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(Small Business (UK))   Why small businesses are afraid to go online: Bad reviews, malicious comments and damning social media posts cost the average business $100,000 a year, and one in five say their entire online strategy is "firefighting" against trolls   (smallbusiness.co.uk) divider line 44
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995 clicks; posted to Business » on 10 Jun 2014 at 9:06 AM (28 weeks ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



44 Comments   (+0 »)
   
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2014-06-10 08:35:28 AM  
There's an Indian place I like and frequent whose yelp page has featured a picture of someone holding a bit of wire they claim was in their food for the past year.  I'm pretty sure that reviewer made it up and I feel bad for the owners.  On the other hand, I've been on fark for a decade and it's been going downhill since the start.  Every time I think they couldn't ruin it more, it just gets worse.  I met Drew a couple times, he was a total pompous asshat who wouldn't talk to anyone unless they complimented him first.  He literally had his bodyguards shoo people away people who didn't have TF.  I would burn it all down if I could.  I hate fark.
 
2014-06-10 08:50:09 AM  
according to a study commissioned by reputation management specialist Igniyte

I'm filing this under bullshiat. Internet reputation management hacks are worse than real life PR flacks. No lie is beneath them. At least lawyers have rules.
 
2014-06-10 09:25:20 AM  
Scariest thing for a small business is yelp. If you get a bs bad review, without first getting a steady stream of good reviews, you are screwed. Any future good reviews are marked as spam and there isn't anything you can do about it except pay for their advertising.
 
2014-06-10 09:39:42 AM  

fang06554: Scariest thing for a small business is yelp. If you get a bs bad review, without first getting a steady stream of good reviews, you are screwed. Any future good reviews are marked as spam and there isn't anything you can do about it except pay for their advertising.


Their telemarketers don't like being reminded of that.  "Put back my filtered reviews and we will talk." :crickets:.  Every. Damned. Time.
 
2014-06-10 09:42:09 AM  
Bad reviews happen whether you are online or not. You might as well put something out there to counter them.
 
2014-06-10 09:42:26 AM  

staplermofo: On the other hand, I've been on fark for a decade and it's been going downhill since the start.  Every time I think they couldn't ruin it more, it just gets worse.  I met Drew a couple times, he was a total pompous asshat who wouldn't talk to anyone unless they complimented him first.  He literally had his bodyguards shoo people away people who didn't have TF.  I would burn it all down if I could.  I hate fark.


You didn't get over it?
 
2014-06-10 09:46:46 AM  

Big Beef Burrito: Bad reviews happen whether you are online or not. You might as well put something out there to counter them.


I think a sincere response from the owner can go a long way to mitigate a bad review.  Good customer service is woefully underrated.
 
2014-06-10 09:49:19 AM  
I think the percentage of people that troll good businesses is pretty low. Sure someone will get a bug up their ass because the toothpick was askew on their sandwich, but I think that is the exception. If you give good service, Yelp or not people know.

There is a local place whose business plummeted after they decided to be dicks to a pregnant woman. Her water broke in the restaurant and they not only made the couple pay for the meal they didn't eat, but also charged them clean up fee. Word got around town and not many people go there anymore.
 
2014-06-10 09:57:52 AM  

rumpelstiltskin: according to a study commissioned by reputation management specialist Igniyte

I'm filing this under bullshiat. Internet reputation management hacks are worse than real life PR flacks. No lie is beneath them. At least lawyers have rules.


Seconded.

This sounds like a company's press release/advertisement typed up as a story.
 
2014-06-10 10:02:58 AM  

Solty Dog: I think the percentage of people that troll good businesses is pretty low. Sure someone will get a bug up their ass because the toothpick was askew on their sandwich, but I think that is the exception. If you give good service, Yelp or not people know.

There is a local place whose business plummeted after they decided to be dicks to a pregnant woman. Her water broke in the restaurant and they not only made the couple pay for the meal they didn't eat, but also charged them clean up fee. Word got around town and not many people go there anymore.


