It’s a Fine Line: Reputation Management vs Authenticity

by Sean Ogino |

Managing your online reputation is important, yet there’s no singular way to ensure that your reputation matches reality. There are plenty of review sites, but not every business or consumer relies on the authenticity of these reviews. Online review juggernaut Yelp has profiles and reviews of over 50 million businesses throughout the world and dominates review searches.

One frequent complaint from small businesses such as ecommerce companies or retailers about Yelp is that their review filter appears to be biased toward hiding good reviews and prioritizing bad reviews. Many businesses have also said that Yelp salespeople are aggressive, that the company removes positive reviews when a business refuses to buy advertising on Yelp, and that the company displays competitor ads on your Yelp page if you don’t buy advertising.

Online brand management companies often explicitly claim to improve client profiles on Yelp. One of them, RevLeap, was recently named the defendant in a civil suit filed by Yelp.

Yelp’s Lawsuit Against RevLeap

Yelp is suing RevLeap, alleging breach of contract, unfair competition, and trademark violation. The complaint says that RevLeap claims to generate a large number of 4- and 5-star reviews from customers that will “stick” to the front page of Yelp. Yelp says RevLeap promoted these services by using Yelp’s registered trademarks without authorization and by spamming businesses listed on Yelp. Yelp claims RevLeap seeks to “induce Yelp users to violate the Yelp TOS.” It says offers to help companies remove negative reviews and gain more positive reviews “are scams.”

How RevLeap Hoped to Improve Clients’ Yelp Reviews

According to Yelp, RevLeap solicited positive reviews through online surveys and chances to win gift cards. On a blog post addressing the situation, Yelp said, in reference to RevLeap’s surveys, “Customers that respond favorably, and agree to post a review, are entered in a drawing for gift cards in an effort to deceptively boost their clients’ reputations.” They warned that RevLeap’s business model can put small businesses at risk of running afoul of both Yelp’s Consumer Alert program and state and federal regulators who have the ability to go after businesses that try to artificially improve their online reputations.

RevLeap Insists They Did Nothing Wrong

Not so, says RevLeap. The company says, “RevLeap services are legal in all aspects of the law, and we specialized in only legitimate reviews from real customers. Yelp has filed completely false and unsubstantiated claims against our company.” The company insists it is simply “leveling the playing field” and fighting back against the Yelp practices with which many small businesses take issue. So if you own a small ecommerce company or other startup, are you stuck between the rock of potentially negative Yelp reviews and the hard place of paying money to help rehabilitate your reputation? Not necessarily.

Managing Your Online Reputation Without Doing Further Damage

Yelp will remove defamatory reviews, but getting the site to do so is difficult and can make you look like you’re being overly defensive. For most businesses, the best thing to do is to make an honest effort to address issues that your customers bring up. Given that over 70% of US consumers question the trustworthiness of online reviews, consumers generally know that some reviews are false or the results of exceptional situations.

How Social Commerce Helps You Manage Your Reputation

Since reputation management companies sometimes lack best practices, you need to be careful. Not only can they be expensive, some of them make promises they cannot keep, like removing user-generated reviews from a platform that you don’t own. The risks aren’t worth it, but managing your reputation is. Social commerce lets you manage without the gamble. In order to boost your online reputation organically, you should have a strong social media presence. Encouraging user generated content on both social sites and on your own site enables you to build your brand authenticity.

A tool like user generated content enables you to create a community that allows your customers to communicate with fellow shoppers People can ask and answer shoppers’ questions about your brand and products. If there are customer issues, a community like this allows you to address concerns upfront, which in turn enhances the customer experience. This type of customer interaction builds brand advocates and strengthens confidence in your brands. Implementing a ratings and review feature into your website by connecting social networks also boosts confidence in your brand. Instead of relying on review companies like Yelp or taking a risk with reputation management companies, you are letting reviews speak for themselves right on your product pages with no risk of illegitimacy.

You’ll never be able to prevent customers from saying bad things about you, but you can make sure they are satisfied by providing with them exceptional products and services. Managing your reputation through social commerce tools lets you connect your customers with fellow shoppers on social channels they trust and are convenient for them. As long as the majority of your customers are happy, there’s no need to panic over the occasional bad review. You’re usually better off simply putting your energy towards creating outstanding customer experiences.

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