The trouble with ‘review’ sites…

05 Aug

Trip Advisor, the travel and hospitality review site, is once again hitting headlines after mischievous users of the site managed to have an entirely fictitious Brixham (Devon, UK) restaurant propelled to the top of the rankings.

Led by a businessman who wanted to see how long it would take Trip Advisor and its readers to realise it was a sham, the fake reviewers of the imaginary establishment, Oscar’s, gushed about the ‘irresistible floating restaurant’ on New Quay Lane.  They spoke of scuba divers who would go and catch anything you wanted and how the food was ‘simply divine’ and ‘mind blowing’, adding it was something bordering on sorcery.’  In reality, there are just a load of bins located where the restaurant was meant to be based.

This is just the latest in a series of similar, embarrassing episodes for the site, which now receives 70 comments or reviews every single minute of every single day.

Travelling around the world as I do on an almost continual basis, I’ve been a long-time user of Trip Advisor myself, and have found it to be a helpful resource.  But, as I have discovered, the reviews must be approached with caution as they are almost always, due to the very nature of the site, subjective, rather than objective.  And, as such, you do need to develop your own filtering system – one that filters out the fact from the fiction, the exact from the exaggeration.

One way I do this, by not just relying on the TA overall scores, is to read and re-read the reviews, reading between the lines.  Who is writing it and why?  In what context?  If it is an entirely negative review is it just a case of whinging or score-settling? If it’s an entirely positive one, is it a copied and pasted press release, or similar, from the firm’s boss?

What the ‘Oscar’s’ case (and other similar Trip Advisor exposés) highlights is a wider problem of how anonymously-posted comments on review and gripe sites can seriously mislead the public.  Unfortunately, this is now an issue that affects all industries – not just the travel and hospitality trades – including the financial services sector.

deVere, like all successful and high-profile organisations in our industry, are now routinely subjected to negative comments posted on sites whose sole aim is to publish so-called  ‘complaints’ – rather than a wide range of opinions.

The main frustration for firms of these potentially reputation-damaging comments, as I have mentioned, is the anonymity factor.  The bloggers are able, because they do not need to identify themselves, to make serious, offensive, and usually totally unsubstantiated, allegations – allegations which could never be aired in almost every other, more-regulated way, such as in newspapers or on TV.

Ref Daily Mail article on Trip Advisor

Nigel Green deVere Group

Blog written 5th August

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