Good online reviews from trusted websites, like Google and Yelp, can really help build your reputation. A good reputation, in turn, can help increase your conversion rate. Because of this, it may be tempting to write reviews that are not entirely honest, or to ask people to write reviews who have never even seen your product.
While this may seem like an interesting proposition, the reality is that it is a very bad idea. Indeed, you could actually get sued for these practices. Samsung, for instance, hired writers for their new mobile phone campaign, which involved asking writers to come up with positive reviews for the Samsung product, as well as negative reviews for any competitors, mainly HTC.
When this was uncovered, the Fair Trade Commission (FTC) of Taiwan fined them around $340,000. Two other firms were involved in the campaign, and they were each fined around $100,000 as well.
The FTC stated that writers were paid by Samsung in order to take away any negative reviews on the Samsung mobile phones. Additionally, they would leave negative reviews about the HTC devices. This would not necessarily be illegal, were it not for the fact that the writers did not say they were paid by Samsung to do so. HTC was the worst affected competitor, but other phone manufacturers were also affected.
The Practice of astroturfing.
Astroturfing, which is what the practice that Samsung engaged in, is in violation of the Endorsement and Advertising Guidelines set out by the Federal Trade Commission. The New York Attorney General’s office spent a year investigating “Operation Clean Turf”. This investigation ended in September 2013. Their investigation showed that 19 different companies were astroturfing, meaning they were manipulating various consumer review websites.
Between them, the companies targeted websites such as Google Local, Yelp and CitySearch. During this campaign, they created fake identities and profiles in order to post reviews and they paid writers from Eastern Europe, Bangladesh and the Philippines between $1 and $10 for each review. When the investigation completed, the companies were fined over $350,000 between them. All of them agreed that they would stop encouraging fake reviews and all fines were paid.
Why online review management matters
If you are engaged in online review management, it is incredibly important that your reviews are actually authentic. If a customer finds out that the review they read is not actually authentic, they will stop coming to your website. They will also tell others about it and stop recommending your website. This is hugely damaging to your overall reputation.
So, if your goal is to build the reputation of your brand, do not post fake reviews. Do also make sure that your website and applications are monitored so that there is no spam on your site. If you spot posts with lots of empty adjectives, or unwarranted praise, or texts that only talk about the features of the product, you may have a fake review on your site. Real users tend to talk about value, reliability and performance.