It's not *customers* that are doing the trolling. It's *competing businesses*. Especially restaurants. Restaurants are all in competition with each other. Posting nasty reviews about competing restaurants is sleazy, but it undoubtedly works, and there are ZERO repercussions for doing it. I can see how somebody with no ethics (i.e., most restaurant owners) would make trolling Yelp part of their business plan.
 
2014-06-10 10:06:03 AM  

Solty Dog: I think the percentage of people that troll good businesses is pretty low. Sure someone will get a bug up their ass because the toothpick was askew on their sandwich, but I think that is the exception. If you give good service, Yelp or not people know.

There is a local place whose business plummeted after they decided to be dicks to a pregnant woman. Her water broke in the restaurant and they not only made the couple pay for the meal they didn't eat, but also charged them clean up fee. Word got around town and not many people go there anymore.


Depends on your market.  I know of a local restaurant that creates sock puppet accounts to savage every new restaurant that moves into the property across the street.  The owner's pretty proud of it, it's kept the space in limbo for two or three years now.
 
2014-06-10 10:07:07 AM  

realmolo: Solty Dog: I think the percentage of people that troll good businesses is pretty low. Sure someone will get a bug up their ass because the toothpick was askew on their sandwich, but I think that is the exception. If you give good service, Yelp or not people know.

There is a local place whose business plummeted after they decided to be dicks to a pregnant woman. Her water broke in the restaurant and they not only made the couple pay for the meal they didn't eat, but also charged them clean up fee. Word got around town and not many people go there anymore.

It's not *customers* that are doing the trolling. It's *competing businesses*. Especially restaurants. Restaurants are all in competition with each other. Posting nasty reviews about competing restaurants is sleazy, but it undoubtedly works, and there are ZERO repercussions for doing it. I can see how somebody with no ethics (i.e., most restaurant owners) would make trolling Yelp part of their business plan.


Well, in theory, if you knowingly posted a lie about another business would that not be called slander?
 
2014-06-10 10:08:09 AM  

Stop making anonymous commenting part of your business model, then.


Far too many "small businesses" exist solely to manipulate social media. "Reputation brokers" pay people to anonymously boost your business or attack your competitors through social media. It's bad enough that businesses are terrified that they may receive negative feedback on their shoddy workmanship, terrible service, or ridiculous prices, either justified or unjustified, without extorting more money from those businesses via the social media version of the protection racket.

The problem is that businesses don't seem to understand - corporations are not people. If you feel that your business needs a "social media presence," what you're really saying is that your business needs a face that can defend itself, cheer itself on, and pay attention to every stupid damned email, post, or tweet from everyone. Instead of burning cash on that, how about you focus on, say, providing healthcare or living wages to your employees, or providing better service & products to your customers, or ensuring that your shareholders can own a piece of you without shame or regret.

Instead, you're being manipulated by assholes like the author of this article into thinking that if you don't spend oodles of money either defending yourself or having assholes like the author defend you, your business is going to be destroyed by a spurious post or viral tweet. This asshole is yet another parasitic middleman determined to suck even more of your profit margin from your veins, further depriving your customers, employees, and shareholders - and yourself, mind you - to improve your online "reputation." You know what improves your "reputation?" Happy customers, grateful employees, and enriched shareholders, that's what. If you're not pulling that off, paying someone else to lie anonymously about you online sure as hell isn't going to help.
 
2014-06-10 10:09:04 AM  

ColonelCathcart: realmolo: Solty Dog: I think the percentage of people that troll good businesses is pretty low. Sure someone will get a bug up their ass because the toothpick was askew on their sandwich, but I think that is the exception. If you give good service, Yelp or not people know.

There is a local place whose business plummeted after they decided to be dicks to a pregnant woman. Her water broke in the restaurant and they not only made the couple pay for the meal they didn't eat, but also charged them clean up fee. Word got around town and not many people go there anymore.

It's not *customers* that are doing the trolling. It's *competing businesses*. Especially restaurants. Restaurants are all in competition with each other. Posting nasty reviews about competing restaurants is sleazy, but it undoubtedly works, and there are ZERO repercussions for doing it. I can see how somebody with no ethics (i.e., most restaurant owners) would make trolling Yelp part of their business plan.

