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How to Legally Post Online Reviews


You need to share your positive reviews? You want better reviews? What about deleting the negative reviews?


The Ins and Outs → Online Reviews

Every business in the digital age needs to enable online reviews. Consumers have numerous choices, and brand reputation is an easy metric for picking one company over the other. Onboarding your company onto review platforms might seem daunting, but don’t worry we can help you with that, check out Best Practices for Capturing Online Reviews.


An integral aspect to understanding and maintaining your brand reputation, is understanding the legality of online reviews. Yes, there are laws at play in this area. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has worked to curb fake reviews and endorsements. We want consumers to absorb legitimate content so they make the best decisions for themselves.


Don’t worry, we will walk you through the basics and the legalese (the convoluted language that lawyers speak) so you have a solid understanding of how you can protect your online presence and the consumer experience.


“Fake” is Fraudulent

It is tempting, we understand. Your business is awesome, but it just needs that little padding of positive, happy, reviews so customers on a Yelp hunt trust your services.


Don’t Do It.


The FTC cracked down on fake reviews posted internally by businesses and classified the practice as, “using unfair or deceptive acts or practices in or affecting commerce.” The agency can and will penalize a business for posting fake reviews.


Further, your online presence should not be limited to a company website, you’ll be using the services of third party platforms such as Instagram, Yelp, Facebook, Google My Business, and the list goes on. Each of these platforms has their own policies regarding the posting of false customer testimonials. When they catch you (“when,” not “if” – they have intelligent algorithms that sniff out fake reviews) they can temporarily or even permanently ban your posts and accounts.


Again, Don’t Do It.


As if you needed further reason to not post fraudulent content, but the internet is a surprisingly small space. Word travels fast and there are communities of people interested in similar services. People talk. Customers are quick to protect the interests of their peers and provide a heads up on social media that Business A pads their customer reviews.


We’re established, what you should absolutely, 100%, not do. But don’t panic, all hope is not lost – there are methods and tricks of the trade that your business can use to beef up their online reviews and protect their brand reputation.


What Can I Do?

It’s important to be mindful of the goals you are hoping to achieve. How can brand reputation help you meet that goal? A common goal → boosted profits. Brand reputation is an integral part of reaching that aspiration. Providing a highly ranked online presence, and addressing customer concerns will reflect in a healthy brand reputation.


Happy Customers → Healthy Brand Reputation → Repeat and New Transactions

1. Ask for Feedback


There is nothing wrong with asking customers for their feedback after they’ve interacted with your business. BUT, there are considerations and guidelines companies should follow to avoid FTC complaints and preserve their reputation.


Go forth in asking for reviews, or entering into partnerships with influencers, but do so with a cautious mind and keeping these points in mind:


Know the Platform → third party review companies generally have their own specifications for solicited reviews. For instance, most social media requires that a partnership between a business and an influencer be disclosed openly. Absolutely follow the platform’s rules.


Provide Personal Experience → companies do not want to ask for reviews from people who haven’t used or first-hand experienced the specific product or service. At that point, you’re paying for a review. Aim for as honest of a review as possible.


Encourage Customers to Review → customers can be encouraged to review and provide feedback after their experience with your business. However, they cannot be told that only positive reviews are desired. You want it all, the good, the bad, and the meh.


Incentivize Reviews → you can offer a coupon for a return visit to customers that provide a review, but do not condition receipt of the incentive on the review being positive. Best practice is for the review itself to disclose that the reviewer received an incentive.


The bottom line in following consumer protection law is transparency and honesty. The FTC wants customers to enjoy a legitimate experience when choosing a product or service. As long as you keep transparency and honesty in mind, these guidelines will be easier to follow.

2. Share the Good!


When you get a positive review, celebrate and capitalize! There are ways to share your positive reviews to maximize your digital presence while protecting your customers’ privacy and interests.


Know the Platform → again, we defer to the platform. Third party platforms’ policies will most likely have language devoted to sharing of customer reviews. You may not actually have the ability to share reviews from some sites, it’s best to check out their policies before sharing a customer testimonial to your website and elsewhere.


Ask Your Customers → when sharing reviews, you will start to get a sense of what is appropriate to share and isn’t. It is better to act with caution (a lawyer’s favorite state of mind) and ask the reviewer for permission to share their post prior to sharing. Most customers don’t mind, they may even think it’s exciting! But, some really do value their privacy. Asking for permission is a low cost, high value action when it comes to protecting a business.


NOTE: Be mindful of posting reviews that have personal information (names, addresses etc.) and always, always, always ask permission before re-posting reviews with pictures of children.


Disclaimers → posting disclaiming language won’t be possible on every platform, but it’s definitely an option on personal websites. Consider asking a lawyer for help in drafting a disclaimer that states the business reserves the rights to share comments and reviews.


Don’t be shy about your positive reviews! Just always act deliberately and with transparency and honesty in the forefront of your brand reputation.

3. Address the Bad


Unfortunately, the day will come when you see a notification pop up with a one-star review. Take a minute, process, but understand you can’t please everyone and this is part of the business world.


There are a couple things to keep in mind when addressing bad reviews, to capitalize on the customer’s testimonial.


Learn From The Experience → bad reviews need not always be seen as a negative, soul-crushing thing. Businesses do themselves a service by replying, messaging, or asking the unhappy customer how this experience can be rectified. Address negative reviews QUICKLY and you might preserve that customer relationship. Additionally, businesses should absolutely learn from their negative reviews. Consider investing in software or even creating an internal database where you catalog your bad reviews. This will ensure that internally, the business is held accountable to track and maintain metrics to stop repetitive mistakes. Sorry for the second plug, but check out our Best Practices for Capturing Online Reviews for further details on how to practice brand reputation effectively.


Don’t Remove Everything → resist the primal urge to delete and report that review. Remember, we want to encourage transparency and honesty. And those traits are preserved when you leave the negative, but fair reviews open for the world to see. Additionally, third party platforms don’t take kindly to frivolous review reporting, they will not delete every review that bothers a business.


Do Remove The Blatantly Untrue → it is fine to request that a third party platform (they often have language in their policies encouraging this) remove a review that is so outlandishly “not okay.” Where a review is spam, clearly from someone who has never interacted with your business, or disrespectful (racist, bigotted, etc.) you can absolutely request the review be deleted. Review platforms are fair and they do not want content of that nature on their sites either – ironically, they have to preserve their brand reputation as well!


Changing the mindset of negative reviews from “bad,” to learning experiences will help your business to capitalize instead of wallowing (it’s okay to wallow some too, we’re only human.)


There you have it, a (relatively) quick look at the world of posting online reviews. If you have any questions or would like more information, check us out as www.gregbutlerlaw.com


(760) 692-7543 | www.gregbutlerlaw.com


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