Spreading rumors about competitors has been a dirty but much used strategy in almost all competitive spheres. Now with the growing power of social media, lying and spreading rumors has become an organized and serious business! In the virtual world it’s mostly conducted through fake reviews.
The Potential Impact Of Negative Reviews
According to a recent study released by the ad network Chitika, local searches constitute 24% of the total number of Google queries. This means more and more people are using Google to search for local businesses.
While this is good news for businesses with an enviable web presence, the ‘envy’ (they generate) can also make them prone to negative reviews and slander campaigns.
Unfortunately, the average customer is usually not be aware of the possibility of fraudulent negative reviews being posted with such malicious intent. This makes negative reviews even more of a threat!
Who Are The Culprits?
The usual suspects of course are hackers who are in it just for the fun of trashing a brand, and competitors who are looking to pull customers away from the brand.
In addition to that, negative reviews can even come from disgruntled employees who have been let go of and are looking to seek their revenge on the companies for their actions. There are even some companies who create covert review sites of their own where they post positive reviews about their businesses, and criticize their rivals under the garb of being unbiased.
There is also another aspect of fake reviews, where companies post fake positive reviews about themselves, or pay bloggers or third-party firms to Like their posts or increase the number of fans on social networks. It could be in the form of fake Twitter followers, or an unreasonably high number of Likes for videos they post on YouTube, these companies create a false wave of admiration for their brands through illegal means.
What’s The Solution?
The good news for businesses that have faced such fraudulent negative reviews or are worried about such an event is that the Federal Trading Commission has recently stepped in.
In recent case last year, a Tennessee-based educational DVD company was fined for hiring affiliate resellers who projected its products positively.
FTC has also extracted a settlement from an online games manufacturer for posting fictitious reviews to boost its product ratings.
Businesses must also be aware of the legal options available to them in the event of fighting fraudulent negative reviews and should also be prepared to put their PR machinery in action to undo the damage by publishing accurate information that rebuts these fake claims.
Other than these solutions the following are the key defense strategies that businesses can employ against negative reviews:
- Most top reviews site allow you to respond to reviews left by customers. As a business owner it’s a good idea to keep track of these sites and set Google alerts for your business name. Make it a point to answer every negative review with humility and grace. You may also share your customer care e-mail address and publically request the reviewer to get in touch with you over e-mail, so that you can resolve his/her grievances.
- Don’t ever get sarcastic, condescending or arrogant when responding to negative reviews. Even if the reviews are fake, reacting in a provocative manner can backfire on the business’ image.
- If you see repetitive negative reviews saying the same thing over and over again, mark them as spam and send a mail to the webmaster. They may delete the review if they see merit in your points.
- Start a review hunting campaign by encouraging your loyal customers to post reviews to your business on popular review sites or on your social media pages. Your twitter account, Facebook page, Linkedin Groups and mailing list can serve as excellent tools for your review campaign.
As much as we may wish it, closing our eyes to a problem can never make it go away! The menace of fake reviews is an unfortunate side effect of the growing power of social media. Therefore, it’s important for business owners to incorporate strategies for handling fake reviews in their social media marketing campaigns.