Keepin’ It Real: You Can’t Build an Authentic Business on Fake Reviews

vanity metrics, fake reviews, authenticity

Have you heard about the Freakin’ Awesome Karaoke Express? Based in San Francisco, it’s essentially a karaoke bar on wheels, a mobile sound system that promises to make your next party a sing-along sensation.

There’s just one problem: It doesn’t exist. As the project’s acronym — F.A.K.E. — should make clear, it isn’t real. Instead, it’s a make-believe business created by Kashmir Hill, a Bay Area journalist, to investigate how easy it is to build a fan base and score favorable reviews via the Internet.

“Easy” is putting it mildly. Using a site where freelancers offer to get businesses likes, followers, and good reviews for pennies a piece, she wrote:

For $5, I could get 200 Facebook fans, or 6,000 Twitter followers, or I could get @SMExpertsBiz to tweet about the truck to the account’s 26,000 Twitter fans. A Lincoln could get me a Facebook review, a Google review, an Amazon review, or, less easily, a Yelp review.

What’s that got to do with aesthetic medicine? Beyond the ethical implications of paying for social media followers and the illegality of paying for fake reviews, Hill’s experience offers several takeaways for doctors navigating the wild, wild west of online reputation management:

Don’t worry about the numbers: Even if they’d never consider buying likes, fans, or followers, some doctors are still overly enamored of high follower counts. But clicking a like or follow button takes almost no effort at all and is ultimately a poor indicator of ongoing engagement. High numbers may make you feel good — hence the term “vanity metrics” — but they’re unlikely to help the bottom line.

Don’t pursue SEO shortcuts: There are many excellent marketers out there who stay current on the strategies required to ensure your practice website is findable and user-friendly. Unfortunately, there also those who try to game the system, using discredited tactics that at best can provide a short-term bump but, at worst, lead to penalties from Google, Bing, etc. Talk with your webmaster or marketing agency to ensure they’re following best practices and giving you good value for your money.

Don’t even think about using bogus reviews: Illegality aside, the ease of buying glowing testimonials has prompted most major review sites to be hyper-vigilant about fake reviews. At RealSelf, for example, our community guidelines expressly forbid false reviews and other efforts that can erode trust and confidence. Making sure our community members can trust what they read on the site is so important that we’ve even taken legal action when we suspected foul play.

Bottom line, potential patients are real people and they rely on real reviews to make decisions with real consequences. If a review they read raises even the slightest doubt about its source or veracity, it can do real damage to your reputation.

About Rob Lovitt

Rob Lovitt is a longtime writer and editor who believes every good business has a great story to tell. He has written for dozens of magazines and websites, including NBCnews.com, Expedia.com and the inflight magazines of Alaska, Horizon and Frontier airlines.

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