A Fake Review? Here are 5 Major Clues
The modern consumer relies heavily on online reviews when it comes to making spending decisions. It is commonplace to scour the reviews before trying a new restaurant and to purchase a new piece of technology without first considering the reviews of others would be considered extremely foolhardy. We even allow Netflix to suggest what television series we should watch next! It makes sense because Netflix already knows what we like, right? Software and collective intelligence allow us to feel as though we are making an informed decision quickly. But how informed are we really?
Quantity over Quality?
Surprisingly, what sometimes sways consumers can boil down to the sheer quantity of reviews alone, not the content of the review itself, or the overall rating. Researchers at the Association for Psychological Science tasked 120 participants with comparing similar phone cases on Amazon and choosing which one they would prefer.
Participants routinely chose the phone case that had been reviewed the most, even if the ratings for both phone cases were quite low. This defies logic – statistics say that consumers should select the product with the fewest reviews because that way, there is less chance of the product being faulty. “But participants in our studies did just the opposite,” wrote researcher Derek Powell of Stanford University “They went for the more popular product, despite the fact they should’ve been even more certain it was of low quality”.
Experiments like this one confirm what we already know to be true, that reviews are of the utmost importance to the consumer. But how good are consumers at correctly spotting a fake review? Unfortunately for businesses, the answer is: not very good at all. Researchers at the Cornell University developed software that could detect the ‘opinion spam’ (fraudulent reviews) hidden within 800 reviews. Half of these reviews were genuine, and half were fake. Whilst the software could correctly identify the fakes 90% of the time, human participants in the experiment had as much chance of correctly determining a fake if they had merely flipped a coin to decide.
Consumers are significantly influenced by reviews, but struggle to distinguish the genuine from the fraudulent. Businesses go to great lengths to identify and remove false reviews because the potential fall-out can be dire. Chicago’s highly anticipated gourmet-sandwich establishment Grahamwich (the brainchild of famed chef Graham Elliot) received a negative, inaccurate review before it had even opened its doors to any of the public! This was an exceptional case; the review was blatantly incorrect. But how are the subtler fraudulent reviews exposed?
Five Major Clues
There are many ways to identify whether a review may be fraudulent, but here are five tips that experts and businesses use to determine if a review may be fake
- Vernacular: Normal consumers will not have marketing and business terms peppering their review. If the language of a review seems overly expert, beware! At the same time, be just as sceptical if the review is written in extremely broken English.
- The ‘lazy’ review’: A product or service may have many ‘one-star’ reviews, but if you probe further they will lack specifics. If you click to read more, and all that is written is ‘this sux!’, then it’s likely this lazy reviewer was paid to dole out negative reviews.
- A competitor is mentioned: Be sceptical of a reviewer that seems utterly outraged, and then goes on to mention a competitor’s product or service in comparison. For example - “OMG, this was TERRIBLE! When it arrived, it was broken and dirty and they REFUSED to refund me. I got another from (competitor) instead and I am SO GLAD I did, it works perfectly”
- The repeat review: Businesses that have multiple stores or franchises encounter this often. A customer with a grudge will write one review pertaining to one branch, and then just copy and paste that exact review to all other branches (regardless of their geographical location or if they’ve never been a customer there).
- Check the username: Does the username, and the username of other reviewers on your page, have 3 digits at the end? This could point to an automated program leaving fake reviews on your website.
Size Does Not Matter
Fake reviews are not just the concern of small businesses – false reviews hurt the big guys too.
The gig and the sharing economies are flourishing, and so are the companies that cater to them. Fake reviews not only damage these company’s reputations, they have a direct effect on the livelihood of users.
Airtasker is a community marketplace that connects users with taskers. The company was conceived when the founders noticed that people often lean on their family and friends for assistance – when in fact there are hundreds of removalists, painters and tutors all around us who are looking for work. Airtasker’s highest-earning user has said that his positive reviews are reasons why he was able to make a living. False reviews would have seen his work dry up. Ridesharing and food delivery company Uber holds its drivers to such high standards, that a four-star review is enough to put an Uber driver’s job in jeopardy. Retail giant Amazon took 1000 users to court in 2015, suing them for posting fake reviews in exchange for cash.
What Can Be Done?
If businesses are being targeted by fraudulent or inaccurate reviewers, there are steps they should take to protect their integrity. As a dedicated Content Removal company, we specialise in removing false reviews and cyber abuse that is designed to hurt a business. We can also monitor content, so that defamatory material can be dealt with quickly, and we can also manage the online reputation of the business.
The mere existence of our content removal company highlights the prevalence of fake reviews, and the damage they can do to a business. We are dedicated to exposing and removing fraudulent content to keep our clients safer and to create a more trustworthy place online for both consumers and businesses.
For more information on fake reviews and content removal, or any other related topic, contact Internet Removals on 1300 039 196 or via firstname.lastname@example.org.