Fake Reviews Misleading Potential Customers

Genuine Reviews from Teachers after Dinosaur Workshops

This week there have been a number of reports commissioned that focus on the allegations over the publishing of fake and misleading reviews on retailing websites.  In a survey carried out by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), some 54% of the adults questioned revealed that they relied on reviews that had been posted up on websites and that many respondents found them invaluable.  Third party testimonials, posted up feedback and customer reviews are a very helpful source of information.  Visitors to a website can read the comments and other information posted and this does affect their purchasing decisions.

It is important that customers can feel confident about the information in reviews, that these reviews have been provided by genuine customers, whether it be a service or product purchased.  There have also been a number of allegations made of people “blackmailing” businesses with threats to leave very negative reviews in order to obtain a benefit such as a discount.  In addition, many of the reviews that are posted up are often paid for, examples of which are Tweets from innovators and celebrities endorsing a product, or favourable blog articles singing the praises of a company.  Some of these blog posts endorsing a firm or its goods and services do state within the article that this is a paid for posting, whilst others do not.  The CMA has launched an investigation into several companies, as the use of paid for endorsements without a clear admission of payment may be unlawful.

Everything Dinosaur team members would like to reassure readers that every review posted up on its websites is genuine.  The reviews, feedback and comments we receive are from our customers or, as is the case on our dinosaur workshops in school website, from teachers or senior management from an organisation that has had one of our dinosaur themed workshops.

Review Given to Everything Dinosaur from Year 1 Teacher

Every review posted is genuine feedback from a member of the teaching team.

Every review posted is genuine feedback from a member of the teaching team.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

 Take for example, the image above.  This is our latest review, teaching feedback given to us after a dinosaur workshop with a class of Year 1 children.  We have removed the teacher’s surname and email address in order to compile with our own online publishing policy in terms of protecting an individual’s privacy.  The teacher even took the trouble to colour in the stars as she awarded as “five stars” for our dinosaur workshop.

Nikki (the teacher), stated:

“Fantastic knowledge of dinosaurs, very interactive.  Children thoroughly enjoyed it!  Great workshop. Thank you.”

Thank you Nikki, your comments are greatly appreciated.  We log all our feedback, comments, reviews and such like.  Teaching feedback for example, is stored so that we can use this information to help improve our service to schools and to demonstrate to STEM/STEMNET (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths – Network) how we have feedback loops built into our training to help promote continuous development.

Nisha Arora, Senior Director at the CMA, commented to the BBC:

“We are committed to ensuring that consumers’ trust in these important information tools is maintained.  We will take enforcement action where necessary to tackle unlawful practices.”

Facebook “likes” are another area of concern.  We know of a number of companies who have purchased thousands of likes to help boost the profile of the Facebook pages and in turn, their own brand/web presence.  Facebook, claims to have cracked down on this practice but there are still many examples on this social media platform.

Sue Judd, the Finance Director of Everything Dinosaur stated:

“A huge, international business has sprung up in the last few years all aimed at helping to promote companies, boost brands and endorse products.  At Everything Dinosaur, we pride ourselves in publishing genuine feedback, reviews and comments and we would never knowingly post up information such as fake reviews and endorsements.”

The CMA estimates that some £23 billion (GBP) a year of consumer spending was potentially influenced by online reviews.  So called “astroturfing”, the practice of creating fake grass root reviews can lead to big rewards for unscrupulous businesses.  There have also been reports made about businesses writing fake reviews of themselves to boost their ratings on review sites and even some examples of firms writing or commissioning fake negative reviews to undermine rivals, for malicious reasons or for personal gain.

Purchased Facebook “Likes”

Customers can gain some understanding of the practices employed by examining the business profiles of companies on Facebook.  If an organisation suddenly has hundreds or even thousands more “likes”, then this could be an example of purchased likes being added to the business profile.  Although, as site managers aim to get on top of this problem, the firms and individuals behind such practices are getting smarter.  Rather than post up huge numbers of “likes” in a short period, contracts are drawn up whereby dozens and dozens of fake “likes” are posted up over a period of several weeks.  These trends are more difficult for administrators and site security watchdogs to spot.

Everything Dinosaur currently has around 2,020 Facebook “likes”, this number has been steadily rising since the Facebook page was launched.

Everything Dinosaur’s Reviews – The Numbers

Here is a list of the numbers of published reviews from customers posted up on Everything Dinosaur’s websites:

  • 1,286 customer reviews on Everything Dinosaur’s website – Everything Dinosaur Sadly, we were not able to transfer the many thousands of reviews that had been posted up previously when we transferred website servers.
  • 2,020 Facebook “likes”
  • 57 dinosaur workshop reviews since this site went live at the end of August 2014.  See the reviews here: Dinosaur Workshops in Schools

Recently, social media sites such as Facebook have introduced a number of enhancements.  For instance, visitors to a company’s Facebook page can get an insight into the firm’s responsiveness if the site displays a logo (found under the Page’s cover photo) that states that this firm is very responsive to messages.  To qualify a Page must have done both of the following over the previous 7 days:

  1. Responded to 90% of messages
  2. Maintained a median response time of five minutes for all replies sent

These are quite tough, especially when you consider the global nature of a business such as ours.  We do our best to respond quickly, but messages sent from Australia could arrive when all our team members are tucked up in bed.  Everything Dinosaur confidently predicts that very soon (if not already), a number of dubious practices will be offered by various individuals/companies to provide a false impression of a firm’s responsiveness.

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