Online shopping has become the norm for consumers and businesses alike. Online customer reviews are especially prevalent. They can be a boon for consumers looking for unbiased product feedback, but they can also be a double-edged sword if not handled properly.
Given that there are countless websites where you can post customer reviews, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that they are often used maliciously to damage your brand or business. This is called defamation via online reviews, and it’s something you need to deal with if you want to protect your brand and reputation from it.
Read on to learn more about how you can fight defamatory online reviews effectively — even if they are written by someone who hates you.
What is Defamation via Online Reviews?
Defamatory online reviews are negative product feedback that you didn’t ask for, didn’t want, and that you don’t deserve. In some countries, it’s even illegal — in others, it’s basically just not cool. These reviews are usually written by a customer who received a bad product, but who doesn’t like the company that made it.
This means that they have a personal grudge against the business and are trying to ruin their reputation and the brand’s reputation through online reviews. Such online reviews are often called “cyberbullying” and “cyber defamation”.
The online review may be a reflection of the customer’s dissatisfaction with the product, but it can also be a reflection of the customer’s dissatisfaction with the company that sold them the product.
Causes of Defamation Through Online Reviews
Online reviews can be defamatory in several different ways, and it’s worth taking a closer look at all of them.
Accusations of Bad Business Practices
If your online reviews start accusing your customers of being liars or of lying about their experience with your product or service, do a little research and find out why.
Most likely, it’s because of bad business practices on your side. Bad Business Practices Accusations don’t just come from your irate online reviewers. If you have a bad reputation for unethical or even illegal business practices, it’s a safe bet that your online reviews will have some accusations thrown their way.
You can protect yourself against these accusations by investigating these claims and learning from them. You can also make amends where you can.
Accusations of Being a Cheater
When someone accuses you of cheating at your job or using unethical business practices, this might be defamation through online reviews. It’s not always the case, but it’s certainly a possibility.
If someone accuses you of lying or cheating in your business, it’s important to take the accusations seriously and look into them. If you find out that you were wrong about these accusations, it’s important to make amends so that you don’t damage your business.
Accusations of Being Unreliable
If someone accuses you of being unreliable in your work, this is defamation through online reviews. Be sure to check and make sure that it’s not due to bad business practices or other factors on your side.
Accusations of Being a Liar
If someone accuses you of lying about your experience with your product or service, this is defamation through online reviews. It’s important to take this accusation seriously and look into it if it’s happening. You don’t have to believe that the accusation is true, but it’s important to not brush it off or let it damage your reputation.
Accusations of Committing Plagiarism
Plagiarism is an especially serious form of defamation through online reviews because it falsely accuses you of stealing someone else’s ideas or work product. You can protect yourself against this accusation by being sure to cite your sources properly in your product descriptions and reviews.
How to Fight Defamatory Online Reviews
1. Prevent Defamatory Online Reviews From Happening
If you set up an online store with the best product and customer experience in mind, the chances are high that you’ll be getting a flood of positive online reviews. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t also look out for potentially defamatory ones.
While it’s impossible to stop people from writing negative online reviews, you can keep your business safe from these malicious posts by taking the right precautions.
Accept Online Reviews From Actual Customers Only
Assigning fake reviews is punishable by law in most countries, and doing so is both unethical and illegal. Using third-party review sites like Trust Pilot and GetFiveStars is recommended.
You can also create a fake online persona to receive real reviews from that person. You can even take it a step further by giving gifts and swag to select reviewers to ensure positive reviews.
Prevent Malicious Reviews
you can use a service like ReviewWizard to prevent customers from posting reviews. It’s a digital firewall that allows you to create a virtual private network (VPN) to mask your store’s IP address. This essentially makes it appear as if you are from a different country, thus saving you from malicious online reviews.
2. Handle Defamatory Online Reviews Immediately
You can’t let defamatory online reviews sit there and fester. If someone posts a negative review, you can’t let it go unanswered. Instead, you must respond to the review right away, and you must do so politely.
You can do this by thanking the reviewer for their honest feedback, and then you can address the post’s inaccuracies. You can also state why the reviewer’s feedback is irrelevant. If the review contains factual inaccuracies, you can quickly get to the bottom of them by doing some fact-checking.
You can also use this opportunity to remind the reviewer that they are posting the review from an address that is fake. You can also include a disclaimer about this, which you can find in our article on marketing disclaimers for online reviews.
3. Defend yourself against Defamatory Online Reviews after the fact
Defamation via online reviews happens, and it can happen to just about anyone. Given this, you need to make sure that you’re ready for when it happens to you.
First, you need to make sure that no one has posted a bad review about you online. Keep an eye out for new reviews, and delete any that are fake. Next, you need to get in contact with the reviewer and resolve the situation. You can do this via email or social media.
Email is preferable since the person is more likely to respond to you than they would be if you were in contact with them via social media. You can use your email signature to include a link to your response and let the person know that you will be replying to them.
Note: Negative Online Reviews Isn’t Always Defamatory
When you read through reviews, you should remember that a negative review isn’t always defamatory. There may be good reasons for the customer who left the review to be dissatisfied with the product or the service.
Stay vigilant: Use Reputation Management Strategies
You can fight defamation via online reviews by staying vigilant. You should constantly be looking out for online reviews and responding promptly to defamatory ones. You can use reputation management strategies to protect your brands, like social monitoring software and free keyword analysis tools.
It is a Software as a Service (SaaS) based solution that constantly adds and enhances features to grow with the internet and the industry. Small businesses, multi-location, and enterprises will find the right combination of features to drive your business up.
It is a robust resolution to cultivate and manage your customer feedback and online reviews. With dozens of options, and customizations, to satisfy your customer experience goals. Some of the options are:
- Generating Review & Feedback
- Reputation & Review Monitoring
- Marketing & SEO
The Internet has become a great place to shop and find products, but it can also be a great place to find online reviews that are often defamatory. Defamation via online reviews is a phenomenon that is damaging to brands and businesses.
You need to prevent these defamatory reviews from happening and handle them immediately. After the fact, fend off false claims in a lawsuit, or stay vigilant and use reputation management strategies, you can fight defamation via online reviews.
The best way to deal with them is by taking measures to prevent them from happening in the first place. And, once they happen, you can defend yourself by contacting the reviewer and replying to their post.
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Online Reviews and the Problems They Can Cause
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