Fake reviews proliferate online and are a growing problem for consumers and businesses alike. Dishonest or false reviews make consumers more likely to purchase low-quality products or fall prey to scammers. Meanwhile, both positive and negative fake feedback can seriously harm a company’s reputation.
In response to this widespread problem, Meta is cracking down on false reviews on Facebook and Instagram. They released an updated Community Feedback Policy in the U.S. to ensure that reviews left on Facebook and Instagram business pages are based on real purchase experiences.
Read on to learn about the impact of inauthentic reviews on businesses and how Meta plans to tackle fake reviews.
Fake Negative Reviews: So Much More Than a Nuisance
Businesses work hard to get authentic, positive reviews for a reason. According to research by Trustpilot:
- About 89 percent of consumers globally check reviews first before they make a purchase.
- Seventy-nine percent trust the reviews they read online.
- Eight in 10 consumers read reviews before hiring or purchasing from local businesses.
Unfortunately, the Internet is rife with bad actors that leave fake negative reviews. Some are brands or brand managers wanting to slander a competitor, and others are individuals who are acting out of spite or even due to a personal vendetta against the business owner or one of its staff. Still, others do it to get freebies.
While it’s easy to ignore a few fake online reviews, it becomes much harder to deal with when they arrive by the dozen, as in the case of many restaurants throughout the country this year. Unfortunately, review bombing is a common and incredibly harmful Internet phenomenon that affects organizations and businesses across all industries and makes it difficult to attract and retain customers.
Review Bombing and Its Impact on Businesses
In 2022, countless restaurants in Chicago, New York and the Bay Area fell victim to “restaurant extortion.” The scheme involves scammers “review bombing” or leaving several fake negative reviews on their Google Business Profile (GBP) pages in a short span of time.
The restaurant owners would eventually receive an email from the scammers offering to remove them in return for money. Those who didn’t pay up had to deal with a drastically reduced star rating; in one case, a Korean restaurant in Chicago received a slew of one-star reviews on Google. The owner reported it to Google but received a response saying that the review did not violate Google policies and would remain on the page.
Google is currently strengthening its efforts to detect and take down fake negative feedback, but many reviews are still slipping past the search engine’s artificial intelligence (AI) protection and human moderators.
Brands with pages on Facebook and Instagram are also at risk of reputational damage due to fake negative reviews. Dental practices, hospitals, business-to-business (B2B) companies; no company is safe from bad actors seeking to damage its brand image. Sometimes, these individuals don’t even leave reviews, just one-star ratings, as these also drag down a brand’s overall rating on Facebook and Instagram pages.
In BrightLocal’s Local Consumer Survey 2022, 85 percent of respondents stated that the overall star rating of a business was important or very important in influencing their purchase decision.
Online Reviews: Real vs Fake
Fortunately, most consumers can tell if a review is fake. In a survey published in The Conversation, 48 percent of respondents believed they were good at determining which customer feedback is real vs fake.
Some red flags consumers look out for when checking ratings and reviews are:
- Extreme emotion – A review pledging undying loyalty to a dentist or one raging about a minor inconvenience, such as a 5-minute wait for drinks, is most likely fake. It’s unlikely that a person would be that enthused or upset about a brand to post customer feedback with highly emotional language.
- Unnatural phrasing – Consumers are wary of reviews that read as if a professional writer made them. Phrases like “leveraging this app allow me to focus more on my core tasks instead of make-work” do not ring true. On the other hand, very poor grammar is also seen as a sign that the review is fake and possibly written by a paid reviewer in a country where English is not the first language.
- The reviewer’s account was recently made – This is a sure sign of a fake review. Another thing to watch out for is accounts with just a few friends or none at all. The account was likely made to leave ratings and reviews.
However, not all consumers are Internet-savvy, and for them, determining whether a review is real vs fake can be challenging. What’s more, few will go to the trouble of reading all negative reviews. Instead, most will only go by the overall star rating to judge the legitimacy of a business or the quality of its product or service.
The Long-Term Effects of Fake Ratings and Reviews
Researchers at CHEQ analyzed data from eCommerce sites like Amazon and Yelp and found that approximately four percent of all online reviews are fake. According to the 2021 study, the economic impact of fake reviews on online spending worldwide is $152 billion.
It’s not just negative reviews that are the problem. Fake positive reviews mislead consumers into purchasing faulty or low-quality products or paying for substandard services. Sadly, many businesses pay for fake reviews because of the tremendous return on investment (ROI) they deliver.
