Boston--When it comes to online reviews, retailers may have more to worry about than customers who actually come into or do business online with their stores.

In a blog post published last week, Lynelle Schmidt, Long’s Jewelers digital marketing coordinator, detailed a recent experience the Boston-based retailer had with a batch of fake Facebook reviews that it believes were purchased online by a competitor.  

In the post, she wrote that she came in one Monday to check the store’s social media channels and saw that the store’s rating on its Facebook page had dropped from 4.8 stars to 2.3 stars over the weekend.

The cause: more than 100 one-star reviews that were left on the Long’s Jewelers Facebook page with no comments, and each coming within minutes of each other from seemingly fake, and very similar, Facebook profiles.

After much back-and-forth with Facebook, Schmidt wrote that she finally was able to have the comment-less, one-star reviews moved from the page. The entire debacle, however, brought to light a larger problem: online marketplaces where people offer to post fake reviews of a product or business, good or bad, for a fee.

One place where this has happened is Fiverr.com. It’s an online marketplace where visitors can offer to do small tasks and services for $5 or more. The jobs range from writing and design to animation and advertising, but it also has become a place where users can find people willing to be paid to post false reviews and ratings, be they negative or positive. (There also are other sites that offer similar services, among them the blatantly named BuyAmazonReviews.com.)

Schmidt told National Jeweler that based on how the events unfolded, they believe the false, negative Facebook reviews posted to the Long’s page were purchased on Fiverr. “Fiverr is probably one of the most well-known platforms that allow this to happen,” she said. “It’s popular because it’s cheap and effective.”

When asked about the Long’s incident--and, more specifically, if it was aware that users were posting fake review services on its website and if it was removing them--Fiverr told National Jeweler that “Gigs may be removed by Fiverr for violations of the Terms of Service … Fraudulent reviews are a violation of Fiverr’s Terms of Service, and we promptly remove these services as they are reported.”

However, Fiverr’s simply removing the reviews doesn’t go to the root of the issue--people feeling like they can offer to do fake reviews and get away with it. Amazon has acknowledged that, and is attempting to deter people from selling false reviews not by going after Fiverr itself but by filing a  lawsuit naming the individual users engaging in the practice.

In Long’s case, Schmidt said she believes the negative reviews that appeared on the retailer’s Facebook page were paid for by a competitor. “There have been a few recent events that lead us to believe it was a competitor, another local jeweler, that we prefer not to share (the name of) publicly,” she said. “We are really looking to keep things positive with this story and take the high road by not outing or naming them in any way.”

Aside from contacting Facebook administrators to get the review situation sorted out, Schmidt and the Long’s Jewelers team also released a statement on their Facebook page that, despite “terrible organic reach,” garnered a lot of attention.

“Normally, I boost almost all of our posts because organic reach on Facebook is dismal,” she said. “But I felt like the message behind this post would really be compromised by us boosting it. Our hope was that it would go viral on its own without us having to pay.”

And it did. Thanks to Long’s “community of loyal followers and customers sharing the post,” she said it accumulated more than 14,000 views.

When asked what she would advise retailers to do if they find themselves in a similar situation, Schmidt recommended they turn to their own community for support and work with the online platform where the issue is taking place.

She said Yelp recently has dealt with legal action from businesses suing over defamation, “so they are much stricter about blocking negative or false reviews.” Facebook, however, is newer to the review game, and is beginning to garner negative attention around blatant acts of spam that are not subject to any kind of filtering system.

“The best course of action would really be to drum up as much attention as possible, take the high road, and focus on strategies to rebuild despite the damage done,” Schmidt said. “In the future, we predict that sites like Facebook will be much more regulated after stories like ours continue to surface, but in the meantime, there’s not much a business can do.”


|Subscribe >
National Jeweler

Fine Jewelry Industry News

Since 1906, National Jeweler has been the must-read news source for smart jewelry professionals--jewelry retailers, designers, buyers, manufacturers, and suppliers. From market analysis to emerging jewelry trends, we cover the important industry topics vital to the everyday success of jewelry professionals worldwide. National Jeweler delivers the most urgent jewelry news necessary for running your day-to-day jewelry business here, and via our daily e-newsletter, website and other specialty publications, such as "The State of the Majors." National Jeweler is published by Jewelers of America, the leading nonprofit jewelry association in the United States.