Facebook and Reviews; It’s Time for the Big Boy Pants

Screen Shot 2015-11-15 at 3.53.36 PMFacebook, over the past 18 months, has slowly been pushing into the local space. One of those efforts has been in the review space and they have managed to become one of the leading general review sites because of user familiarity and Facebook’s periodic promotions of their review capacity. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that they have apparently not yet put in place filters and processes to deal with the problems and abuses that can occur with reviews when not managed correctly by the platform.

Lynelle Schmidt of Long’s Jewelry Store in Boston writes of a Fiverr driven review attack on their Facebook page that landed over a hundred negative reviews on their page in the span of a few minutes. She noted at inbound.org :

I was so disheartened to see that someone had hired over 100 people to give us fake one star reviews. In the span of just a few minutes, we went from a gleaming 5 star reputation to just barely over 2 stars.

Initially Facebook refused to do anything. After several attempts by Lynelle at communicating with Facebook they have agreed to reexamine the situation and apparently have at least temporarily removed the review page.

One hopes the Facebook steps up and resolves this particular case of abuse but it points out that their review platform in being unregulated and unsupervised is rife for this sort of attack on small businesses. Reviews are a particular pain point for most small businesses and if Facebook does not put in place both filters and processes that handle these sorts of events effectively, what trust they have built up with businesses will soon dissipate.

Facebook has clearly committed resources to their local efforts. If reviews are going to be part of that effort then Facebook has to “put on their big boy pants” and start to be a steward of that trust in a way that respects both the consumer and the business. And part of that trust is putting in place both algorithmic and management processes that minimizes the impact of these sorts of review attacks.

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Facebook and Reviews; It's Time for the Big Boy Pants by

11 thoughts on “Facebook and Reviews; It’s Time for the Big Boy Pants”

  1. This is what I don’t understand about Google reviews and now seemingly Facebook. Google has tons of data on specific users and it would seem relatively simple to put some algorithmic checks in place to determine a likely trust score for a review.

    Yet, seemingly anyone can sign up for a brand new Google account and leave a scathing review. Google support are often not keen to remove these even if they are clearly not representative.

    Case in point a client of ours had to sack an employee and he waged a review campaign against the lady that sacked them. The lady was from Germany and despite what I would call racist / sexist comments it was tough to get the review removed. As soon as it was gone they did it again under another account – the account even had a clearly fake name of Mike Hunt that I believe was lost in translation with the support person on the other end of the line.

    Facebook has such wonderful demographic data on it’s users. Again, to determine if reviews are likely to be trusted should be easy enough yet… they seem to not want to do anything about potentially rampant abuse on the fake review front.

    It seems to me like they don’t want to risk upsetting the reviewers and that everything is geared towards getting people to leave reviews. They care little about the businesses that are being reviewed, they are simply a content asset. But, we must upset the reviewers.

    We have seen some filtering of reviews recently though and review counts going up and down on some of our clients sites so it looks like Google may be making an effort. They also do have support which is marginally helpful some of the time!

    It seems there is still a huge opportunity for someone to do reviews right but for whatever reason none of the big platforms seem to want to tackle what are seemingly routine technical issues in making this a fair and reflective environment.

    Your move Facebook!

    1. @Marcus
      Google has had algo based filters since late 2010. Typically they focus on preventing abuse by the business rather than abuse of the business. Google does look for large scale abuse IE the same review posted at 10 different businesses. What their filters are not good at is the single illicit poster posting from a new account on an unknown IP address. And Google has a support team that will manually vet reviews and take them down. So they have both a solution at scale and a solution for one offs. It is, as you point out, nowhere near perfect and it isn’t clear if its good enough. In the forums you do see one offs complaining but very little at the scale of this attack so it is working to some extent for them

  2. This is a toxic issue that needs to be addressed. But it’s certainly not trivial – for every legitimate business such as Long’s that gets unfairly attacked, there are plenty of scammy businesses that take advantage of review sites to unfairly prop up their business with fake (good) reviews. Both sides need to be addressed.

    Not a simple problem. In this case, Facebook should certainly address the issue, but that’s not a scalable or repeatable solution either. Think about how many businesses will flood Facebook with requests to take “bad” reviews down once it gets out they help Long’s fix this issue. Just because this one is completely obvious doesn’t mean others with less obvious issues will think they have just as legitimate a problem for Facebook to resolve.