Well, in theory, if you knowingly posted a lie about another business would that not be called slander?


Only if it can be traced back to you, and only if you didn't use the appropriate weasel words to establish that it's just your opinion, not your assertion of facts.
 
2014-06-10 10:14:52 AM  
I am sure there are trolls out there who just write crap about businesses but I have also heard this story from businesses as a defense where they are unwilling to accept that their service is sub-par, they feel the product is good and they are being judged too harshly forgetting the golden rule "the customer is always right"  - - Rand Paul

//reviews from people who have never been a customer means you have a crappy review system.
 
2014-06-10 10:15:08 AM  

ColonelCathcart


Well, in theory, if you knowingly posted a lie about another business would that not be called slander?


spoken = slander

written = libel
 
2014-06-10 10:19:24 AM  
Having an online presence is important, it's the primary way more and more people will even know your business exists.

Most people are smart enough to realize that one bad review in a sea of good ones is likely either complete BS or not indicative of the overall quality of service of an establishment.

Since there's no way to prevent the occasional retributive bad review, the only alternative is to solicit positive reviews from your satisfied customers.  It's an old adage, but it's true that a satisfied customer may tell one or two people, but a dissatisfied customer will tell everyone they know.  Most people won't think to post positive reviews without a bit of promoting, but most don't mind if asked.  If they like the experience you deliver and you let them know how important it is to you a lot of people are happy to oblige.

As far as Twitter gaffes and other social media fails - if you can't avoid putting your foot in your mouth, just don't use those services to promote your business.
 
2014-06-10 10:25:01 AM  

TuteTibiImperes: Having an online presence is important, it's the primary way more and more people will even know your business exists.

Most people are smart enough to realize that one bad review in a sea of good ones is likely either complete BS or not indicative of the overall quality of service of an establishment.

Since there's no way to prevent the occasional retributive bad review, the only alternative is to solicit positive reviews from your satisfied customers.  It's an old adage, but it's true that a satisfied customer may tell one or two people, but a dissatisfied customer will tell everyone they know.  Most people won't think to post positive reviews without a bit of promoting, but most don't mind if asked.  If they like the experience you deliver and you let them know how important it is to you a lot of people are happy to oblige.

As far as Twitter gaffes and other social media fails - if you can't avoid putting your foot in your mouth, just don't use those services to promote your business.


As a general rule - ignore any review with max or min stars where the review doesn't mention specifics and/or mentions other business ("Blah was too noisy so we went down the street to Derp and had a great meal!" - paid for by Derp).
 
2014-06-10 10:27:11 AM  
I kust want business hours online so I don't have to call. I ignore the majority of bad reviews unless a place has hundreds of them and its 90% bad.

The best chinese buffet I ever went to had like 30-40% bad reviews, none of which matched my experiences, and many of which were in that bad english you get through a translator.
 
2014-06-10 10:29:15 AM  

IrateShadow: , it's kept the space in limbo for two or three years now.


Isnt that about 95% of all real estate generally marked for restaurants?
 
2014-06-10 10:40:29 AM  
Who the fark reads restaurant reviews?!

Seriously... You people actually look up reviews for restaurants before going? Just go... Use your senses to figure out if it's a bad or good place once you get there.
 
2014-06-10 10:45:38 AM  

staplermofo: There's an Indian place I like and frequent whose yelp page has featured a picture of someone holding a bit of wire they claim was in their food for the past year.  I'm pretty sure that reviewer made it up and I feel bad for the owners.  On the other hand, I've been on fark for a decade and it's been going downhill since the start.  Every time I think they couldn't ruin it more, it just gets worse.  I met Drew a couple times, he was a total pompous asshat who wouldn't talk to anyone unless they complimented him first.  He literally had his bodyguards shoo people away people who didn't have TF.  I would burn it all down if I could.  I hate fark.


It took me a minute..

But, oh, you're good.

Wellplayed.jpg
 
2014-06-10 10:47:09 AM  

TuteTibiImperes: Having an online presence is important, it's the primary way more and more people will even know your business exists.


