Most florists have heard the advice on how to respond online to negative reviews and comments and customers. (Respond quickly, say you’re sorry, try to find a solution and move the conversation offline if necessary.) But fake online reviews are out there, too, warns Daniel Lemin, author of “ManipuRATED.”
Indeed, for his book, Lemin researched fake reviews, and even interviewed the people who are paid to write and place them. (Who pays for fake reviews? Sometimes, it’s unethical competitors.) In fact, Lemin said, a study from Harvard Business School found that 20 percent of Yelp’s published reviews are not real, even though the company uses a proprietary technology to identify and filter out fake reviews. (Overall, Yelp says it filters out 25 percent of the 25,000 reviews it receives every minute, every day, Lemin added.)
“The Internet is clearly a place where anyone can easily produce fake ratings and reviews,” said Lemin, adding that telltale signs of a fake review (poor English, formulaic responses) aren’t as common as they once were — paid reviewers are becoming more sophisticated, even as companies are cracking down: Amazon has filed five lawsuits since 2015 against people who write paid reviews and companies that solicit them. Despite those legal proceedings, a study in 2017 from ReviewMeta found that reviews on Amazon are more prone to be fake now than ever before.
What can you do if you think a review is fake? Here are three suggestions from Lemin:
- Don’t panic. Remind yourself how prevalent fake reviews are online and realize many business owners deal with them. You are not alone.
- Report the review. Contact the platform where the review is posted. Cite any possible evidence you have that the information is questionable. (Things to look for: how long has the reviewer been active and what do their other reviews entail. Look for patterns and even repeated language.) Be clear and concise and stick to the facts.
- Go on the offense. On most sites, reviews are ordered chronologically. The fake review in a top position today will be relegated to a lower spot in the list once new reviews come in. That’s another reason to always ask real customers for reviews. Those legitimate, positive reviews help ensure a steady stream of trustworthy (business-building) content on your profile.
Tom Gresham is a contributing writer for Floral Management. He has written on the role of technology in fields such as stadiums and arenas, health clubs and supply chain logistics.