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How to react when you get a fake negative review


Running a small business has always been full of its own challenges, but a more modern one that we have to deal with now is the rise in trolls and rival businesses using the internet to damage your reputation. Online reviews are a useful tool for consumers to do their research and for businesses to get free advertising, but when there’s a negative one, it has the potential of causing real problems, even if it’s completely fake.

How big of an issue is this? Well, a consumer study found that 79% of us have read a fake review online in the past year, and 84% can’t tell that’s it not genuine. Meanwhile, 85% of trust an online review as much as a personal recommendation, while 94% say that they would avoid a business if they’d read a negative review. So if your business is receiving fake bad reviews, you can’t just put your head in the sand and ignore them.

Headway Capital has come up with a guide to help small businesses deal with this problem, starting with the most difficult part of the process – how do you know if a review is fake? It requires a bit of investigation and a gut feeling, so look at the tone of the review first of all. Does it sound like an angry customer or someone with a vendetta or agenda? Are the criticisms specific to an incident or more generalized?

If you can see what other reviews this reviewer has given, how does your compare? Have they left very positive reviews of your competitors? That’s a definite red flag if so. When you’ve decided that you think it is a fake review, you need to start trying to get it removed before it damages your reputation, and most of the major review sites offer you the option to flag or report reviews (Google, Facebook, Yelp, TripAdvisor, etc) you think are fake and these are usually found as buttons around the actual review.

Most of them will require some kind of evidence to back up your claim that you aren’t simply trying to remove any bad reviews, so take screenshots of anything you’ve found to send with your report. If it’s particularly urgent, try contacting customer service on those websites to see if they will remove it more quickly for you.

While are you waiting for it to be removed, it’s still advisable to respond to the review, even though you know or suspect that it’s fake. The chance to respond lets you have your say (in a professional manner) and to politely cast doubt in other people’s minds by pointing out that you can’t confirm it is from a genuine customer and asking them to get in touch with you directly to give more specific details.

You can also use the experience of receiving a fake review to mobilize your loyal genuine customers to give more positive feedback and drown out the false negativity, which should more than balance out any potential impact from the fake one.

After you’ve dealt with the issue and it’s hopefully been removed, you need to make sure you’re able to react like this again the next time it happens to you. Setting up Google Alerts or requesting to receive review notifications from the likes of Yellow Pages and Yelp means you’ll know as soon as you’ve had a new review and can respond accordingly. This way, fake bad reviews won’t sit on your pages putting off potential customers for longer than you’d want them to. It’s also just good practice for all kinds of reviews as you can respond to genuine good or bad ones quickly as well.

Fake negative reviews are a real challenge for small business owners who don’t have much time to spend constantly on the internet, but with these tips, you should be able to stay on top of any trouble people try to cause you, acting quickly and decisively to limit their impact.

How to react when you get a fake negative review

About John Cole

John writes on behalf of NeoMam Studios. A digital nomad specializing in leadership, digital media, and personal growth topics, his passions include world cinema and biscuits. A native Englishman, he is always on the move, but can most commonly be spotted in the UK, Norway, and the Balkans.

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