As hard as it may seem to believe, a lot of companies get their online reviews from within. If you have read this blog before, you know that I am the ultimate skeptic and that an online review to me means about as much to me as the paper on which I will never print it. In this case, my skepticism pays off. A September report by the Pew Research Institute indicates that 58% of consumers purchase goods and services from the internet based in their online reviews. This was right about the same time the New York Times uncovered the truth about online reviews, exposing several companies who admitted to reviewing themselves repeatedly. Oddly enough one such company actual gave their company scathing reviews in order to improve their Google search results, and it worked.
As hard as it seems, fake online reviews have gotten so out of control that the government is about to step in and figure out how to handle this growing problem. Until then, here are some guidelines to help you figure out how to spot a fake review when selecting professionals to service your wedding:
Name – Including the first and last name of the reviewer are not a guarantee that it is an actual person but, it greatly increases the odds. Generally online names like Bob234 are either automated programs or insiders trying to hide their identity. More information about the reviewer means more credibility. Also check to see if this one name has several reviews on the same site or on other sites. Multiple postings is a sign that something is not right.
Date and Number – Check to see if there are swarms of reviews around the same date and for the same product or service. Clever marketers hire people to do product reviews based on a number of things like seasonal purchasing and promotional dates.
Description – A description that sounds too good to be true probably is. Glowing recommendations are fine but, sometimes they go a bit too far and seem (what’s the word?) … phony. Also be careful of descriptions that are too technical to be from an average consumer point of view, they are probably not.
Links – If there is a link in the review, it is a fake. It is being used to drive you back to the original site.
Negative – Be careful of a negative review even if it seems legitimate since disgruntled ex-employees are notorious for going online; ranting and raving within the confines of a pseudonym. You could be passing up the best bridal salon in Chicago based on a sketchy review you read online.
When in doubt, check it out. The best and only reliable way to ensure that your wedding vendors are A+ or D- is to do your own research. Meet face-to-face with each and every vendor and when you do, ask them for referrals. Ask for samples or examples of their work. Call previous customers who have used this service and find out firsthand about their experience. If you want to take it a step further, ask if you can attend one of their events and then you can decide for yourself. When it comes to your wedding, you only have one shot to make it right and leaving your decision-making to reviews posted online is risky, at best.
-Penny Frulla for Bridal Expo Chicago