"Online presence", though, does not translate into "social media presence." That's the myth - that, somehow, Internet users (only about a third of the world, at present, including about two-thirds of North America) can't tell the difference between a website and a Twitter account. Yes, it's quite handy to have an Internet presence. No, that doesn't mean you need a highly interactive and potentially misused social media presence.

Social media, though, is the new exploitable dynamic for middlemen. See, it's cheap and relatively easy to put up a website and drive search traffic these days, but a social media presence requires not just bodies, but lots of bodies - you can't have one person on it 24/7, not when there are so many others willing to maliciously manipulate it - and that's on what such middlemen are banking. So, the social media presence must first be seen as not only necessary, but desirable, and its influence must be disproportionately magnified. it's the new "office bushido", the new "cubicle feng shui", the latest silly-ass trend meant to manipulate businesses into giving money to other, parasitical businesses.

The social media presence is different, though, in that it's a high-tech market that can be exploited with untrained, low-tech labor. That's why so many of these parasites suddenly exist - when you can charge $125/hour to monitor a single Twitter account, and do so by paying a dozen Bangladeshi students $1/hour to do so part-time, in shifts, well, you're basically minting money. Suddenly, SEO reputation management companies are the new hotness in Indian outsourcing.
 
2014-06-10 10:55:13 AM  
www.readysettroll.com
 
2014-06-10 11:00:17 AM  

Nix Nightbird: Who the fark reads restaurant reviews?!

Seriously... You people actually look up reviews for restaurants before going? Just go... Use your senses to figure out if it's a bad or good place once you get there.


I have actually found some really good restaurants based on reading bad reviews.  If you read the bad comments, and immediately get the impression that the person complaining is just a self-entitled narcissist, chances are that it's almost always a really good place to eat.

One of the issues I have with reviews online is that, at least for restaurants, a review score really is a terrible way to judge them.  Restaurants are diverse.  Exceedingly so.  Some are quiet, some are loud.  Some serve great food that looks delicious, some serve amazing food that looks like it came from your neighbors back yard bbq.  Weather or not a restaurant is a good place to eat depends almost entirely on the way the customer feels at the specific time they go to that place.  More often than not, bad reviews are from people who had never been to a place, went in expecting something, and were disappointed when the exact ambiance, food quality and price were not what they had anticipated.  Reading through those comments gives you a very good feel for what a restaurant is like, and if that's your particular mood, then you'll probably have a good time.
 
2014-06-10 11:06:58 AM  
I looked at reviews of this place I go to now and then some of the bad reviews seemed to get all pissy that they were not having their as kissed from the second they walked in to not being carried to their table, given a BJ during their meal and no free dessert. Seemed eitehr real nit picky or jsut outlandish.
 
2014-06-10 11:12:56 AM  
Their dollar figure seems rectally extracted to me. How do you actually quantify such a thing?
 
2014-06-10 11:13:01 AM  

rumpelstiltskin: according to a study commissioned by reputation management specialist Igniyte

I'm filing this under bullshiat. Internet reputation management hacks are worse than real life PR flacks. No lie is beneath them. At least lawyers have rules.


I get at least one unsolicited call per week from some company like this, and their scripted call typically starts off with them getting the name of my company wrong, followed by, "You are not the number one search on Google."  To which I reply with the correct name of my company and "yes, we are at the top of the searches on Google, so stop lying to me."

I can't imagine paying another company to handle all of my company's social media, but then again I don't rant at customers, write long political dissertations against "the Man" or whatever other weird thing you could think of that I've seen some companies includes on their social media.

It's amazing to me that people opening a small business need to be instructed on how to treat their customers properly.
 
2014-06-10 11:30:40 AM  

Englebert Slaptyback: ColonelCathcart

Well, in theory, if you knowingly posted a lie about another business would that not be called slander?


spoken = slander

written = libel


To be technical libel is prepared. A broadcaster reading a transcript with a lie is considered libel.
 
2014-06-10 11:33:17 AM  

Driedsponge: Nix Nightbird: Who the fark reads restaurant reviews?!

Seriously... You people actually look up reviews for restaurants before going? Just go... Use your senses to figure out if it's a bad or good place once you get there.

