The NY Times reports on the state of New York ordering a cosmetic surgery company to pay fines for faking online reviews. Reports say that employees have been logging on to online review sites and posing as satisfied clients.
The company had ordered employees to pretend they were satisfied customers and write glowing reviews of its face-lift procedure on Web sites, according to the attorney general’s statement. Lifestyle Lift also created its own sites of face-lift reviews to appear as an independent sources.
Lifestyle Lift was ordered to pay $300,000 to the state for what is said to be an “attempt to generate business by duping consumers was cynical, manipulative and illegal.”
While online reviews are a marketer’s dream, they can also be a nightmare to unsuspecting consumers who rely on reviews and testimonials on the Web before purchasing products or paying for services. On the other hand, negative online reviews can break a company’s reputation, as what the cosmetic surgery clinic cites. The company claims it only posted positive reviews to counter the negative sentiment prevalent in the review sites that feature Lifestyle Lift.
Marketers specializing in new media know the power of blogs, lifestreaming services and social networks in enhancing the image of a company or brand. However, some practices, like the above-mentioned activity of employees posing as real customers, borders on deception. There’s nothing wrong with trying to offer freebies and gifts to bloggers for honest feedback and reviews, for instance. But with spin doctors try to manipulate the game, then it makes sense to be wary about reviews you read online.