How Much Do You Pay For Your Online Reputation?

TrollThis past week I was down in Miami presenting as a Social Media Speaker for the National Association of REALTORS® at their Tech Edge event.  While there presenting, one of the sessions I participated in was a panel regarding  your online reputation.  Shortly after finishing the discussion I was checking my inbox and found an email that made me chuckle.  The first line of the email was:

Google is now using business reviews to determine business ranking. People are trashing companies with reviews, Complaint sites and Blogs. We can help you defend your company by posting positive Reviews, Blogs and creating Websites to take over Search Results and control what people see about your company.

Now, I’ve heard that some people pay companies for reviews in the past, but this was the first time I’ve ever received an email about it. This got me to thinking, how much would you be willing to pay for positive & very bogus written reviews of your company?  My interest got peaked by this, so I visited the link in the email to look at their pricing.  Here’s their monthly fees:

Bad Online Reviews

Twenty to One Hundred Dollars a Month?  I was a little shocked by the amount of money someone would ask for a review to be written that isn’t even legit.  Seeing this made me lose my cool for a few minutes.

Buying a Fake Reputation vs. Fixing The Issue

Here’s why I got so upset.  To me, I cannot even fathom going to a company like this and spending that type of money to have someone else create fake positive reviews of my company and post out on the internet to try and cover up something negative stated about it.  Instead of spending money to just sweep issues under the rug, I am a strong believer in simply giving great customer service, good quality products, and addressing any issues that may arise. I believe that before a company turns to spending money here, they should use those resources to try and address the complaints being made by consumers who had a bad experience.

In most instances, if you address a problem someone has, and fix the problem, they are more than willing to either remove their bad reviews, edit the negative review to state things are now resolved.  Some will even be turned from your biggest complainer to your biggest cheerleader writing good things about how you fixed the problem and share it with the world as loudly as they shared the complaint.

How Do You Extinguish Online Fires?

Sometimes there are things that happen online where you wrongfully get attacked by others.  What do you do when this happens?  Unfortunately there is no magic answer to solve all cases.  The one piece of advice that I would share with everyone is to make sure you don’t act out on emotions.  When you feel attacked, your first instinct is to become defensive and emotional.  I would always suggest you take time to calmly assess the situation before responding.  Cooler heads will definitely always prevail.

While there is no magic bullet to extinguish an online fire, here are a few examples of disasters and how they were handled.

Community To The Rescue

One of my friends Ines, was attacked over a story that ran in her local newspaper.  While she was excited of the great publicity both her & the restaurant she was discussing received from the news, someone who read the story didn’t feel the same way.  They turned this great publicity into their opportunity to personally attack her and her reputation.

In this instance, she had a great community of friends online, that came to her defense.  They began telling others on the post how great a person she was and how the accusations made against her were not warranted. It quickly became obvious to anyone reading the story that the attacker simply had a personal issue with Ines and that they were using this platform as a way to launch an attack against her.  After time, the attacker finally quieted and the situation was no longer volatile.

Kill It With Amazing Service

The second example comes courtesy of my friend Bill Lublin.  Bill owns several investment properties all around the Philadelphia area.  One of the properties he owns was placed under scrutiny by someone and Bill was called out by name in the complaint.  In this situation, it was best for Bill to step in, do some investigation, and respond publicly to the complaint on the message board.  The complaints said that the property was not being taken care of, it was damaging values of homes around it, etc.

As Bill checked into the situation, he found that while his property is located in the area the complaint was filed, the unit he owned had been fully renovated, had a very good tenant in place and that the accusations were false.  Before responding though, he sent someone out to the property to do a full inspection and make sure that there were no issues in his property.  Once he had this information, he went to the message board and posted public responses regarding all the accusations that were made.  After doing so, it was only a matter of time before the complaints were removed.

Address The Situation Personally

The last suggestion I would make for handling situations online is to address the complaint personally.  By this I mean either calling the person on the phone or meeting with them face to face.  Unfortunately too many times we try to fix things the quick and easy way through a tweet, email or text message and unfortunately our tone of voice and the reaction of the other person then get lost making it almost impossible to know what exactly the other person is feeling.

If we take the time and effort to make a personal touch to resolve the issue, it will go a very long way.

Buy The Bogus Or Manage Your Own

So in closing, there are basically two options you have available to you.  You can either buy bogus reviews that many consumers will recognize as fake to cover up something bad. Or simply do the right things when it comes to running your business and address any situations that come up.  Handle these complaints properly and the end result can be better than the original complaint!

 

photo by: FantasyClay

Jeremy Blanton

Jeremy Blanton is the Co-Founder of 210 Consulting- Social Media Advisors. He is a social media speaker who shares with thousands of people each year on things like how to use Facebook for Business, Blogging, and How to use Twitter.

When he is not coaching or speaking, he spends most of his time working on Custom WordPress Sites for his clients.

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  • Sucks that there are always going to be people who try to game the system like this. However, I truly believe the average person is smart enough to sniff things like out from a mile away. 

    I think a grayer area is rewarding clients for writing real reviews to win a prize or something.  My old dentist did a contest where if you left a review for him on Yelp and emailed it in to him, you could win something.  Obviously they aren’t going to let someone who wrote a bad review win the prize, so if you wanted to win, it puts you in a position to potentially write an artifical review.  On one hand I thought this was very shady.  On the other hand, I actually picked this dentist because of all the great reviews he had – so it worked.  However, it didn’t take long for someone to expose that this is how he was recieving all the review directly on Yelp.  So once again, smart consumer wins.

    Reputable sites should also be able to track this sort of thing down – based on IP addresses and other measures put in place.

  • And how did you feel once you found out the truth of those reviews? My guess is that it made you feel lied to.

  • Oh you bet.  And had I seen that one user calling the dentist out for the fake reviews, I wouldn’t have gone to him in the first place.

  • It’s a shame, but that is the way many will feel.

  • And even better yet, does that lie ultimately help or hurt what you were going for?