The Double-Edged Social Review Sword

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As we have mentioned in our other blogs on social media marketing, platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Pinterest give marketers an excellent way to leverage word-of-mouth-advertising by allowing their followers to share and spread their content, give opinions on their brand, and to interact with it in a meaningful way. This has become an important factor of digital marketing, and it is one that can make or break a company, especially those fledgling ones that are still developing in a competitive market.

However, social marketing, especially where user reviews are concerned, is somewhat of a double-edged sword. For the most part, they can be taken as an honest account of a consumer’s (or even an employee’s) experience with a business or brand, strengthening it in the eyes of other prospective consumers, or tarnishing it wherever consumers have a gripe. Though like any good system, reviews have the potential to be abused, especially where knocking down a competitor’s reputation is concerned; and while this isn’t anything like best-practice, the misuse of company reviews is worryingly widespread. Here are just a few of the ways in which it rears its ugly head:

The Positive and the Negative

Primarily, reviews are there to help consumers make an informed choice over which brand, product or service to engage with. Existing customers of a company can use Google or Facebook business reviews (to name a few) to share their experiences with others.

This can be great for businesses, but it can also damage their brand if their services are not up to scratch and there are scores of negative reviews about them online.

However, offering excellent services and products is no guarantee that you will be given favourable reviews. In fact, it isn’t uncommon for competitors to slate other businesses in the hopes of taking their clientele away from them.

This is even worse for consumers, since it undermines the trustworthiness of the review system, and ultimately means that they will opt for substandard services which could only reach their audience through breaking down the reputation of their competitors.

Who has the Right to Review a Company

When it comes to who has the right to review a company, there are no filters or stipulations to control it. In essence, review platforms are supposed to be reserved for individuals and companies that have had an experience, positive or negative, with a particular brand. This isn’t limited to just customers, however.

  • Reviews may come from a company’s employees, since they have daily interactions with the concerned institution.
  • Reviews may come from customers who have had a positive, or negative experience with a brand.
  • Reviews can come from business partners who want to pass on their impression of a company.

Unfortunately, while these are the sects that make up an important part of a social media marketing campaign, they are not the only people who are likely to leave reviews on a page, and those not mentioned in the list are more than likely to leave a negative one.

Professional Reviewers do Actually Exist

I’m going to tell you a story that demonstrates the sometimes toxic nature of online business reviews. A few years ago, I was going over a friend of mine’s social campaign for her restaurant in Thailand after interest in her business took an unexpected turn for the worst. It was an outstanding restaurant, the food was as amazing as the service, it was perfectly located and had a history of satisfied, full and happy customers.

However one review on her Facebook page slated the restaurant for its cleanliness, saying that it was just another filthy outlet for street-food in Thailand, and that the individual writing the review was stricken with one of the most severe cases of food poisoning she had ever had, just after eating at the restaurant. This was a source of some concern for the restaurant owner who ran an impeccable business as a matter of personal pride. Having no recollection of that particular customer, she was distraught.

Together we began researching the reviewer in question, and what we saw shocked us. According to a collection of dated reviews written by her, this is what she had accomplished in a single week:

Monday: the reviewer attended a coffee shop in Seattle where the mugs were chipped and the coffee was sub-standard.

Tuesday: on the following day, the reviewer attended a bridal shop in Portugal where all of the dresses were disproportionate and over-priced.

Thursday: with just a day’s break in between, the reviewer found themselves in Singapore, struggling to eat their way through a dry, tasteless sandwich that they paid over $15 for.

Saturday: on Saturday, the reviewer attended a baby shower in Canada where they had an argument with a photo-booth operator who arrived without the proper equipment and was rude to the mother to be.

Sunday: On Sunday, the reviewer took part in a group meditation session in Oman, claiming that the instructor was a hack and just in it for the money.

You don’t need me to tell you that this sort of schedule was a little less than believable. There is no possible way (unless the reviewer has mastered the art of teleportation) that they could have gone to the US, Portugal, Singapore, Canada and then Oman, all in one week.

On top of that, if there is anything in their corpus of fake reviews to be believed, this person cannot turn left without being given a shoddy sandwich or bad service. If you are the type to believe in bad luck, then this person must be the prime example of it.

Spotting Authentic Reviews

Now, it’s all fine and well that my friend and I had spotted the fake review of her restaurant, but what about her customers; at the end of the day, the reviews are there for them, and they may not spot this malpractice as easily.

You, in one way or another, are a consumer. So how can you ensure that the review you are reading is an authentic one?

  • The review provides information on:
    • The type of service that was offered to the reviewer.
    • The exact nature of what went wrong or right.
    • Who they are and who they work for, or which business they own.
    • Any correspondence given to them by the reviewed company.
  • The review has no evidence of generic language, and is in depth and detailed enough to seem real.
  • The review mentions actual names of people in the business.
  • The company being reviewed has responded to the grievance.
  • There is no mention of competing companies, brands, services or products.

Right Click Media only Supports Healthy Competitive Practices

At Right Click Media we understand the competitive nature of business, and we know how tough it can be to stay ahead of your competitors. However, we only support those digital and social media marketing practices which add value to a business without having to take it from their competitors. Contact us today or visit our website to learn more about our offers on SEO, web and app development, as well as social advertising and selling.

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