We’ve all looked for a hotel or a new hair stylist or [insert any manner of things you would search for on the Internet]. And we’ve all read reviews about those things, and we’ve all seen some that seemed a little too good to be true.
Reviewers proclaiming a hotel was immaculate and greater than their wildest dreams. A review that’s so glowing it almost seems as if the hotel stay had a life-changing and profound effect on the writer.
And we’ve had the same feeling when finished reading: There is no way someone had that good of an experience.
Can’t believe everything you read
But, it turns out some of those glowing reviews are not true after all. In fact, it’s worse than that. They are made up. And worse than that, they’re paid for.
It would be one thing if it were hotel owners or stylists out trolling the web and leaving good reviews about themselves. That’s bad, but this is worse than that.
Some businesses are paying people who’ve never been to their establishments to write a good review online. There are review mills out there, as I’m going to call them, churning out fake reviews. It’s gotten to the point that it’s caught the attention of the attorney general of New York. It’s never good to have the attention of an attorney general, especially in New York.
In his effort to crack down on a system of creating false online reviews for products and services, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced recently he has settled cases with 19 companies that included $350,000 in penalties.
If you are, please stop
If I am talking to anyone who is using this practice, I can’t encourage you enough to stop. Don’t stop because you might get fined for it. Stop because the damage to your credibility will be far greater than any fine any government agency could ever give you. There are some faux pas that you can’t come back from. This is one of them.
But we don’t want bad reviews, you say. We understand that, and unfortunately, bad reviews are a lot easier to come by than good ones.
Angry people are much more likely to go online and write a scathing review than someone who had a good experience. It’s a proven fact that people who are mad will tell more people about their bad experience. Misery loves company.
There’s a better way
Have you ever opened an app on your smartphone and gotten a prompt asking you to rate it? It tells you, “Give us 5 stars!”
It’s a call to action, and you can do the same thing, in a way. If you have a customer that you know had a good experience, encourage them to leave a review online.
Go so far as to include information on the back of your business card about how and where — whether it be on Yelp, Facebook, FourSquare, wherever — to leave a review of your services. This will A) remind them to do it and B) help the people who aren’t web savvy.
Ask, don’t pay
There is nothing wrong with encouraging someone to give you a good review.
Say to a customer, “We’re so glad you had a good experience. We enjoyed helping you out. We’d love it if you’d leave a review about your experience online.”
Encourage them, but don’t pay them. It’s not worth the price you could potential pay.