Fake Reviews = Fake News

Reviews are everywhere. You’re confronted with them when you shop on Amazon, purchase a new car, book a hotel or a restaurant reservation — even when you select a doctor. Online reviews can make or break a business — because they are the number-one source of information consumers use to evaluate a business. In fact, 97 percent of consumers read and rely on reviews.

Because of their increasing influence, some companies write fake reviews in hopes of improving their online reputation. For example, TripAdvisor caught several hotels posting fabricated 5-star reviews.

Some companies pay customers or other third-parties to write favorable reviews — a practice which is highly unethical.

Unfortunately, most reviews are anonymous: Reviewers are only asked for an email address before posting feedback. As a result, it’s nearly impossible to determine if a review was written by a genuine customer or by a spammer.

In fact, trust in online reviews is waning. A global study confirmed that consumers are more suspicious than ever, with 52 percent assuming companies are behaving badly. And they’re likely right. One study found a third of all online reviews and user-generated content discussing a product were fake. And Gartner reported up to 15 percent of all online reviews are fake.

The practice is so prevalent that there are even services for creating fake profiles and using them to post invented reviews to boost or destroy a brand’s online reputation. Google, Facebook and all major review sites struggle with this problem.

So how do you know if you’re reading a genuine review — or not? Is the review you’re reading about a business from a satisfied customer or was it paid for? Was your negative review written by a dissatisfied client who genuinely did not like your product, or by a deceitful competitor trying to slander your brand?

Are Fake Reviews Good for Business?

Writing fake reviews is dishonest and unethical. That much we know. But is it actually good for business, or can it hurt you?

Publishing biased or outright fake reviews is a short-sighted strategy that yields disappointing results. Consumers are unsatisfied because they can’t find what they’re looking for. Businesses are frustrated because they can’t credibly communicate their strengths and the high quality of their service. Product quality, customer satisfaction, customer service and sales all suffer.

To understand why, it is important to remember that trust is the foundation of all business. When businesses and customers don’t trust each other, transactions don’t happen — even if there is a willing buyer and seller.

Fake reviews undermine the trust between a business and its customers, resulting in dismal outcomes, including frustrated customers, no meaningful improvement and loss of business. On the flip side, real reviews deliver important information companies need to improve customer experience. Genuine feedback provides insight into various aspects of a business, enabling targeted improvements that eliminate customer frustrations, improve service and deliver better business outcomes. Honesty, it turns out, can be profitable.

As a final note, it’s worth remembering that are nobody expects perfection. A 4.7 star average rating is increasingly more credible that a glowing 5 star. According to Revo Inisight Research, as much as 95 percent of consumers suspect censorship and faked reviews when don’t see any bad ratings.