Los Angeles Times writers Jessica Guynn and Andrea Chang shared a story about a business networking group that conspired together to post fake reviews for each others businesses.
South Bay BNI Accused Of Posting Fake Reviews
According to the Los Angeles Times article:
“Yelp stripped the suspect reviews from its site last month and sent emails to members of the group — known as South Bay BNI — informing them that their behavior was out of bounds.
“This was a sophisticated effort to bolster the reputation of members of this business networking group through five-star reviews,” said David Lee, Yelp’s user operations manager. “Reviews that have a bias lead to a poor consumer experience.”
Posting Fake Reviews Is So Short Sighted
What business owners need to understand is that if they are busted for posting fake reviews, the organic “coverage” of that event will often stay on Google Page One for a long time. You don’t want articles appearing on Google Page One that imply that your business is involved is review scams.
You most often will be removed from the online business directory as well, which can cost a business thousands of dollars in profits and for car dealers, thousands of site visits a month!
If you Google “South Bay BNI Yelp” you can see that a number of articles are being indexed on their group name including a post that talks about how valuable Yelp reviews are to local members.
I clicked on the article highlighted in red and it looks like their own website posted an article outlining their “excitement” of just how well Yelp works when you have many positive reviews. The hushed conversation which we can only guess is how they encouraged their members to get these reviews.
Yelp discovered the pattern of behavior and busted the group’s actions. Here is the post from their own website with a great line: “Givers Gain On Yelp Too!“. It’s obvious that Yelp felt that they gave too much!
Lessons Learned Or Not?
There have been many threads on this website discussing the importance of monitoring and managing your online reputation that is established through websites like Google+ Local, Yelp.com, Cars.com, DealerRater.com, PrestoReviews.com, and the AAN.
- Most businesses have ample numbers of happy customers that are willing to post a review. Don’t rush the process and never post fake reviews. Merchandizing your store and encouraging your customers to share their experience online can be a very natural process. Be patient and do it right.
- Never involve your NCM/NADA 20 Group Members or State Association Members to conspire to post for each other. The South Bay BNI business group thought they would never get caught.
- Never use a proxy service to collect reviews using a third party web based form and then posting the collected information using dummy accounts on review sites. There are a number of companies that have convinced dealers that this is a legitimate way to increase reviews on Google and Yelp. It violates their Terms of Service (TOS) and can get your company in hot water.
- Don’t put your eggs in one basket. Yelp determined that this group of business owners scammed the system and deleted their reviews. It is very possible that Yelp or any review platform that you don’t control can take down your reviews for ANY REASON. So, don’t create a review process that points customers only in one place.
- If you need help establishing a solid “pressure free” and compliant process, ask for help. You can register for the next free Reputation Management webinar presented by Glenn Pasch, by sending your full contact information to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Reputation Management Workshop at AutoCon
You can also participate in a number of great workshops at AutoCon 2012 that pertain to Reputation Management.
- Heather from DealerRater will be conducting a workshop entitled: “The Do’s & Don’ts of Managing and Leveraging Your Online Reputation“
- Richard Bastillo GM from Rick Case Honda will be conducting a workshop entitled: “Reputation Management Strategies and Tactics that work at Rick Case Honda“
- Mike Myers from Milham Ford/Toyota will be conducting a workshop entitled: “I Hate/Love My Online Reputation“
To register and lock in the AutoCon Early Bird Rate visit: http:/www.AutoCon2012.com