How to Tell if Your Competitor Is Using Fake Online Reviews

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Not all news is good news. When you own a business—especially an independent brick-and-mortar establishment—you have to be prepared to accept feedback from everyone, even a few unhappy customers. However, it’s not all bad: Receiving a tough review is an excellent growth opportunity. Less than ideal feedback truly helps service providers and product developers improve services and product creation.

However, what about those faux online reviews? A frustrating reality, consumers and business owners alike often need to weed through a land mine of valid versus phony postings. What’s more is that some—not all—competitors may even hire a fictitious reviewer to post those positive high-fives. So, how can you tell when a post is truly phony?

Are the positive reviews a flowing jet stream or dancing around like a field of wildflowers?

When the frequency of strong praise seems over-the-top saturated, take note. If there are multiple applauses for a new or old product or service, which go live in quick succession (especially in a single day), then it could be spam. In other words, a behind-the-scenes individual or group who have an agenda could have posted the write-ups.

Does the reviewer provide a mixed bag of bad and good observations?

Scanning over the review histories of individual reviewers can help you gauge the authenticity and honesty of those writers. Are they always giving roses and tulips: five out of five stars? Or, do they provide the improvements that they’d like to see in a product or service in addition to the accolade? The latter is a more well thought-out review and most likely, a real one.

Keep your eyes open for specific, unique insight.

With product reviews in particular, look for specific examples and descriptions of how the item functioned. Rather than, “‘X’ is the best pair of headphones ever made,” you would read, “the ear buds fit in my ears well, but the cord is too heavy and long.”

The same goes for service reviews: Instead of using copycat phrases like, “This is the pizza is the best in Chicago,” the reviewer would also explain why the pizza is the best in Chicago and add more about their unique experience: “I went to ‘X’ pizza pub on Saturday night; the wait was long but the staff was friendly and our pie was ready in just 15 minutes.”

Look at the language.

Real reviews typically incorporate a casual, unpretentious tone without formal product names, and techy or marketing jargon.

Who is the reviewer?

In some cases, online service platforms create quick profiles for reviewers. A prime example is the mega-of-mega online shopping aisle: Amazon. The site aggregates data about its reviewers—including previous reviews that they’ve written, their reviewer rankings, and their public wish lists—and publically shares those profiles. That way, it’s transparent that the reviewers aren’t virtual robots.

At the end of the day, resist posting fake online reviews. The online review process provides a strong checks-and-balances system. When consumers freely share their opinions it helps to hold businesses accountable. Also, consumers are enabled through the anonymous platform, especially when they may not feel comfortable sharing their opinion in person. Reviews can help to reflect overall management, leadership, and integrity of the company’s members.

What do you do when you see a competitor using fake reviews?

For particular sites, you can flag or report fraudulent posts. It could also be possible that your competitors don’t know about the fake reviews: consider telling them.

Rather than getting distraught, draw attention towards your authentic reviews. You can encourage real reviews through social media, simply by saying, “We are on Yelp! Review us!” Also, write responses to the reviews (good or bad) that you receive or offer rewards or prizes for review submissions.

Morgan Tilton is a contributor to the Connectivity blog. 


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