How do you manage your business reputation in a corrupt online world? (And why NOT to trust Trip Advisor)

Apr 29, 2013 Comments Off by

In a fascinating article by Fairfax Media, Malcolm Knox discusses allegations of online corruption and blackmail by some of the world’s biggest online businesses, including Trip Advisor and Yelp. You can read the full article by Malcolm Knox here, but here are some key points.

Trip Advisor have Destination Experts (DE) to filter comments in reviews, mediate disputes and guide consumers. Turns out these DEs can be biased or even worse, corrupt.

Malcolm’s article talks of  fake negative reviews pushing out positive reviews, and a well-established and popular tour guide losing business and being blackmailed to avoid further reputation damage by a DE who was the tour guide’s ex-employee and then worked for a competitor while being a DE without revealing this on Trip Advisor.

It’s not just Trip Advisor. Here’s an extract from the story…

“Meanwhile, numerous class actions for extortion were initiated against San Francisco-based crowdsourcing review site Yelp. No such action has succeeded in court, for lack of evidence, though a new action has been started by a veterinary clinic in Long Beach, California, which claims Yelp has asked for $300 a month in exchange for removal of negative reviews. Since its founding in 2004, Yelp has regularly rejected accusations of extortion from businesses who decline to buy advertising space.”

Other points mentioned include:

  • “Nielsen Research has estimated that 71 per cent of Australians base their purchasing decisions on User Generated Content (UGC) reviews that appear on sites such as TripAdvisor and Yelp (local businesses), Amazon (books and other consumer goods) and Urbanspoon (restaurants and cafes).”
  • “The University of Illinois concluded from research last year that one-third of all UGC web reviews are now fake, either with the purpose of boosting or denigrating a product.”
  • “Technology research firm Gartner Inc has predicted that 10 to 15 per cent of web ratings and reviews will be paid for by companies by next year.”

User-generated content and social media can bring benefits to business, but it also brings risks.  Not all comments will be positive, and not all will be real.

All publicity is not good publicity    What you don’t know can hurt you.  Businesses need to become more effective in  monitoring what is being said about them online in social media, on review sites and in blogs.

Businesses need to know how to respond appropriately to diffuse situations rather than inflame them.

Your business needs guidelines for your staff to follow for managing reviews and social media guidelines. Managing your reputation online should not be left in the hands of a junior employee.

Marketing, Smarter Tools, Social Media, Strategies & Roadmap, The Big Picture
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