Some Things You Just Can’t Fake

Some Things You Just Can’t Fake

“Where should I eat?”

“Is that restaurant any good?”

“What’s on the menu?” …Sound familiar?

These days, a lot of us try to solve our dining dilemmas by relying on food review sites like Urbanspoon or Yelp. Before we arrive we can browse menus, look at pictures, and read other diner’s reviews of the experience. In fact:

45% of consumers have already chosen where to eat with the help of an online dining guide. 57% of patrons rely on them.

Word-of-mouth marketing is powerful.

Social media started because the world needed a forum for authentic perspectives and feedback. Online consumer reviews are currently the second most trusted source of brand information and messaging because they offer a space free of advertising pressure, filters, or biases.

Ninety-two percent of consumers around the world say they trust word-of-mouth or recommendations from friends and family, above all other forms of advertising.

By replicating the word-of-mouth experience, consumers feel they can trust online reviews as real and honest opinions. But there are cheaters.

Relationships and authenticity take work. And, naturally, people have found ways to take short cuts.

By 2014, 10% to 15% of social media reviews will be fake and paid for by companies.

Ugh. Just what we need, right? Sneaky businesses buying fake five-star reviews in hopes of increasing sales and customer loyalty. If you look on Craigslist you’ll see the sleazy posts: “For $5, I will submit two great reviews for your business”.

Sadly, it works. 

Studies show even the smallest push for fake positive reviews makes a huge difference in restaurant success. According to a University of California, Berkeley study, a slight half star improvement increases the number of dinner reservations at an eatery.

But in the long run, when businesses take shortcuts and pay for positive reviews the integrity of the system is lost. If social media follows this path it will just turn into another platform for loud, phoney, gimmicky advertising ploys.

So… trust no one?

Let’s not jump to extremes. Social media can keep its credibility, but in order to do that restaurants need to realize customer reviews are a fundamental part of the sales pitch and can’t be ignored. Restaurants need to encourage real reviews and word-of-mouth referrals. And they must deal honestly with complaints and answer to poor reviews with sincerity.

Here are some things we can do:

  • Demand authenticity
  • Give honest reviews as much as possible
  • Be aware that not everything we read is true and diligently watch for indicators of a fake review
  • Seek out companies like OpenTable, who ask you to offer a review after you have made your reservation and ate at a restaurant, providing more quality control

When we all stand up and take notice of these fake tricks, we can protect social media’s authenticity AND be sure to dine at awesome restaurants. How’s that for food for thought?

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