I have actually found some really good restaurants based on reading bad reviews.  If you read the bad comments, and immediately get the impression that the person complaining is just a self-entitled narcissist, chances are that it's almost always a really good place to eat.

One of the issues I have with reviews online is that, at least for restaurants, a review score really is a terrible way to judge them.  Restaurants are diverse.  Exceedingly so.  Some are quiet, some are loud.  Some serve great food that looks delicious, some serve amazing food that looks like it came from your neighbors back yard bbq.  Weather or not a restaurant is a good place to eat depends almost entirely on the way the customer feels at the specific time they go to that place.  More often than not, bad reviews are from people who had never been to a place, went in expecting something, and were disappointed when the exact ambiance, food quality and price were not what they had anticipated.  Reading through those comments gives you a very good feel for what a restaurant is like, and if that's your particular mood, then you'll probably have a good time.


If i read reviews for restaurants I read for reviews on service not food.
 
2014-06-10 11:37:45 AM  

Nix Nightbird: You people actually look up reviews for restaurants before going


I can certainly see using a review to pick which dish, as well as using a review to find a place in an area you are new to or passing through (though I enjoy the charm of picking a place at random).
 
2014-06-10 12:35:00 PM  
Back in 2008 or so, I saw a small business owner use his email list to start sending out political stuff. Up until that point, he'd been extremely savvy with email, sending notices of sales and the occasional "order today and save 10%" coupon and such.

But out of the blue, he started sending some really conspiratorial, John Birch Society type stuff out. It was bizarre.
 
2014-06-10 12:36:39 PM  
pueblonative:

If i read reviews for restaurants I read for reviews on service not food.

That.  If I see a general theme of "Waitress spent more time gabbing in the kitchen than making sure that I was happy" then I don't go.
 
2014-06-10 01:26:21 PM  
I read Yelp reviews, but I always read the filtered reviews too.

While I am between full-time jobs, I am doing some social marketing consulting (my last employer's investor is my first client, woot) and the best thing a business can do is set up a system that encourages happy customers to recommend their business. It's inevitable that some nut job will slam your business for things beyond your control, but if you have a majority of good reviews from real customers then normal people will likely reason that you business must be decent.

It also makes sense for businesses to respond to negative reviews. My last employer was an art studio that was also a venue space. We had to deal with brides, and they can be bat---- crazy. Especially the DIYer/budget brides, because $10,000 is a LOT more money to them and they essentially wanted a $30,000 wedding within their budget. We had one leave a negative review on The Knot because she wasn't allowed to set up by herself/family the day before her event (the venue was booked for another event and she only paid for a one day rental, so...) AND HOW DARE WE not let her duct-tape hanging crap TO OUR SPRINKLER SYSTEM herself on a 15' ladder so she can get the romantic look she saw on Pinterest without hiring professionals to do it meeting safety codes. With reviews like that, you have to respond in a way that is nice, apologetic and demonstrates good customer service, but still clues in other customers to why that person is unreasonable.

I'd say that if a business owner is not capable of interacting with the public on social media, they should hire someone else to do it. But companies that charge $150 per hour for shill reviews or just don't provide businesses with an idea of how their online presence fits into their business plan turn me off. I should also revisit my rates, because I deliver a lot more value...
 
2014-06-10 01:46:14 PM  

Dog Welder: I get at least one unsolicited call per week from some company like this, and their scripted call typically starts off with them getting the name of my company wrong, followed by, "You are not the number one search on Google." To which I reply with the correct name of my company and "yes, we are at the top of the searches on Google, so stop lying to me."


Well, there probably aren't a lot of companies that weld dogs.
 
2014-06-10 01:54:24 PM  

Dog Welder: I get at least one unsolicited call per week from some company like this, and their scripted call typically starts off with them getting the name of my company wrong, followed by, "You are not the number one search on Google."  To which I reply with the correct name of my company and "yes, we are at the top of the searches on Google, so stop lying to me."



Had my dogs welded on 1/5/13. The Pomeranian broke loose from the Shih Tzu less than a week later.

