Can a group of people deny a legitimate business of their online reputation? In the parlance of cyber-security, a Denial of Service Attack is when a hacker overwhelms a website with so much illegitimate web traffic, that legitimate traffic can’t get access to the site. The same idea can be used in social media to attack or even drown out public opinion. But now, review sites are being used to target individuals and their business essentially denying them a legitimate online reputation.
On July 28, news media reported a story about a dentist, Dr. Walter Palmer, of River Bluff Dental, who was also an avid big-game hunter. On one Dr. Palmer’s hunting jaunt in Zimbabwe, he shot and killed a beloved lion. Cecil, the affectionate name given to the lion, was living in Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park where it had protected status and was collared as part of a long-term study. Cecil was a favorite among tourists and a point of pride for Zimbabwe. Palmer had paid more than $50,000 for this hunting trip and hired two guides who apparently misled him to believe that Cecil was fair game (and could be legally shot). While the guides have since been arrested, Dr. Palmer’s legal fate was yet to be determined. Legal or not, that didn’t stop the general public from avenging Cecil’s killing.
Thousands of reviewers have thoroughly destroyed Dr. Walter Palmer’s and his dental practice. A day after the story broke, his Yelp and Google+ pages logged well over 5,000 reviews in a 24 hour period. All the reviews were one-star reviews. A handful gave 5-star with very negative comments. Any legitimate review of River Bluff Dental was basically drowned out by what we call a Denial of Reputation Attack. Is this a legitimate use of review sites?
ReviewInc surveyed 1,000 U.S. Consumers on the legitimacy of writing reviews. Respondents were given multiple answer choices on the question of “You can legitimately write an online review about a business (on sites such as Yelp and Google+).” The possible answers included type of customer, employed by the business, just heard allegations or want to destroy their name. Not surprisingly, most of respondents recognized that current and former customers should be recognized as legitimate reviews. However, over 8% of respondents believed that current and former employees should legitimately write reviews even if they are not customers of that business. Slightly more than 5% felt that they could write reviews based on hearsay, while 4.5% felt they could write reviews just to destroy someone’s business.
ReviewInc applauds Yelp’s stance on this matter. Yelp said in a statement that “Media-fueled reviews typically violate our content guidelines. One of these deals with relevance. For example, reviews aren’t the place for rants about a business’s employment practices, political ideologies, extraordinary circumstances, or other matters that don’t address the core of the consumer experience.”
The company added that Yelp reviews are required to describe a firsthand consumer experience, not what someone read in the news. “Our user support team ultimately removes reviews that violate these guidelines.” Indeed, a quick glance of some of the 6449 reviews on the one-star rated River Bluff Dental’s page, are from out of state.
As of this writing, Google+ reviews for River Bluff Dental have yet to be removed. As you can see in the picture, they are all mostly personal attacks on Dr. Palmer.
July 30, 2015, 7:25PM PDT: It appears that Google+ has also filtered most of the reviews, however there are still around 200 reviews – most of which driven by the media regarding Cecil the lion.
ReviewInc can help businesses get more legitimate reviews everywhere and enhance their reputation. A large number of legitimate reviews can also help shield a business from personal attacks. For a no obligation consultation call ReviewInc at 877-9REVIEW or leave a note here and have an expert contact you.