When building your business it’s tempting to use any and all methods to gain a leg up on the competition. It’s rough out there for new businesses, and every bit can make a difference. When establishing your business online, you may be tempted to apply this to the realm of reviews. By kicking off with a few pristine 5-star reviews from you and/or your staff, you’ve set the stage for a great public reception, right?
Don’t do that. That’s what we call, a ‘dick move’.
But why, you might ask?
Reviews are for Your Customers
Reviews are a feedback mechanism for you to learn more about how your business is seen by your customers. Every review, be it positive or negative, is a customer giving you real information about how they view your business. Reviews are a valuable tool in learning how you can better serve your customers. They can also provide the coveted opportunity to turn around poor experiences. If you can win over a previously unhappy customer, you may end up with an advocate for life!
If you set the initial review scores, you’re fundamentally skewing the results. By providing an initial review of 100% or 5 out of 5 stars you’ve set the benchmark for all of the reviews that follow. Humans are social creatures, and peer pressure can be daunting. If your customers see nothing but glowing reviews, they may refrain entirely from posting their negative review. Which while it may seem good on the surface, deprives you of real information that could better your business.
Which would you prefer? An angry customer that give you the opportunity to resolve their frustration, or one that doesn’t and then goes on to bad-mouth your business to everyone they know? (and they will, count on it)
Your Bias is Showing
You love your business. (Or, I hope you do, given you’re devoting time and money into running it. If you’re doing that and you hate it… maybe find something else to do?)
As the owner or employee of your business, you have an invested interest in it being seen in a good light. Even if you’re commenting on or reviewing a product that you don’t directly have an influence on, your tie to the company creates implicit bias. As objective as you may try to be, you are still coming from a fundamentally different stance than that of a real customer.
If you absolutely, positively, MUST review your own company (don’t), then make sure you’re practicing full disclosure. This is pretty straight-forward, just openly and clearly disclosure your bias in the context of your review.
ex. “As an employee of _company_, I’m obviously biased, but I love this game! Huge congrats to everyone on the team that worked on this one!”
By disclosing your bias, you’re being up front about your connection to the company. While this will still rub some people the wrong way, it’s at least an honest and open approach. The customer can make up their mind on whether they trust your review, and can otherwise disregard it if they do not.
If you don’t refrain from reviewing your own business, or at least practice full disclosure when doing so?
Onto the next point…
Your relationship with your customers is just like any relationship; If you build it on a foundation of deceit, you’ve already lost.
If your customers catch you lying, or otherwise deceiving them, you have broken their trust. Often irreparably. In today’s hyper connected world, it’s not hard to put two and two together. Doing a quick search against an overly enthusiastic review is quick, and with LinkedIn it’s even easier to establish a direct company link. If a customer realizes that you are gaming the system without disclosing your connection, you will be seen as lying.
A few examples:
- Author caught faking Amazon Reviews (Huffington Post)
- Telltale employees caught reviewing their own game (The Escapist)
- Harmonix caught posting 5 star reviews to Amazon (Engadget)
If you’ve been caught being dishonest, you may never be able to fully recover your reputation as an honest company. If your deceit makes any sort of headlines, be prepared for that to remain a part of your search results for years to come. Proving to your customers that they can trust you is incredibly difficult once you’ve lost their trust. It’s easier to just not lose it in the first place, and practice ethical communications at all levels of your business.
If you’re doing business in the United States (even digitally), you should also check out the FTC guidelines on employee endorsements:
First, we recommend that you check with your employer to make sure you’re complying with its policies before using any form of social media to talk about the company’s products.
If your company allows employees to use social media to talk about its products, you should make sure that your relationship is disclosed to people who read your online postings about your company or its products. Put yourself in the reader’s shoes. Isn’t the employment relationship something you would want to know before relying on someone else’s endorsement? Listing your employer on your profile page isn’t enough. After all, people who just read what you post on a review site won’t get that information.
People reading your posting on a review site probably won’t know who you are. You definitely should disclose your employment relationship when making an endorsement.
As you grow, make sure your business has a clear policy on practicing full disclosure when posting reviews about your products, or refraining from the practice entirely. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of launching a new product. Make sure your employees are on the same page, and you’re not unintentionally deceiving your customers.
Building a great relationship with your customers is all about trust. Make sure you’re doing everything in your power to communicate in an honest, ethical manner and the decisions should come naturally. If something seems like it might be seen as deceitful, don’t move forward, and find another strategy that will work.
- 5 Reasons why you should never buy fake reviews (Gauss Digital)
- Companies behaving badly (LinkedIn)
- Amazon suing over fake reviews (Mashable)
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