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.
It’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.
Showing off your loyalty towards a brand takes quite a bit of dedication. With the [not-so] recent introductions of location-based services (LBS) apps like foursquare, Gowalla, SCVNGR, Facebook and Yelp, we’re all guilty of “checking-in” to our favorite venues and broadcasting that action to our community of followers.
The drive at first was purely the novelty of the service. Nothing like it existed. But to keep members interested, the services needed to evolve and evolve quickly. Introducing gaming elements like Leaderboards, Mayorships, Dukes, Duchesses, badges and points systems was a no-brainer. The competitiveness, rewards and deals drove growth of the services. But I find myself less and less compelled to continue checking-in and maintain the status levels I’ve achieved at each frequented location. I have to admit, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve capitalized on a reward or deal. Which makes me ask the question; has the market been saturated with heavy-handed check-in members to the point where status levels are no longer obtainable? I don’t know. What I do know is that I’ve held the same 10 Mayorships on foursquare for as long as I can remember and that number rarely ever changes +/-1.
Will I continue to check-in? Sure. But it’s definitely not for the reasons when I first set out using the services. It’s now about what’s next. When I was younger, I worked at a local grocery store. At the beginning of my shift, I would have to punch my time card using this monstrous industrial looking clock. And that’s what LBS feels like to me at this point in time. I’m punching a clock out of necessity and not for the fun-ness factor. It’s kind of like watching HBO’s original series Entourage. The stories and acting get harder to watch season after season, but you stick in there because you have to see how Vince’s career ends.
What do LBS shops have up their sleeves? What’s the next evolution of the service? Which LBS apps do you use? Where do you see the industry going?
Yesterday was the 2nd annual Community Manager Appreciation Day, or CMAD. For those of you that are unfamiliar with this “holiday,” it is a day where we recognize and celebrate the efforts of community managers around the world that use social networks to connect with customers and improve upon those relationships. CMAD is held every 4th Monday in January. Check out the Wiki entry for the “official” word (Reading that last sentence, looks like an oxymoron to me, but I’ll leave it in).
Boston’s CMAD was held at the Asgard in Cambridge, right across the Charles River. I arrived fashionably late (Not by choice, parking is not fun over there). Walking in to the restaurant, I immediately notice how community managers share the same mannerisms. They whip out their iPhone’s and Blackberry’s and check-in on Foursquare. What does this tell me? Community managers practice what they preach. They have a willingness to share their experiences with friends and even complete strangers.
It was a fun and non-threatening atmosphere. Drinks, appetizers and raffles; a winning combo.
Although CMAD is celebrated around the world, it was great to meet community managers that live close by and share experiences in person. Hearing how other companies are leveraging online communities and how community managers are constantly overcoming challenges in their roles, makes it all worth while. It’s makes it that much more fun to be part of something where everyone is excited to be there. I met some great [smart] people and I hope this tradition continues. All in all, a networking opportunity that should not be passed up.
If you want to lean more about this year’s CMAD, here are few resources. Will I see you next year?