… For Your Small Business
There are many ways to game the online customer review system on your website and review sites. While all these methods are unethical, not all of them are illegal but if discovered they could very well spell doom to your business reputation and success. Here are three methods that you want to avoid using to collect customer reviews:
1. Financial incentives
Many underhanded marketers advice small business owners to use financial incentives to encourage clients to submit positive online reviews for them. These incentives may not involve giving hard cash, but instead involve giving away coupons, gift cards, complementary vouchers, discount offers and so on. While the practice may appear harmless to a business owner, it is actually bribing people to give a favorable opinion about your business which will be used by third parties to make a financial decision in doing business with you. This has been one of the worst practices in the internet marketing field and has made the Federal Trade Commission crack down heavily on marketers who use false information to promote their business. To stay out of trouble, use your financial incentives for other marketing purposes that will build trust and honesty with your customers and then encourage them to leave online reviews out of their own free will.
2. False personas
Another underhand trick marketers use is to create false online identities to submit reviews. This is a difficult method for authorities to track since different IP addresses are used by each identity to submit the reviews. However in this day and age of technology and so much public interest in exposing unscrupulous businesses, it wouldn’t take long for someone investigating your reviewers to wonder why the IP addresses of the submitters are from India, Philippines and Malaysia yet your client base is in Little Rock, Arkansas!
3. Submitting reviews yourself
This is often a sincere mistake most small business owners make. They get customer reviews in their store on their feedback form, manually submit each of them to a review site profile and think it’s perfectly alright because they are from real customer. Unfortunately it’s not possible to do this with review sites since each of your customers should submit their own review. If you have collected reviews on feedback forms, emails, videos and other methods, you can post them on your website but only if you have that express signed permission from your clients to do so. Otherwise you need to point your clients to review sites to submit their own reviews.