Fake Reviews are Flooding the Internet
You might just need to build an ark because the Internet has literally been flooded with fake content. The buzz on fake reviews has been loud lately—countless articles have been published on what has come to be known as the epidemic of fake reviews. Below are a few great articles on fake reviews to prove my point:
- The Economics of Fake Reviews
- Fake Reviews are Worse Than Bad Ones
- Sorting Through Fake Yelp Reviews
- Where Did All the Anti-Obama Yelp Pizzeria Reviews Go?
- Sock Puppet Spectacular: Are Online Reviews Completely Worthless, Or Only Mostly Worthless
- Reality Check: 10-15% of Brands’ Social Media Fans, Likes and Reviews will be Fake by 2014, Says Gartner
So What Exactly is Happening?
First, let’s acknowledge that online reviews are extremely important and have a direct impact on sales:
- According to David Glance, research confirms the assumption that reviews impact sales directly. But he asserts that “negative reviews impact sales more than positive reviews.”
- Michael Deluca at Harvard University found that, “for each star that a location’s rating increases, revenues increase by an average of 9%.”
- Forrester Research found that “81% of consumers search out reviews before making a purchase.“
- NPD Group found that “the average consumer looks at up to 10 reviews before visiting a local business.”
- BazaarVoice found that “consumers are 178% more likely to purchase your service if they trust your reviews.”
- Mr. Bing Liu estimates that about one-third of all consumer reviews on the Internet are fake.
- Fauzia Burke said, “Recently I read an article published in the New York Times called ‘The Best Book Reviews Money Can Buy,‘ by David Streitfeld, about authors who are paying for reviews in order to help promote their books and increase their sales. Instead of real reviews from real people, these paid-for, all-favorable reviews are written by people who are just churning out reviews, and sometimes don’t even read the book they are reviewing.”
- Jon Evans stated, “It’s not just books. The same thing happens with app stores, and Yelp. Even the honest reviews are mostly written by people who are stupid, or blinded by fury, or both. It really makes you wonder whether online reviews are only mostly worthless, or actually completely worthless. What particularly pisses me off most about sock-puppet reviews is that they penalize people naive enough to believe in such quaint notions as truth and honesty.”
1. It’s Sleazy: Ingrid Lunden said, “Gaming social media is not exactly a new concept, but given it’s a space that in theory relies on the goodwill of the masses, doing so is a pretty sleazy art.”
2. It’s Cheating: Fauzia Burkesaid, “Cheating people and lying to them is just not the way to build a career. Google has a long memory and links to negative stories may never go away . . . In my opinion, fake reviews and paying for compliments is just not the route anyone should take . . . Taking the fast, easy and fake route is not going to build a long-term brand. Cheating always leaves a negative mark.”
3. It Will Erode Your Brand: Fauzia Burke said, “When you try to short cut your way to success with fabricated glowing reviews, it’s a breach of ethics with your readers and your brand. Your readers may find out and never will your personal brand be associated with authenticity or truth again. Don’t buy fake rave reviews, or Twitter followers; in the long run they do you a disservice by making you lose faith with fans, readers and potential readers. The only thing fake reviews will do for your personal brand is to erode it.”
4. People, Including the FTC, Will Catch On: Ingrid Lunden said, ”The lack of transparency is not going to go down well longer-term. While the space is unregulated today, at some point consumer organizations are going to start weighing in. In the next two years, at least two major Fortune 500 companies will find themselves under investigation by the Federal Trade Commission in the U.S. over fake ratings and reviews. There has been a precedent here: in 2009 the FTC said that positive reviews posted without full disclosure of compensation can be prosecuted as a case of false or deceptive advertising.”
5. It Will Ruin Your Reputation and Credibility: What goes online stays online. Forever. ReviewBuzz.com said, “The damage that can be done will supersede anything you have control over.” First of all, when you are exposed as a liar, you’ll have no control over the tide of changing—or forming—opinions about your company. The dialog that goes on about you often happens on other people’s sites and is controlled by someone else’s agenda. ReviewBuzz goes on to say, “. . . you can’t erase it. It will be there forever, and is way more expensive to repair than a monthly fee to someone who breaks the rules.” Believe it.
6. It Will Cost You Money: You don’t have to be an economist to know that if your company is exposed as being deceitful, you will lose revenue. Even worse, you could gain the notice of the FTC and get taken to court, “like this company that paid a $250,000 fine for using a service that writes fake reviews” (ReviewBuzz). Is the risk worth it?
7. It Will Destroy Your Rankings and Cause You To Lose Any Genuine Reviews You Have: It’s not rocket science. The terms and conditions for Yahoo and Google both speak explicitly about unethical review practices. ReviewBuzz reminds us that Yahoo “reserve[s] the right to terminate your account,” and Google spells out how it will “end the relationship” if such practices are discovered (and consumers are increasingly the ones doing the discovering). If you lose your relationship with either of these engines, whatever genuine reviews have accumulated there go away for good.
How To Recognize Fake Reviews
There Are Ways To Collect Real Reviews
Well, I work for a company called Terillion, and our main goal is to help businesses collect real reviews from their real customers at the point of sale or service. Your customers can do this by scanning a unique QR code in your waiting area or by writing a quick review on our new iPad kiosk app. The customers themselves then distribute those reviews and interactions to places like Facebook, Twitter, Google, Yelp, Trip Adviser, our own Terillion directory and more. Our iPad app even lets your customers use a stylus to write handwritten reviews that any potential customer would believe, because they’re clearly original. Our reviews really are real!
Again, there are ways to collect real reviews that will help your business grow and succeed, so don’t take the risk of participating in fake reviews! Ingrid Lunden said, “Another class of social media marketeers appears to be emerging: those who are helping with ‘reputation defense.’” She’s talking about business people who, rather than flooding sites with paid endorsements, rise to the task of complementing negative critiques with organic responses. When those interactions appear along side their positive reviews, what results is even better than what comes from a whole plethora of glowing reviews with dubious authenticity.
Have Experience with Fake Reviews?
Do you have an anecdote about run ins with fake reviews? Have you experienced backlash from faking reviews? We want to hear from you! Tell your story in the comments below!