I love getting positive feedback or a review from people who have worked with me or enjoyed reading my articles. As human beings, we all like to be praised and validated for our efforts, while it also is a positive endorsement to others who may be considering my services. In turn, I like to sing the praises and give positive reviews for people who have delivered a great product or service to me.
However, I feel strongly about giving fake reviews or testimonials. From a personal perspective, false reviews go against my values. As a PR consultant and journalist working with women entrepreneurs and leaders, false reviews can just do more harm than good.
A recent post on a Facebook group for women in business asked people to give fake reviews of each other’s websites or Facebook page. The post to date has had almost 1.5k comments and most in favour of giving each other false reviews. The popularity of that post has led to similar posts and shout-outs for fake reviews.
I was one of a small number of business women to speak up against false reviews. The reasons I included were:
1. You’re damaging your reputation and potentially causing a public relations crisis for your business if word gets out you’ve been conjuring up reviews.
2. Search engines and social media platforms can penalise you for trying to beat the system. I have studied an written an article on this topic – it forms part of what is known as “black hat tactics”.
3. Made up reviews are dishonest, unethical and a reason why people have less trust in marketing. (Research the many articles on this topic)
4. False reviews go against best practice. You may want reviews but as the old saying goes “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” Do the hard work and earn reviews. In the long term, your business will benefit from the trust you’re building.
Leading social media marketing strategist Anna Kochetkova advises you should not provide or ask for false reviews.
“You eventually disregard all the real reviews businesses get, making customers trust less,” she says.
Reviews mean you’ve worked with someone and helped them – they’re incredibly precious.”
Anna says fake reviews can damage your business if any of your prospects find out and contribute towards a complete disintegration of marketing.
“People get upset when Facebook changes the algorithm, but all they’re doing is updating their business model because people abuse the system through dodgy practices like fake reviews,” she says.
“The more people do fake reviews then, the bigger a hole is being dug.”
Business coach Sonya Stattmann, who has been helping women entrepreneurs for almost two decades, says women are focusing on the wrong strategies to build their business.
“You won’t get income from Facebook reviews, especially fake ones,” she says.
“You get income by having your attention on the customer, not yourself or vanity metrics.
“You get income by offering a unique solution to someone else’s problem and by having legitimate and real conversations that turn into sales.”
Book Coach Cathryn Mora has some great tips for engaging and connecting your target audience without the need for fake reviews.
“I’ve had much better results from just being ‘social’ on social media,” Cathryn says.
“Engaging in groups, answering questions, being curious, enjoying talking to people…I no longer use my page and am considering deleting it.
“I have many more clients now that I genuinely engage with people than I ever did when I focused on how many likes my page had, pushed ‘one-way’ content out every day and gave away free resources.
Having hundreds of people like your page as a ‘favour’ hurts more than helps you anyway as Facebook essentially punishes you for low engagement by pushing you further and further down the news feed.”
Some women defending fake reviews in these posts say they’re part of “networking” or “marketing”. However, by definition networking means to interact with others to exchange information and develop professional contacts. Marketing is the action of promoting products or services. Neither should involve being unethical or fraudulent.
Public relations which is my speciality area, although I also have experience in marketing, is maintaining and protecting a person or business’s favourable public image. For this reason, I feel compelled to speak out against fake reviews.
I acknowledge building a successful business is hard. There are other ways though to engage with your target client – be creative, tell stories about your work. I’ve heard some beautiful stories of hope and inspiration from women in business. Tell how you are making your products or benefiting clients? I heard a lovely story from a woman importing jewellery to the US made by women in African villages. By selling their jewellery, she is helping raise these women’s families out of poverty. Another woman is making gorgeous shoes from her garage. Inspire and engage people – fake reviews isn’t the answer.