The Invisible Hand Sculpting Online Opinions

Jan 20, 2024

Originally posted by Experify's co-founder Niklas Etzel on LinkedIn

Have you ever noticed how some businesses seem to have an overwhelmingly positive online presence? Nearly perfect ratings, glowing reviews – it almost seems too good to be true. And perhaps, in some cases, it is. This brings us to a somewhat controversial strategy in the digital marketplace: selective review solicitation.

What is Selective Review Solicitation?

Imagine you run a business. Would you prefer reviews from customers who are happy with your service or those who aren't? Selective review solicitation is the practice where businesses actively seek feedback from satisfied customers while subtly discouraging or outright ignoring dissatisfied ones. It's like inviting only your applauding fans to write a review while hoping the critics stay silent.

Why Do Businesses Do This?

The answer lies in the power of social proof, a psychological phenomenon where people copy the actions of others in an attempt to undertake behaviour in a given situation. This concept, first coined by Robert Cialdini in his 1984 book, "Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion," explains why we often trust what the crowd trusts. Businesses know that positive reviews can significantly sway consumer decisions. According to a 2020 survey by BrightLocal, 87% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses.

But Is It Ethical?

This is where the waters get murky. On one hand, businesses argue that they’re

just showcasing their best side. However, doesn't this create a biased representation of their service or product? The ethical implications are significant. It can be argued that selective review solicitation manipulates the perception of a business, giving potential customers a skewed view of reality.

The Impact on Consumer Perception

Now, consider being a consumer. How would you feel knowing a business only showed reviews from its happiest customers? This practice can lead to mistrust and skepticism. A study in the Journal of Consumer Research (2013) suggests that consumers are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their interpretation of reviews and can often suspect bias.

The Long-Term Consequences for Businesses

In the short term, selective review solicitation might paint a rosy picture. But what about the long term? Authenticity and transparency are becoming increasingly important to consumers. A 2019 report by Stackla noted that 90% of consumers say authenticity is important when deciding which brands they like and support. Businesses risk damaging their long-term credibility and customer relationships by only showcasing positive reviews.

What's the Alternative?

Instead of selective review solicitation, businesses should encourage all customers to leave feedback. This approach demonstrates confidence in their product or service and provides valuable insights into areas needing improvement. Furthermore, responding to negative reviews in a constructive manner boosts customer trust. It shows that a business values all feedback and is committed to continuous improvement.

The Takeaway: Strive for Authenticity

The allure of a pristine online reputation is strong, but as consumers and businesses, we must champion authenticity.

For consumers, it's about being aware of the potential for review bias. For businesses, it's about embracing the value of honest feedback, even when it's not entirely positive.

Selective review solicitation may quickly boost a business's online image, but the real, lasting value lies in genuine, unfiltered customer experiences. Let's choose a path that favors transparency and authenticity, building trust that endures.

Remember, the full story is often more valuable than a selectively edited narrative in the world of reviews and ratings.