Social media presents many opportunities for small businesses to connect directly with their customers. While the algorithms may impact how much your message is seen, the platforms do present a conduit to your biggest fans. Many small businesses—like restaurants, shops and bars—use Facebook as a way to connect with consumers. And with the advent of “reviews” on Facebook, many consumers use the platform to research where to spend their hard-earned dollars. Got a 4.6 rating? You’ll probably get some good business. Have a 2.2? Good luck buddy, most folks will move along.
While you may know that you shouldn’t believe everything on the Internet, it seems that we have a bias towards believing the wisdom of the crowds—that’s why things like online reviews matter so much. Many business game the system for their advantage, either incentivizing customers to leave a positive review with a spiff (free dessert, appetizer or discount) or outright purchase positive reviews on sites like Fiverr for as little as five bucks. That can lead to an inflated review for a very average spot.
However, it’s just as easy for a person to purchase negative reviews as it is to purchase positive ones. So, when a disgruntled customer, employee or vendor wants to exact revenge on your business, they can amass an army of bots, or fake accounts, to “review bomb” your business with one-star ratings. This leaves a business in a very vulnerable space—their stellar 4.9 customer rating can be taken down to a 1.9 in a matter of minutes from “users” in far flung places who’ve never been to their state, much less their business.
Reviews matter and can dramatically affect the profitability of a business. And currently Facebook is not doing enough to prevent this outright fraud.
The Cookhouse and Wrigleyville Grill saw hundreds of one-star reviews pop up in their queue in a matter of minutes, tanking their rating that they’ve worked so hard to build. I was able to help them overcome this “review bomb” and restore their reputations because I have access to customer support via the Facebook Business portal by nature of my role with Rackspace. I was able to open up a ticket and chat with an actual Facebook support rep, something that those businesses couldn’t do, to help explain their situation and how it was affecting their business. Our social media team at Rackspace is fantastic and talented in social media moderation, advocacy, marketing and content, but our mantra is to always “Be Helpful.” This belief is core to our team and when I saw folks in our community in need, I wanted to help.
But since that, I’ve heard from other small businesses express their dismay and helplessness at this situation. I even saw one of the restaurants get “bombed” again with 600 one-star ratings after Facebook had eliminated them. These bots are savvy because none of them leave a “comment” alongside the review, which according to Facebook’s terms prevents the owners for asking for a removal. But even if they could protest the review, imagine how time consuming it would be to protest hundreds of negative reviews! I would rather the restauranteur focus on making an outstanding bowl of gumbo instead of worrying about online trolls.
I would rather the restauranteur focus on making an outstanding bowl of gumbo instead of worrying about online trolls.
I know a lot of business owners who’ve been “review bombed” are dismayed, so I wanted to put together a guide to help businesses with the situation. Please note: this guide is not to protest that genuine one-star review from someone who didn’t like you. Sorry, but that review has got to stand—this is a guide to get rid of hundreds of reviews from exotic places that was posted in a matter of minutes. The secondary goal of this post is to demonstrate that this is a problem that needs to be addressed by Facebook. So, if you are a small business owner, I’d encourage you to share this post with your network and even paste the link to this article in the Facebook feedback section found here.
STEP ONE: Rally your base
This is a great opportunity to rally your customers to praise you for how good you are; take this moment to move your supporters to action! Tell them that you need their help to combat these poor reviews and point them to the place where they can let their voices be heard. Many folks don’t even know that they can leave a review for your business on Facebook, so this is a great way to get out that information.
STEP TWO: Contact Facebook
Many small businesses won’t have advertiser support (unless they do a lot of paid social media advertiser), but if you do a lot of Facebook advertising or have an agency who does it on your behalf, try going to this link and scroll down see if you have the chat option: https://www.facebook.com/business/resources/ . You can also try to load it directly from here: https://www.facebook.com/business/form/chat. If you have that ability, start a chat and let folks know about your situation.
If you don’t have that ability to start a chat with a Facebook rep, I’d encourage you to go to the Facebook feedback section found here and leave a comment. Tell them about your situation with these bogus reviews and put a link to this article. The more people that do that, the better the opportunity that Facebook will hear your voice and implement a lasting solution to bar these bogus reviews from happening.
STEP THREE: Remove Reviews from Your Page
If you’ve waited two or three days and have not seen any improvement to your reviews, I’d highly recommend you removing the Review widget from your page. It’s super simple and you can do it by following these instructions. I know that this soundest defeatist, but it is in your best interest. You don’t want people colored by these bogus one-star reviews. Instead, let them learn about your business elsewhere, such as Yelp, Google, etc.
I want to conclude this article by telling the Facebook product managers and development team that this is truly a big problem for our small businesses. These women and men are the heart blood of the American economy, they’re what make our cities and culture so unique, whether they are offering a plate of shrimp and grits, a glass of beer with regional flavors or a piece of artwork that was created in their store. They want to use your platform to build their community.
I would like to challenge that team to talk to business owners who have been affected by the “review bombs” and how much stress, anxiety and worry that they cause. Every minute after those fake reviews are posted is spent thinking about how to get their reputation back. Not only do those malignant people take away their rating, they take away their piece of mind.
I know that Facebook is a great company and I truly feel that they just aren’t aware of how damning this problem is for small business owners. As a company that wants to build community, I think that it is only a matter of time before they implement a fix for this “review bomb” problem. But until then, I wanted to make sure I did my part to help bubble up how bad of a problem this is.
If you’re a business owner and get hit by a “review bomb,” I hope that you know that it is not a reflection about you and your business; follow these steps and then just move on your way. Remember, your customers love you and don’t spend any energy on those negative bots half a planet away.
Header photo by Isriya Paireepairit via Flickr CC. Follow Garrett on Twitter at @pinojo and sign up to the Marketing Bytes newsletter here!