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September 8, 2011

Online Community Brand Tarnished?

by Dan Marotta

Boston.com - How many times have you Googled a hotel name and found a TripAdvisor review show up? How many times have you clicked on that link to read the review? How many of those reviews were fake?

Seems the last question is causing quite a stir in the travel industry. TripAdvisor is now under investigation by the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) over concerns that reviews from “travelers” aren’t really from travelers, and aren’t legitimate reviews.

According to the UK’s Daily Mirror, “As many as five million of the most current reviews on the website could be fake,” according to Chris Emmins, co-founder of online reputation management company KwikChex.com.

5 Star RatingIt’s a rather ironic and unfortunate situation. Online communities, like TripAdvisor mentioned above, rely on its members for trusted reviews, in this case, within the hospitality industry. As these online communities build up a cache of reviews, they themselves become a trusted destination for peer reviews. Now, their reputation is in the balance.

For TripAdvisor’s sake, I hope they can rebound from this PR hiccup. I actually think they have a real opportunity here. If they can work towards a solution of curbing the activity of fake reviewing that goes beyond their terms & conditions and community guidelines, other branded online communities could leverage this best practice to ensure the integrity of their own [products, services] reviews.