There’s something to be gained from writing a fake review. It can potentially boost your reputation, lead to more sales, and guide more customers into your establishment. The problem with this scenario is that in most instances fake reviews only provide short term benefits.
Yes, you might get a few sales out of a fake review, or create a temporary buzz, but if you get caught, you’ll have to contend with consequences that may haunt your business for a very long time.
What are fake reviews?
Fake reviews are self-explanatory. These are reviews written by an employee, a paid reviewer, or someone with a stake in the company.
For example, if the owner of a coffee shop poses as a customer and writes a Yelp review extolling the fact that they have the best coffee in town, that review would be considered fake. Why, you may ask?
Even if the coffee shop really does serve a mean cup of Joe, the act of reviewing your own business is manipulative and unethical. Furthermore, most consumers will assume that the review came from another customer; an unbiased party sharing their experience.
In other words, fake reviews deceive the market and may lead to purchasing decisions that are undeserved. Once again, this is a short-term benefit to your business. If you’re caught, you’ll face a medley of long-term consequences that may completely flip your business on its axis.
What are the consequences of writing fake reviews?
At some point, every business picks up a negative review. It’s one of the costs of doing business. However, it isn’t always about the number of negative reviews you’ve accumulated (let’s say you have 49 four- and five-star reviews vs. seven negative reviews). How you respond to these reviews also play a significant role when it comes to maintaining your reputation.
Unfortunately, some businesses feel the only way to counter a bad review is by balancing it out with a fake positive review. Many more businesses will simply write a fake review just to gain some traction on an online review platform like Yelp.
No matter your reasons, if you’re willing to write a fake review you should prepare yourself for the impending fallout. Let’s look at a few of the consequences you may face if you get caught.
You can face heavy fines
It’s no secret that Amazon and Yelp have been doing their best to crack down on fake reviews. However, these platforms will be the least of your worries if you’re caught by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
If the FTC catches you, you may face fines that span into the hundreds of thousands. With so much on the line, you have to ask yourself if a few sales are worth the risk.
Your customers will turn on you
Fake reviews are an unethical way to give you a leg up over your competition. The business world is competitive, but there’s a fine line between playing hard and playing dirty.
By writing fake reviews, you’re manipulating the marketing into believing your product/service is the superior choice. No one likes to be manipulated. If you’re caught, your customers will turn on you, and your reputation will suffer as a result.
Your listing can be suspended or banned
What would happen if your TripAdvisor, Yelp, or Amazon accounts were suspended or banned? You’d lose visibility, and your sales would probably tank. That’s the risk you take when you decide to write fake reviews.
Online review platforms are throwing down the gauntlet and cracking down on fake reviewers harder than ever before. If you’re caught, your account will be put at risk.
Even if you’re not outright suspended or banned, sites like Yelp will make sure everyone knows that you’ve been up to no good by leaving a large warning message (in red lettering) at the top of your review page stating that your business has been caught engaging in unethical practices.
After reading that message how many consumers do you think will be willing to give you their patronage? Likely not many.
Gaining a competitive edge is difficult, no matter your industry. That said, you have to consider the potential consequences of getting caught writing negative reviews. Between hefty fines by the FTC, losing face with your customers, and being penalized by online review platforms the effort seems hardly worth it.
The decision to engage in ethical business practices is up to you. Consider the short-term gains of writing a fake review vs. the long-term consequences if you get caught. It shouldn’t be too difficult to determine the best course of action for your business.