I read a really interesting article in the Telegraph on Saturday about Tripadvisor. For those of you who do not know Tripadvisor, it is a travel review site where, amongst other things, the public can comment on the hotel, B&B, cottage etc where they stayed.
When it was first launched the public championed it as a way to finally give honest feedback on where they stayed that cut through the saccharine corporate brochures.
Business owners from massive hotel chains to single B&B operatives embraced it as a new way of generating business; getting into the top 10 in a city can be very lucrative.
However, not everything is so rosy. I could go onto the site right now, write anything I wanted about a hotel without ever having been there and use a fake name and email address to submit it. Within 5 minutes I could help to make or break a new hotel.
This is the problem with any review sites; they are there for anyone to comment on means that they are open to abuse.
There does not seem to be an easy solution to this. Make the commenting process too difficult and you will drive people away, keep it like it is and the comments are devalued.
Google maps have tried to come up with a solution whereby business owners can respond to comments that the public leave about them. Unlike trip advisor where someone can call a business racist (this is used 2,378 times on tripadvisor) with no easy way for the owner to defend themselves, on Google maps you can.
Social Networking, of which review sites are a component, is now a massive part of our everyday lives and a minefield for businesses. I recommend encouraging people to write about you. Assuming you are interested in providing a good service to your clients, you should not have anything to fear. Where you do get negative comments (and you will always get someone on a bad day), use them to better yourselves and make sure you have enough positive news to outweigh the bad.
Remember that you cannot trust everything that you read on the Internet.
Note: If you want to read the full article from the Telegraph go here