Reviews Review

Yesterday, I read this:

Yelp: We Won’t Stand for Businesses That Pay for Fake Reviews

“…Chances are that you’ve also come across a review on a business’s Yelp page that has made you raise an eyebrow. Was that review a fake? Did someone pay to have it written? As a business owner with a page on Yelp, this is and has been cause for concern. You have to be on Yelp because so many people use it. But if consumers can’t trust the content they find there, then what’s the point? Yelp is taking the problem seriously. Today, the site has released a new set of consumer alerts that it will display on business pages that Yelp suspects are paying or incentivizing people to write fake reviews.Indeed, Stamford, Conn.-based research firm Gartner predicts that by 2014 as much as 15 percent of reviews on social-media sites could be paid-for fakes.”

Cause for concern? You bet.
People go to places like Yelp because no one likes to purchase ANYTHING without doing at least a little research (yesterday I looked up reviews for bobby pins. In my defense, I’ve purchased some really crappy bobby pins in the past). And even though we all know that there’s a good chance the reviews we’re relying on are fake, we still look because any reviews are better than going into the purchasing ring without any information at all.
But when you happen upon a review for a bobby pin brand that feels sham-like, that shadow of doubt doesn’t fall only to the reviewer, it calls the company’s integrity into question.
Seriously rainbowbaby29876, these bobby pins were the best purchase you’ve ever made? They’re bobby pins. Why the fake reviews? Can’t the company get reviews on it’s product organically? Suddenly Bobby’s Pins Inc takes the shape of a company that actively attempts to hoodwink their customers, which makes me think that their product isn’t reliable either, which just lost them a sale.
In my pre-launch prep, I talked with a former sales executive with Yellowbook, a person who worked in sales for decades. This person told me that it was standard practice to write fake reviews on several social-media websites to sweeten the deal for the businesses that purchased ads from (him/her). To the tune of 300 false reviews on a regular and repetitive basis.
Multiply that by basically every person on the sales forces of all the companies that deal in ad-sales alone, and that 15% of reviews seems a little paltry.
We’re all getting a little tired of reviews that smack of total and complete hogwash and we’re looking for better solutions.

I applaud Yelp’s attempts at notifying consumers of hornswaggle, but I’m wondering just how they plan to catch more savvy saboteurs. You can trace IP addresses all day long, but it’s not hard to operate from a public computer, get a new IP, or write a review for one business on 200 unique social media platforms. And putting businesses with fake reviews on notice? It’s a great concept, but I’m not sure how Yelp is going to pull it off.

There needs to be some kind of accountability, some way to know, to really know that the reviews we read are based on real experience. With so many fakes out there, the time we spend researching bobby pins becomes a total waste (I appreciate what many of you may consider the irony here) and businesses suffer.
We’ve reached a tipping point- consumers are demanding trustworthy reviews and vigilance isn’t always a simple solution.
We all need to be a little more Earnest.


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