When word-of-mouth was deemed to be unreliable, we turned to books. When we decided that sifting through endless volumes of text took too much effort, we switched over to the web. So what do you do when you can no longer trust the internet?
We may need to answer that question sooner than expected. With the influx of fake reviews on nearly every e-commerce website, consumers are tricked into thinking that a specific product is far better than it is.
Here is the science behind fake reviews and how to protect yourself against them.
Origins of fake reviews
One may assume that fake reviews are a characteristic of the age of the Internet, but that would be incorrect. Fake reviews have existed for nearly as long as media has.
Not only can influencers manipulate the feedback on products, but even real-world happenings. Current events can be embellished to seem more or less pertinent than they are.
But the history of fake reviews can be traced back to 1881 when Walt Whitman anonymously wrote flowery reviews to balance the harsh reviews offered by contemporary critics. His first work, Leaves of Grass, was buttressed as such.
Today, Whitman is widely considered one of the most influential authors of the American canon and is even regarded as the father of free verse.
Indeed, fake reviews work wonders. Now they have transcended beyond the printed word to the typed. How do they work, and how can you protect yourself?
Statistics behind reviews
When your product isn’t selling as well as you hoped it would, you tend to turn to more underhanded ways of pushing it.
Perhaps it wasn’t you. Possibly a mishap in your business has caused angry customers to come at you with an onslaught of unflattering reviews.
At any rate, fake reviews influence your business far more than you might imagine.
85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Only about 5% of consumers aged 18 to 34 never read reviews.
Positive reviews make a business more trustworthy in the eyes of 73% of consumers. 79% of consumers have come across fake reviews, but a shockingly large percentage of them (84%) can’t always spot them.
Now, the question is, how are you going to apply these statistics to grow your business?
Can fake reviews be purchased, and are they?
In this day and age, selling a review and your morality for five dollars is common.
In 2014, a researcher monitored five black-market boards to track job postings for reviewers. Not only did the advertisers expect positive reviews of their products and services, but also negative feedback on those of their rivals.
In just two months, eleven thousand unique sellers posted nearly a quarter of a million jobs, paid anywhere between ten cents to five dollars.
An investigation from early 2018 found that false 5-star recommendations can be bought on online forums. In addition, these reviews can be posted to sites such as Amazon and Trustpilot, both of which have said that they do not tolerate false reviews.
Some Amazon shoppers have been offered full refunds in exchange for product reviews. As a result, there are about 87,000 people who are potentially involved in writing fake reviews.
US analysts estimate that as many as 50% of the reviews for certain products sold on international e-commerce websites are unreliable.
How to spot fake reviews and protect yourself?
It is essential to keep your wits about you when you peruse the reviews for a product or a service.
Note the length of reviews (whether it’s too long or too short) and the general tone of the speaker. Extreme apathy or exaggeration can give away a fake review. Inspect whether they provide any helpful information and product specifics.
Keep an eye out for the dates of the reviews. If an uncanny number of reviews are posted on the same day, it is possible that the manufacturer went on a big drive to improve ratings around that time.
Check out the other reviews posted by the user. If they consistently review products with a five-star rating, or if they seem to have bought products of a similar make several times, their praise has likely been bought.
Reviews which provide mid-range ratings are worth looking into as they’re more likely to be honest.
In addition to consumer awareness, fake reviews can be combated by plugin sites and apps. For example, Fakespot is a site that ferrets out fake reviews by analysing purchase patterns, grammar, and dates. It assigns each review a letter grade rating from A to F. It can be accessed from the website or a Chrome extension.
If there’s a sudden influx of reviews, Amazon can curb the displayed reviews and ratings of only those posted by verified purchasers.
While on the internet, remember: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Akshaya is a voracious reader, and a bit of a know-it-all. She is usually found with a book in hand and considers herself a connoisseur of all things nerdy.