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What is ‘astroturfing’?

By Lisa Goldsberry

Learn to tell the difference between a genuine product review and a fake one.


When looking for a new restaurant to try or a hotel room in a strange city, you might decide to consult online reviews to get information, weigh your options and decide which choice is best for you. But how do you know which are real and which are fake? Just like those beautiful fields you see at the stadium, the grass might look lush and real, but sometimes it’s not.


For every product or service you want to purchase, there are so many choices that it can give you a headache just thinking about it. Competition for your business is fierce and companies will go to almost any length to sway your opinion, including paying people to write comments and post fake reviews. But fear not – follow these tips and you’ll command the knowledge and skills necessary to distinguish the legitimate from the bogus.



Research the reviewing site. Several sites have lost their cases when challenged on the authenticity of posted reviews and comments, such as Yelp and Trip Advisor.


Look at the criteria the site requires for those allowed to post reviews.

  • Does it have an open policy where anyone can post reviews, or is it more strict?
  • Do you have to sign in with your real name, or can you use an alias?

There are ways to ensure that anyone posting a review is an actual customer, like requiring a special code or number found on the payment receipt.


Don’t just trust the company website for reviews. Sometimes, companies fill their own comment sections with fake positive reviews in an effort to boost their online reputations. Often, a closer look will tell the true tale. When you look at independent sites, do the reviews basically match those on the company’s own site?


Check the language and style of writing in the review. Most people are not professional writers and it shows in their reviews. Real reviews are not written perfectly, and while the praise may be good, it should raise a red flag when it is excessively complimentary. Also, when you see exact product names or the reviewer takes the time to point out details like the model number, watch out.


Someone who has actually used the item is more likely to describe how he used it and how well it did the job. When describing a service, people typically mention the aspects most people care about. For example, if a friend told you about his wonderful stay at a hotel, you probably would not be fascinated by information about the lobby. Overall, a genuine review should not read like text from a brochure or product packaging. 


Notice when reviews are posted. Most sites make note of the date and time a comment was made. If you observe a large accumulation of posts within a very short span of time, this should set off alarms in your mind. Did they all buy and use the product at the exact same time and then all decide to post reviews together? Doubtful.


Trust PR for consumer and product review assistance. Of course, every company wants to attract repeat customers and create Internet buzz over its products and services. However, that doesn’t mean you have to resort to deceptive tactics to get it. 


At Axia, we can show you the right ways to promote positive (and real) consumer and product reviews for your company. In addition, we work to manage your online reputation (http://www.axiapr.com/what-we-do/reputationrestoration) to help you handle the haters who post negative reviews about you. Download our e-book (http://www.axiapr.com/resources-ebooks) Online Reputation Management or give us a call today to learn more.

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Lisa Goldsberry is a writer for Axia Public Relations with more than 15 years of public relations experience. She specializes in business, higher education and technology PR. Connect with Axia Public Relations on Twitter at www.twitter.com/axiapr.

Photo credit: Think Stock Photos, Photographer: BrianAJackson


Topics: public relations, online review management

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