Igniyte contributed to a report conducted by The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). The report showed what companies shouldn’t do when they use a review management strategy to manage their reputation online.

Online reviews and endorsements

This year, the CMA launched an investigation of companies and review sites who offer paid endorsements and post fake reviews. The Authority requested the help of Igniyte and findings from our Reputation Report. Our latest Business of Reviews research proved that one in six businesses believed that they could be destroyed by a malicious review.

The ensuing ‘Online reviews and endorsements’ report found that companies and review sites are engaging in a number of review practises that they found concerning. This includes:

  • Writing or commissioning fake positive reviews about themselves to boost their ratings on review sites over their rivals.
  • Writing or commissioning fake negative reviews of other businesses; typically carried out by individuals and companies with malicious intent, or hoping to reap personal gain by mis-leading consumers. The report pointed out that negative reviews can have a phenomenally negative impact on SMEs.
  • ‘Cherry-picking’ positive reviews or suppressing negative reviews that they collect and/or display, without making it clear to readers that they are presenting a selection of reviews only. This creates a mis-impression in the customer’s mind of a product or service, affecting their purchasing choices.
  • Utilising processes which potentially cause some genuine negative reviews not to be published, giving consumers a less than complete picture of the company in question.

Why is this bad practice?

As the CMA report points out, these actions are geared towards mis-leading consumers. Igniyte believes such practises are likely to escalate review issues for any company using them, in the long-term.

A study by Bright Local shows that 88% of customers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Should users encounter what they perceive to be ‘poor’ or ‘unfair’ review management practises, chances are they will voice their opinion on social media, blogs and forums. These types of sites are regarded as reliable and trusted sources of information by Google, and rank well in search results. Any consumer complaints have the potential to register on the first page of a Google search for your key terms or company name.

Chef posts negative reviews

We can use the story of chef Chris Gammack to prove this point. The Daily Mail reported that the chef, from The Amen Continental Café in County Durham, had posted fake reviews on TripAdvisor in relation to several of the Café’s rivals.

Gammack was eventually caught out after TripAdvisor’s content specialists launched an investigation. He was fired by the Café’s owner Paul Smith, but this didn’t prevent the owner of Valentines, one of the establishments that had been discredited on TripAdvisor, naming both Gammack and The Amen Continental Café on Facebook. In turn, Paul Smith and Gammack took to Facebook to apologise for the latter’s actions.

However the damage had been done. The Amen Continental Café has not only received negative attention on social media sites such as Facebook, but also from national press. The Amen Continental Café now has two pieces of unwanted content on the first page of a search for its name on Google.

Paid endorsements

The report also tackled the subject of paid endorsements. The CMA states: “We are, however, concerned that some businesses may be paying for advertising or sponsored content in blogs and other online articles without ensuring that this is obviously identifiable to consumers.”

The report goes on to suggest that in a many cases, paid endorsements aren’t being adequately disclosed or disclosed at all to consumers. The Authority pointed out that these practises, along with review management tactics discussed above, are liable to be in breach of the UK Advertising Codes and CPRs.

YouTube bans Max Factor ad

This point was recently illustrated by a case involving make-up producer Max Factor. The company received a de facto paid endorsement when they sponsored vlogger Ruth Crilly to create a make-up tutorial on YouTube using their products. According to the Guardian, the Advertising Standards Authority found out and banned the ad, ruling that it should have been made clear to consumers that Max Factor sponsored the ad.

The story was reported in the national press and has caused damage to the brand’s reputation online. The fact that it involves an online medium such as YouTube, only makes that damage more detrimental to Max Factor’s image.

Good practice

The CMA proceeded to outline good practise for review and endorsement management. This included directives such as not writing reviews as though you’re a customer, identifying paid ads, clearly stating how reviews are collected and checked, and publishing every genuine lawful review, including the negative ones.

Customers value honesty and they will ‘express themselves’ on social media and cause unwanted content to creep onto the first page of a Google search for your company’s name, if they are believe they are not being treated fairly.

Igniyte review management

Igniyte endorses the CMA’s recommendations for review and endorsement management. We recognise that if a business attempts to mis-lead consumers through their actions, there will be consequences, doing more harm than good to a company’s reputation online.

If you want to find out more about Igniyte’s review management services please contact Simon Wadsworth on tel: +44 (0) 203 542 8686 or email simon@testing.igniyte.co.uk in confidence.


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