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Online review sites can be a great source of credibility and feedback for businesses looking to hear straight from their customers. However, in today’s age of social media, many individuals turn to social media to call out businesses, employees, or products online—whether they actually had a negative experience or not. This bad publicity can go viral and quickly turn into a review bombing attack on the businesses mentioned.
What Is Review Bombing?
A review bomb is an internet phenomenon where a large group of individuals, sometimes referred to as trolls, purposefully leave negative reviews on rating sites with the intent of tanking ratings of businesses, media, or individuals. These negative reviews often contain false information or misinformation and come from users who have not had a personal experience with the entity they are reviewing.
Does Review Bombing Actually Hurt Businesses?
To some, a few fake or exaggerated negative reviews may not sound like a big deal. In today’s digital age, however, online reviews can make or break a business and can be a deciding factor in whether or not a consumer wants to engage with that business. In a standard review bombing, especially when amplified by social media, there can be hundreds if not thousands of negative reviews pouring in at once. This can easily tank a business’s online ratings, even if the reviews are false, and negatively affect its online reputation as a whole.
How Can Social Media Apps Like TikTok Amplify Review Bombing?
It seems that there is a new viral video or post on social media almost every day. Sometimes this virality is due to the creator already having a large following, but other times a video can be so enraging, polarizing, or downright unbelievable that viewers share it like wildfire. With mass amounts of views comes mass amounts of comments, allowing both information and misinformation to be shared very quickly. It only takes one comment to drop a store location, an employee’s full name, or a phone number to create a snowball effect that can lead to a review bombing.
One of our ORM clients experienced this firsthand last year. A TikTok creator posted a video of a rogue customer at their place of work, and the video quickly went viral. Within the comments, someone incorrectly stated that the individual worked for our client, hinting that other users should leave our client poor reviews. As is typical across the comment sections of most social media platforms, TikTok isn’t known as an online environment where fact-checking commonly occurs.
Once other users saw the name of our client, they rushed to Google, Yelp, and other review sites to leave negative ratings. Luckily, our client brought this to our attention before the review bombing got out of hand, and we were able to take action on the spot to put a halt to the attack, as well as publicly correct the misinformation. It also helped that the individual in the video did not in fact work for our client’s company as of present day, so the false reviews were even easier to remove.
Do Review Sites Allow Review Bombing?
Review bombing typically violates most popular review sites’ guidelines, as the reviews are false, hateful, or otherwise ingenuine in nature. Let’s see what policies are in place at the most popular review sites to combat review bombing attacks.
According to Google, review policies were updated to better protect businesses after the company saw an increase in reviews criticizing businesses’ COVID-19 protocols. Google stated that once a new policy is implemented, “it’s turned into training material — both for our operators and machine learning algorithms.” Even with training, the algorithms cannot always flag every single review from a review bomb attack, so it’s important to learn how to manage and report Google reviews as well.
Yelp followed in Google’s footsteps by updating their own review policies. Yelp stated that their moderators have a system in place to notify when mass amounts of reviews are hitting a business’s page in a short period of time. “If warranted, our team of moderators will investigate and may temporarily disable the ability to post as we place an alert over the business’s reviews.” Yelp will also make an effort to “clean up” the review page once incoming reviews have returned to their normal rate, aiming to preserve only the accurate and truthful customer experiences on the page.
Facebook does not appear to have a specific policy in place to prevent review bombing, but they do offer the option to disable reviews and recommendations. You can also gather all the reviews from the review bombing attack and report them for violating Facebook’s guidelines.
Help! My Business Is Getting Review Bombed—What Can I Do?
While it may feel like everything is on fire, it’s important to take a moment to calm down and analyze the situation. First, try to identify the following:
- Which sites are the negative reviews coming through?
- Is there a specific location or individual who is being targeted within the reviews?
- Which employees or managers have the login info for the targeted review sites?
After gathering this info, follow these five tips to save your online reputation:
- Prevent new reviews from coming in. Some review sites, like Facebook, have an option to temporarily disable reviews. If you have other social media accounts, you may also want to disable comments and direct messages to prevent those pages from being bombarded as well. In extreme cases, you may find it necessary to temporarily private your social profiles all together.
- Verify that the review bomb is actually meant for your business. Like the case with our ORM client, users incorrectly stated that the individual they were targeting worked for our client, and so our client was wrongfully attacked. Misinformation can spread quickly online, so it’s important for you to figure out the reasoning behind the review bomb and if it’s even meant for you or your business. You can usually figure out what the issue is based off of the reviews themselves, as users will often name a specific employee, location, or describe an incident they saw take place in the video or post.
- Make a public statement addressing the issue (if appropriate). Whether or not to make a public statement should be decided on a case by case basis, as it is not always appropriate or necessary for every review bombing. If you decide it is right for your business to make a public statement, be sure to take the time to create a well-thought out and intentionally worded statement. Be aware that there is always a risk the statement can be used against you. In the case of our ORM client, it made sense to make a public statement saying that the individual in the TikTok does not currently work for the company. Our client also felt it necessary to publicly denounce the behavior of the individual in the video as well.
- Make note of how reviewers are writing about the individual or incident that took place. TikTok and other social media apps tend to have a younger audience, so it can be easy to identify which reviews were part of the review bombing and which reviews are genuine. Some of the reviews from our client’s review bombing incident even stated that they “came here from the TikTok video.” Statements like this will be very useful when it comes to attempting to remove negatives, so keep an eye out for them.
- Gather a team to begin identifying and flagging reviews that came from the review bombing. This team can be composed of trusted employees, friends, or family members with an account on the targeted review site. You’ll want to specify the date and time that the review bombing started to help narrow down the list of negatives your team will need to flag. You’ll still need to follow appropriate guidelines when it comes to requesting employees to take on this task (i.e. employees should not feel forced or in fear for their job security if they choose not to participate in flagging). Likewise, don’t offer incentives to friends or family for flagging a review, as this could negatively affect your reputation as well.
Under an active review bomb attack, making the wrong move can reflect poorly on your online reputation, so you’ll want to carefully evaluate each suggestion to decide what will best for your business as a whole.
Need Help With Your Online Reputation?
Online reputation management can help to optimize your review sites, gather new reviews, and give you the tools to fight future review bomb attacks. To learn more about what ORM can do for your business, contact Go Fish Digital to get started today!
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