For instance, Tennessee-based business Legacy Learning Systems Inc. generated more than $5 million in sales from its misleading and deceptive approach to review generation. Yet, the company was fined just $250,000 by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
While brands may find it tempting to pay for good reviews, doing so is both illegal and counterproductive. It also runs counter to most review platforms’ rules on feedback. Also, while the fines ordered by the FTC might seem like a small price to pay for a massive bump in sales, the costs of reputational damage are likely to exceed the fine amount.
Posting fake reviews leads to consumers losing trust in your company, and consumer trust is everything in business. Without it, you’ll find it hard to retain customers and attract new leads.
To get consumer trust back, you may need to hire a company to help you with online reputation management. An online reputation management firm will leverage various strategies to restore your brand image.
On the other hand, if you have a strong reputation for trustworthiness, honesty and liability, customers are more likely to do business with you. More than that, trust between consumers and brands turns customers into brand advocates.
Companies that have their own employees post fake Facebook reviews are also at risk of being sued. Facebook recently filed a lawsuit against an individual who ran a review-for-pay scheme. This, along with a similar lawsuit filed by Amazon, has created a precedent for legal action against those who are exploiting the platform’s review system.
The 152 Billion Dollar Question: What’s Meta Doing To Crack Down on Fake Online Reviews?
Review management on Facebook involves dealing with massive amounts of spam or fake Facebook reviews. To help address this, Meta, Facebook’s parent company, has released an updated Community Feedback Policy that applies to Facebook Shops and Marketplace.
Meta already has general Community Standards for what kind of content can be published on the platform and what is prohibited. The updated policy is specific to Facebook reviews.
According to Meta, they created the policy to ensure that Facebook reviews are done by people who have actually purchased the item or service they’re giving feedback on. The goal is to keep offensive, irrelevant and fraudulent reviews off Meta. The policy considers a review to be in violation of its policy if it is:
- Graphic or inappropriate
The last two on the list are also part of Facebook community guidelines and Facebook marketplace guidelines.
Meta says that reviews reported to violate this policy will go through manual review and be screened through machine learning models and automated technology.
What Businesses Can Do To Combat Fake Facebook Reviews
Unfortunately, even with Meta’s new policy in place, there’s little that businesses can do to remove fake reviews other than report them. After that, it’s a matter of waiting until Facebook has had time to judge the validity of the reviews, said Tim Clarke, Senior Reputation Manager of Rize Reviews.
In the meantime, businesses can minimize the damage caused by negative feedback by learning how to get reviews on Facebook. Positive, authentic feedback from real people does the opposite of false reviews: it gives brands credibility and social proof, improves rankings and boosts revenue. Even if you get poor feedback, new positive reviews can help you retain customers and continue strengthening your brand reputation.
A More Effective (and Completely Legal) Alternative to Reviews-for-Pay
Review manipulation seems like an easy way to get the perks of a high rating. However, the risk of penalties, fines, legal action and a damaged reputation far outweighs the benefits.
A better option is to have a review management and generation plan aligned with your overall digital marketing strategy. With this plan in place, you can get more real Facebook reviews from verified customers. This way, you won’t run the risk of getting penalized just to get your ratings and reviews up.
Some businesses may find it challenging to ask for customer feedback and monitor review platforms for negative and fraudulent reviews while navigating Facebook Marketplace guidelines. Others simply don’t have the time or resources to spare to learn how to get reviews on Facebook.
However, it’s a mistake to rely solely on Facebook community guidelines to keep false negative feedback off Shops and Marketplace. Even though Meta’s new policy is already in place, a few fake or malicious reviews can still slip through the cracks.
Protect Your Online Reputation by Partnering With Rize Reviews
Rize Reviews offers a suite of online reputation management solutions to help businesses address the impact of fake Facebook reviews and strengthen or rebuild their brand image. Additionally, we take on review management tasks.
Our team helps businesses gather reviews by sending customers requests through email or SMS. We customize our wording to align with the company’s tone and style, and incorporate branding, such as logos. We can request written feedback and video testimonials that can be embedded on their websites and shared on social media. Moreover, we make it easier for customers to write reviews through our integrations with more than 150 review sites.
Whether you’re dealing with fake online reviews or trying to get more positive feedback for your business, you can rely on Rize. Reach out to us today to learn more about our online reputation management services.