Why fake reviews aren’t worth the risk

I love getting positive feedback or a review from people who have worked with me or enjoyed reading my articles. As human beings, we all like to be praised and validated for our efforts, while it also is a positive endorsement to others who may be considering my services. In turn, I like to sing the praises and give positive reviews for people who have delivered a great product or service to me.

However, I feel strongly about giving fake reviews or testimonials. From a personal perspective, false reviews go against my values. As a PR consultant and journalist working with women entrepreneurs and leaders, false reviews can just do more harm than good.

A recent post on a Facebook business group asked people to give fake reviews of each other’s websites or Facebook page. The post to date has had almost 1.5k comments and most in favour of giving each other false reviews. The popularity of that post has led to similar posts and shout-outs for fake reviews.

I was one of a small number of people to speak up against false reviews. The reasons I included were:

• You’re damaging your reputation and potentially causing a public relations crisis for your business if word gets out you’ve been conjuring up reviews.
• Search engines and social media platforms can penalise you for trying to beat the system (forms part of what is called black-hat tactics).
• Made up reviews are dishonest, unethical and a reason why people have less trust in marketing. (Research the many articles on this topic)
• False reviews go against best practice. You may want reviews but as the old saying goes “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”

Do the hard work and earn reviews. In the long term, your business will benefit from the trust you’re building. My views are supported by leadership coach, author and keynote speaker Sonia McDonald, who is known as a social media influencer with a large following on LinkedIn and other platforms.

We’ve been working with Sonia on her brand strategy, content and public relations. She has an impressive amount of positive reviews and testimonials, regularly updated on her website, social media and other marketing collateral.

She says fake reviews eradicate the essential trust needed in business and their leaders.

“You eventually disregard all the real reviews businesses get, making customers trust less,” she says.

“Reviews mean you’ve worked with someone and helped them – they’re incredibly precious.”

“Fake reviews can damage your business if any of your prospects find out and contribute towards a complete disintegration of you as a business and leader.

“You get income by offering a unique solution to someone else’s problem and by having legitimate and real conversations that turn into sales.”

She says she has built up such strong reviews and a following on LinkedIn and her other social media channels through her work and engaging with her audience over many years.

“I have built up my following over many years – there are no real quick solutions and I can honestly say I don’t focus on vanity metrics such as followers or likes on a page or post.

“I’ve had great results from just being ‘social’ on social media, engaging in groups, answering questions, being curious, commenting and sharing posts.”

My speciality of public relations is maintaining and protecting a person or business’s favourable public image.  Building a successful business takes time and work. There are often no quick or easy solutions and fake reviews will do more harm than good in the long term.

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