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Online Review Police
By: E. V. Perkins Jr.
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Customer reviews are a valuable source of information. They provide brands with insights, while encouraging (or discouraging) others to buy products. The authenticity of online reviews is often questioned. Unfortunately, some companies post highly favorable reviews of their own products and very negative reviews of their competitors. The Federal Trade Commission addresses this issue in their truth in advertising guidelines and threatens to impose various sanctions on offenders (including bloggers). However, they’re not the only ones policing online reviews.

Some brands use linguistic analysis. Fake reviews are flagged if the same string of words shows up in multiple posts. Expedia takes a different approach. Their reviews are more likely to be authentic because reviews can’t be submitted unless the hotel or flight was bought through Expedia.

Customers are well aware that some reviews are fraudulent. They’re active members of the “online reviews police force.” They’ve educated themselves on various techniques to get the best reviews, so that they can make better informed purchasing decision. Earlier this month, National Public Radio (NPR) posted an article about spotting fake reviews, here are their tips:
  1. “Compare reviews not only within a site, but across different websites.
  2. Reviews by people who are verified by the site are more trustworthy than reviews by anonymous reviewers — especially when it comes to negative reviews.
  3. Read reviews less for whether they give a hotel or a restaurant one star or five stars, but more for the specific information they give about the experience.
  4. Reviews are very useful for information that experts or merchants might not think to provide — how late a swimming pool stays open could be useful if you are traveling with a family.
  5. Focus on aggregates, not outliers. You can't trust a handful of bad reviews or glowing reviews, but trends are much harder to fake.”

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About the Author
E. V. Perkins Jr. is a marketing and new media specialist in the Milwaukee-area. Learn more about him on LinkedIn and Twitter.
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