While people increasingly turn to online consumer reviews for recommendations, by next year one in 10 of those reviews could be a fake, according to a 2012 Gartner tech research report.
From restaurants and hotels to doctors and lawyers, more brands and reputation management companies have resorted to astroturfing, paying for positive online reviews of their companies.
According to a 2011 Harvard Business School study, restaurants that raise their Yelp ranking by one star can increase revenue 5 to 9 percent. This is no small change.
What Media Consumers Trust
Whose Opinions Are Relevant
- 92% trust earned media, such as word of mouth or recommendations from people they know, an increase of 18% since 2007.
- 70% trust consumer opinions posted online, an increase of 15% since 2007.
From Nielsen Global Trust in Advertising report, April 2012
- 90% consider recommendations from people they know when looking for product info.
- 75% consider consumer opinions posted online when looking for product info.
The Federal Trade Commission has begun cracking down on deceptive companies. And in September, New York regulators announced the most comprehensive crackdown to date on deceptive online reviews, reaching agreements with and charging penalties to 19 companies.
Amid all of this, personal recommendations and online reviews are still the most trusted consumer resources (see sidebar).
Trailspace remains dedicated to sharing unbiased, independent gear reviews and experiences with our community members and readers.
Unfortunately, fraud happens, but we believe in the value of honest word of mouth.
So, we devote significant time and resources to stop fraud and preserve the credibility we share with you, our members, readers, and reviewers.
Things we do to prevent deceptive reviews:
- We publish and enforce our Community Rules and Guidelines and Review Rules and Guidelines.
- We stop countless spam reviews from ever appearing on the site, and ban fraudulent IP addresses.
- A real person on the Trailspace staff—that's me!—reads every review.
- While anyone can share his or her gear experience, good or bad, we require full disclosure and transparency of every Trailspace reviewer.
- We follow up on any review that raises a flag, particularly on issues of disclosure. Social media coordinator for the company? Tested a free sample for your friend? PR rep for the competition? If a reviewer is connected to a brand or its competitor, we require that info be divulged in the review and on the reviewer's profile.
- We add Brand Rep and Retailer badges to profiles of known outdoor industry insiders, like outdoor retailers, brand reps and ambassadors. (Let us know if your profile needs one.)
- We follow FTC endorsement and testimonial guidelines with Review Corps reviews, divulging where any samples tested were acquired.
- We find and ban users who create multiple accounts or otherwise try to game the reviewer reputation system.
- If a reviewer is not forthcoming about his or her relationships and activity, we remove his or her reviews.
While we can't tell you everything we do to help prevent deceptive practices, we continually work to improve our ways of preventing and detecting fraudulent activity. For example, we're preparing to launch a flagging system so community members can more easily report suspected deception to moderators.
We value honesty on Trailspace. And thankfully, we're not alone. Anti-fraud filters and academic and tech research are advancing the fight against fake reviews and opinion spam.
In 2011, Cornell University researchers devised algorithms to detect fake hotel reviews with 90 percent accuracy. You can test it at reviewskeptic.com. And tech companies like Google and Microsoft have sponsored research on the subject, to name just a few efforts.
Credibility is invaluable, online and off. And we share our credibility with you, our reviewers, members, and readers. That's why we'll make every effort to ensure the outdoor gear reviews and recommendations you read on Trailspace are worth your trust.