Let's say that you have the power to even determine which reviews are fake and which ones are real. (More on that magical power later.) And you spot a scathing review that you are convinced was placed there by your arch rival. I know this might be hard to swallow, but the right thing to do in that situation is to answer it, not ignore it. (I know that not all reviews can be answered, but answer the ones that you can, especially in blog posts and message boards).
I can hear some of you objecting that no matter what you answer, your competitor will never be satisfied, so what's the point? The point is that if you constantly treat every review as legitimate and you painstakingly try to help each customer, you'll reap several big benefits:
It's the last one that is the most fun. If it really is your rival company trying to sabotage your reviews, then by being kind and helpful, they will have no place to go. They will keep complaining no matter what you offer them to help and eventually everyone else will write them off as lunatics--which is very good for you. It also works if it isn't your competitor but is a real-life lunatic customer. Because you can't tell the difference, even if you think you can.
Cornell University conducted a study that proved that few of us can really tell a genuine review from a fake review. So, even though we think we know, most of us are either too trusting or too suspicious.
But if you follow my advice, you no longer care which ones are real and which ones are ginned-up. You treat them all as real and it just works anyway.
And here is the great news about the Cornell study. We have the hope that software can actually tell the difference between real and fake reviews, because there are patterns of language that people use when they are deceptive. So, someday, Yelp might use that kind of software to remove suspicious reviews so you won't need to worry about them at all.
Just as accounting audit software can detect cooked books (far fewer that 20% of the entries end in a zero or a five, as they would if they were truly random), there are patterns that people use when they are being deceptive that are very hard to overcome.
So, stop worrying about fake reviews, and start worrying about bad reviews. Take action and protect your brand and let everyone else sort out what's real.
Mike is an expert in search marketing, search technology, social media, publishing, text analytics, and web metrics, who regularly makes speaking appearances.
Mike's previous appearances include Text Analytics World, Rutgers Business School, SEMRush webinar, ClickZ Live.
Mike also founded and writes for Biznology, is the co-author of Outside-In Marketing (with James Mathewson) and the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (now in its 3rd edition, and sole author of Do It Wrong Quickly, named by the Miami Herald as one of the 11 best business books of 2007.
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