1/5. Would not use again
 
2014-06-10 02:19:29 PM  

Big Beef Burrito: Dog Welder: I get at least one unsolicited call per week from some company like this, and their scripted call typically starts off with them getting the name of my company wrong, followed by, "You are not the number one search on Google."  To which I reply with the correct name of my company and "yes, we are at the top of the searches on Google, so stop lying to me."


Had my dogs welded on 1/5/13. The Pomeranian broke loose from the Shih Tzu less than a week later.

1/5. Would not use again


Tell me about it.  I wanted some 1/4" stainless steel plate welded to the side of my dog with 5 mm fillet and he just tacked it in two places.  Damn steel broke off two days later.

2/10
 
2014-06-10 02:39:08 PM  
The 2008 collapse killed four restaurants/pubs in our downtown area. It's more of like a village area than anything else. We where left with a horrible pizza place, an old dingy "locals bar", a decent pub/barn, two Chinese places and an Italian place. In 2010/2011 the town made improvements to the area, ran a promotional campaign and provided enticing benefits for new businesses to come.

When the local paper ran an article about the new businesses some idiot commented on the quality of food at the new pizza place, the high prices and rude staff. Problem was the new pizza place wasn't even opening until the next week. Most people suspected the existing pizza place wrote the comments.
 
2014-06-10 03:26:07 PM  

nyseattitude: When the local paper ran an article about the new businesses some idiot commented on the quality of food at the new pizza place, the high prices and rude staff. Problem was the new pizza place wasn't even opening until the next week.


So they were wrong about the prices?
 
2014-06-10 05:49:05 PM  
My rule of thumb for pizza places - the ruder the cook, the better the pizza. Give me a gruff, mumbling, hairy, chain-smoking pizza chef that looks like s/he hates his/her life ANY DAY over the unnecessarily cheerful/chatty type. With the latter, they're so busy trying to earn tips or whatever that I end up with a mushy undercooked pizza, or a decidedly average one. Something about grumpiness and despair just makes pizza so delicious.

/extra points if the cigarette dangling from their mouth drops ash into the dough as they're kneading it out
 
2014-06-10 07:17:09 PM  

Thank You Black Jesus!: fang06554: Scariest thing for a small business is yelp. If you get a bs bad review, without first getting a steady stream of good reviews, you are screwed. Any future good reviews are marked as spam and there isn't anything you can do about it except pay for their advertising.

Their telemarketers don't like being reminded of that.  "Put back my filtered reviews and we will talk." :crickets:.  Every. Damned. Time.


That's why I look at the filtered reviews and ignore the BS their bot has displayed..
 
2014-06-11 07:40:12 AM  

Nix Nightbird: Who the fark reads restaurant reviews?!

Seriously... You people actually look up reviews for restaurants before going? Just go... Use your senses to figure out if it's a bad or good place once you get there.


Agreed.
i also don't read movie, book, game, or play reviews.
I don't care what someone else's opinion is, they don't matter to me.
My thoughts, my opinion, that's what matters.
 
2014-06-11 10:34:02 AM  

Solty Dog: I think the percentage of people that troll good businesses is pretty low. Sure someone will get a bug up their ass because the toothpick was askew on their sandwich, but I think that is the exception. If you give good service, Yelp or not people know.

There is a local place whose business plummeted after they decided to be dicks to a pregnant woman. Her water broke in the restaurant and they not only made the couple pay for the meal they didn't eat, but also charged them clean up fee. Word got around town and not many people go there anymore.


That's the key. It's the crappy places that don't know they are crappy that whine about being messed with online. If your business has 100 great reviews, a couple trolls can't make a dent.
 
2014-06-11 11:26:58 AM  

Driedsponge: I have actually found some really good restaurants based on reading bad reviews.


I found this to be the case when I heard about "Rate My Professor".  The best professors in the school consistently had the lowest scores.  When someone complained that the class was too hard, it meant that you would actually learn something.  When someone complained that the prof was mean, it meant the prof actually expected you to hand work in on time.  I was once rather shocked when a professor pushed back a deadline (on the day of the deadline) because half the class hadn't bothered to write the paper.  Shocked at the class for just not doing the work and shocked at the professor for letting them get away with it.  Of course, the prof was highly rated.
 
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