Monday, September 23, 2013

"User review" companies work to expose "opinion fraud"; Stik offers validated reviewer identity

Yelp has, in recent months, taken to alerts to “shame” businesses that try to game their reputations by paying for reviews or attacking competitors.  The Techhive story by Ian Paul in October 2012 is here. In past years, there have been a variety of misbehaviors:  gag orders by doctors against patients, lawsuits, and accusations that rating sites “extort” money from small businesses.  Angie’s List always advertises that no one can pay for a review on it. 
  
Consumer reviews on Yelp and Angies and other sites really can affect small businesses. 
  
There is a new site called Stik which is taking the “fake review” problem by requiring a legitimate social media profile (preferably Facebook, which always requires real names) as a gateway to signing in.  The PCWorld story is here. and Stik is here
  
Ordinary blogs and videos probably don’t have a big effect on products from large companies, unless the blogger says something unusual enough to “go viral”.  Companies are finding that they can counter the review issue by creating a Facebook presence, getting “likes” to cause their news to show up in Timelines, which causes Facebook users to write comments that are more likely to be specific to aspects of the company and more valuable as customer feedback.  Motion picture studios and media stars may find out what impresses viewers more readily from targeted social media presence.
   
There were nebulous reports on new FTC concerns about review "opinion fraud" on ABC tonight, but no major news story yet.  But companies and individuals participating in it may face fines and prosecution at some point in the future.  There is a story on an ABC "sting" of Yelp here in Nov. 2012/ 


Update: Sept. 24, 2013

ABC Good Morning America is reporting that the New York State attorney general is going after nineteen companies, some of whom hire fake reviewers from eastern Europe. Companies that pay people to write online reviews could get into trouble. There is a story on Business Insider Sept. 23, here


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