    We’re thinking hard about this issue. It needs a fair way to resolve, ideally where the platform itself doesn’t need to be an arbitrator.

    1. @Scott
      Certainly there are scalable solutions to avoid abuses by and of businesses. Yelp and Google both have systems in place that involve programatic and then personal intervention. Neither are perfect both work better than this. Just because its hard should not stop FB from doing something. Otherwise get out of the review business.

  3. Since FB is trying to acclimate to the local review space I believe it will be some time before we see any progressive movement to resolve these issues.

    Correct that it is good news that they are moving forward. Just the thought of someone has the ability to hire some scalping service on fiverr to post one star reviews is enough evidence to encourage SMBs to take a more pro active approach to watching their reviews than before.

    Then again if you think about it there are businesses that have to hire expensive attorneys to have their fraudulent claims removed from RipOffReport and at this point FB is welling to temporarily removed the review page for Longs.

    Maybe another solution is to build a chain of positive reviews on web 2.0 properties to help address this to drive down the bad one?

    Love this peculiar post because it is something that has to be addressed as @Scott Barnett stated and spot on @Marcus, “Your move Facebook”

  4. I’ve seen the Google filter work work for ‘duplicate’ reviews across several review sites (eliminating the dup Google review). It’s good you pointed this review issue out… it’s sort of obvious – but sometimes Billion dollar companies need to be reminded over and over.

  5. @Mike – I do agree, Facebook needs to do something and do it better then they are now. I don’t have hard data, but hard for me to see how Google/Yelp are doing this better – it’s next to impossible to get a review removed on either site, or to speak with a human being. Do you see something different?

    As an example, http://www.yelp.com/biz/river-bluff-dental-bloomington. The guy is still getting negative reviews for what he did in Africa, not for his business. Those reviews should be easy to remove, no?

  6. Mike: I’ve strongly believed that the biggest “unknown” and issue for smb’s with regard to FB reviews is quite astoundingly, that FB does NOT put those reviews on one’s timeline.

    FB has decided that in order to make money off of smb advertising, it would severely cut back on “natural” reach of posts. For our smb’s, who have added huge numbers of fans over the years, since FB decided to cut back on “reach” (something that was well publicized)….our average range of reach is about 10-20% of what it was before that deliberate cutback. And that is 10-20% of previous totals, before we probably doubled the number of fans.

    FB, does not want a business to have free reach!!!!!!!

    BTW: When we review traffic to our FB pages we see teensy teensy traffic to the review pages. Its not there in general.

    BUT THE BIGGEST MYSTERY is that FB does not copy a review to a persons timeline. Well its not really a mystery. FB doesn’t want to give out that free exposure.

    The press or commentators refuse to publicize that. WHY???

    Our smb’s make an effort to ask those that give good reviews to republish them on their timelines. It would easily be the world’s strongest positive reviews….and it is….strong reviews from FB people one knows and presumably trusts.

    Now as to FB, or Google, or Yelp managing reviews and working to eliminate obviously false reviews and/or one’s that are clearly faked or clearly political…..none of those websites really give a rat’s arse about it…and don’t spend much time working on it.

    Maybe if you advertised with them and made a complaint…maybe they would wear “big boy pants”. Maybe not.

    Its all about the money!!!!!

  7. Mike,
    Again I come hear from a Google search, you always have the best insight! I think it’s a great natural extension of FB to offer and support a review platform for local businesses. What better way for a SMB to promote their good service through the #1 social media channel in the world.
    That being said, FB has enough user data to better police and validate a review, they could tear a page from Amazon’s book in filtering, spam and removals. As someone “in the biz” I never make a decision off 1 review, but 10 coming from real FB users would be compelling.

  8. I think anyone working in the local SMB sector has run into this problem at one point or another in the last few years. Long’s Jewelry Store is an extreme case but even as few as 5 or 10 fake (bad) reviews can ruin a small restaurant’s reputation.

    I recently requested the removal of a few Trip Advisor reviews made by my client’s competition and I’m happy to say that their response was prompt and analytical.

    Overall I have mixed feelings about the review function and for obvious reasons. Unfortunately I have yet to see or hear of a platform that makes the bad go away while keeping all the benefits of the reviews.

    Great article in all, will share it to our audience!

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