/lb and gold is priced at $1721.57/oz. Do the math and it’s easy to see that the byproduct (gold) is more valuable. Poor reviews can be your gold.
As a consumer, I most appreciate review sites that allow me to filter results from people that I know and trust. If I’m considering a vendor that is unknown to people I trust, good reviews play a part in my decision making process but I am more interested in the response poor reviews receive from the vendor. I find I can trust these interactions as a barometer more than I can trust a five-star review from a one-time customer who may or may not have been compensated. If a poor review is acknowledged by the vendor and a meaningful change in the way the vendor approaches the issue that caused the sub-par experience is communicated on the review space, I am much more likely to visit that establishment over an establishment with several five-star reviews from people I don’t know.
What’s the take away for business owners struggling to navigate consumer reviews? There are a number of places your business might be receiving notice. Travel, tourism, hospitality and recreation business owners should regularly check in with UrbanSpoon, TripAdvisor, Yelp, Facebook, blogs, Twitter, Google+ and other platforms to see what’s being said about your service. Enjoy the great reviews if you’ve earned them – but embrace the bad reviews, they hold all the golden opportunity in the world.
~image property of Geotripper from DeviantArt