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October 6, 2015

Should social & review sites do more to spot black-hat tactics?

In order for businesses to be fairly represented online, there needs to be some form of moderation to spot any underhand tactics or manipulation. Recently, moderation processes were pulled into question as some sites failed to notice a fake online business with a fake audience.

Fake business reputations

Most companies work really hard to create and protect their online reputation, and it can often take up quite a lot of time, resource and money. But some businesses still seem able to take shortcuts and use black-hat tactics to put themselves ahead of honest competitors online.

American journalist, Kashmir Hill created a fake business, Freakin’ Awesome Karaoke Express (F.A.K.E.). She purchased 19,000 Twitter followers, 200 Facebook fans and a handful of five-star Yelp reviews, costing less than $100.

FAKEKashmir wrote in her column: “When I identified myself as a journalist and sent messages to people offering to write reviews, they said, ‘We only do real reviews. We really try the products. People send them to us.’ But when I approached them undercover with money in hand, it was a different matter.”

Even after Kashmir publicised her experiment, the social media accounts and fake Yelp reviews remain.

What’s surprising is that the fake business is still generating real business enquiries – no one’s questioned the authenticity of its online audience.

Surely, when the brand new Twitter account amassed 19k followers overnight, some kind of alert system must have gone off at Twitter HQ? But no, the Twitter account remains, and has been growing organically ever since.

For genuine, hard-working businesses, this is a real blow. Companies are investing more than ever in brand engagement and online audience growth. The good news is, this absolutely isn’t wasted. Consumer trust and brand reputation go hand-in-hand, so it’s definitely best to be completely honest with all aspects of your company; and trust is something which has to be built over time, deliver a good service to your customers, and they’ll stick with you.

But it’s disappointing that the channels so essential for building an online reputation and connecting with your audience seemingly have no moderation process to spot these dishonest tactics.

Moderation

Igniyte recently contributed to a Competition Market Authority Report, which indicated that review websites’ need to do more when it comes to moderation and fair representation. Many businesses, including TrustPilot, have adapted their policies and regulations in response, which is a start in the right direction.

But with so many businesses and brands using social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook not only as brand awareness and growth channels – but as customer service channels – they must do more to moderate the authenticity of accounts and followers.

If you’d like to discuss how to organically grow your social media accounts, or use them as an effective customer service tool, contact me on tel: +44 (0) 203 542 8689 or email simon@igniyte.co.uk in complete confidence.

 

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