Ninety per cent of people across the globe say they first consult reviews before making purchasing decisions. That’s enough to make some businesses out there, ahem, lose their scruples. For them, the desire is to stay ahead of the pack, whatever the cost. The result is that people are always on the lookout for ways through which to manipulate the system. But how do they do this? Well, if you wish to find out, the following will make interesting reading.
Some businesses pay for online reviews
This, without doubt, is one of the leading ways through which unscrupulous businesses manipulate online reviews. In their desperation to get positive feedback, there are businesses out there that are willing to hire the services of freelancers in various places across the globe to write glowing reviews about their companies.
How do you spot this kind of manipulation?
There are various ways through which people can spot this kind of manipulation:
- A business that only has 5 out of 5-star ratings. Your business may be good, but surely nobody is that good.
- Reviews that are written in bad English. Most people go to online freelancing platforms to hire people in various parts of the globe to write reviews on their behalf. In most instances, these people are not native speakers of English, and they will write barely legible copy.
- If a business suddenly has a flurry of online reviews, then chances are high that they have been purchased from somewhere. Reviews should be consistent in terms of their flow.
- Reviews from people in places where the business does not operate are also indicative of manipulation. If a person in Kenya reviews business in Sydney, chances are high that that person is being paid to manipulate the system.
A lot of businesses solicit for reviews
The practice of soliciting for reviews is controversial. Let’s say you are in the business of selling electronic goods. After a person has made a purchase, is it ethical for you to go after them requesting feedback? Or should all the feedback that you get be organic? Various online review companies treat the issue differently. Google, as an example, encourages people to request for reviews from their customers. Yelp, on the other hand, frowns upon businesses that actively request for reviews. For Yelp, the goal should be to organically gather feedback from a brand’s customers. That way, people can be sure that the information that they are reading is correct and has not been squeezed out of a former customer.
Targeting only satisfied customers
This is related to what we have just been discussing in the previous section. People manipulate the online reviews system by soliciting for reviews only from people they know are satisfied. That is only logical if you come to think about it. If you ask for feedback from people who are obviously not happy with the service that they received while interacting with your business, you will be setting yourself up for negative reviews.
Brands only highlight positive reviews on social media
It’s difficult to fault companies that do this. If you have a social media presence, then it’s probably going to be natural for you to want your followers to only get exposed to positive feedback about your brand. There is no way that any business is going to wilfully display content from irate customers. Along the same vein, businesses can also remove comments that they feel have the potential to do them harm. Most of the online review platforms that are out there have a system where a brand can dispute a negative review with the aim of having it removed.
This is another way through which online reviews can get manipulated. The culprits here could either be businesses looking to get ahead by bombing their competitors’ profiles with negative reviews, or angry customers looking to settle a score with a company. It could also be naughty college kids just looking to stir up trouble.
What happens with review bombing is that lots of people will go to a business’ profile and leave 1-star reviews in a bid to drive its rating down. So, if they do this on Yelp, a business’ rating will fall drastically. Fortunately, review bombing can usually be reversed. Should it happen to you, you can simply ask Yelp, or whatever the platform that you are using, to get rid of the manipulated reviews.
So, should people trust online reviews?
Having looked at some of the ways through which brands can manipulate an online review to make it appear as if they have been receiving overwhelmingly positive feedback from their customers, the question that comes to mind is: are online reviews to be trusted? The answer is yes, online reviews are largely to be trusted. One only has to be on the lookout for the signs of manipulation, some of which we gave at the top.
A good rule of thumb, from the point of view of the customer, is to never be satisfied with only feedback from one platform. If you are looking to buy something, as an example, go to as many places as is possible to find out what people have been saying about it. That way, you will be able to spot instances of manipulation of the online reviews system.
Get in touch with us
If you are a brand looking to run online reviews the ethical way, get in touch with eKomi. We will set everything up in such a way that you will be able to receive genuine reviews that people can trust. We are a Google certified company, so you can be sure that it’s in our interest to do everything right!