Three Reasons Why Faking Online Reviews Can Destroy Your BusinessJanuary 17, 2013
A positive online review is a powerful marketing tool for any business. The reviewer’s independent stance lends objectivity to the assessment, and the review offers inexpensive advertising in a medium not owned by the business. Conversely, a negative online review can torpedo a company. In an attempt to exert control over online advertising, or to counter a negative review, many businesses opt to write fake reviews for their products and services. Writing fake online reviews, though tempting, can have dire consequences for business.
It Wrecks Your Credibility
The entire purpose of hiring someone to write a fake review is to ensure that readers believe the review. The will of every business is to be seen as credible. Ironically though, the way to gain credibility is not by trying to gain credibility. Consumers are becoming better and better at spotting fakes. Customers value honesty and seek accurate information. If every review of your business is a fake review, it indicates to readers that your business has something to hide. Soon, readers won’t believe anything that is written about you, which is the exact opposite of your original aim.
It’s Probably Illegal (And Definitely Unethical)
Misrepresenting your business and deceiving your customers is, simply, wrong. The consumer has a right to make purchasing decisions, and most purchasing decisions require accurate information. False advertising undermines the consumer’s authority to make decisions about which company to support. Fake online reviews can heighten consumer expectations, causing disappointment when the product or service doesn’t live up to the hype.
They also interfere with the consumer’s right to be informed, and for that reason, they are unethical. Furthermore, most countries have regulatory bodies and legal advertising standards that outlaw false advertising. In the United States, penalties for a first offence include a fine up to $5000 and a potential six-month prison sentence. Extraordinary circumstances or further offences can increase the penalty. For instance, in 2009 cosmetic company Lifestyle Lift was caught writing fake customer reviews. A judge ordered the company to pay $300,000 in fines for its attempt at false advertising.
It Can Destroy Your Online Presence
Companies like Yelp and Google build their brands around credibility. These websites have a vested interest in publishing accurate information and exposing false advertising. Online review companies have caught on to organizations that try to abuse the system. Online reviews posted on these sites are expected to contain accurate information from a credible source. Posting a fake review on sites like Yelp, Google+, Facebook, Twitter, or Consumer Reports can earn your business various penalties ranging from a flag on your account to a permanent ban, or even a dive in search engine rankings. The penalties are not worth the risk.
The Internet has fundamentally altered the business world. Advertisers have invented new marketing techniques to corner the online market. The fake online review though, is a stubborn temptation for businesses. A fake review can destroy a business’ credibility, lead to legal headaches, and ruin any future online marketing campaigns. What’s the best way to advertise a business online? Accurate, well-written ads that people will love to share.