Recomazing.com founder and ceo Mark Power decided to set up a fake business, called Social Bites Catering, to test the legitimacy of online reviews.
And he was horrified when the business won a customer service award.
“We had a feeling some businesses were trying to play the system and buy their way into it,” Power said.
The fake business took just two hours of his time and cost only $154,which bought it a social following of over 20,000 followers.
The team sent review sites pictures of catering pretending to be customers alongside accompanying illegitimate reviews.
That $154 also bought five star reviews on some of the major review sites that people rely on to make purchase decisions.
‘To our horror it is big business. People are making a living by creating a fake advocacy for businesses and fake reviews for brands and they get paid for doing so,” Power said.
The key criteria for winning a customer service award, generated by a key leading review site, included the following: a certain number of reviews received, a certain percentage of those to be highly positive, and for none of them to be fraudulent.
However obviously, all of the ones Power’s fake site submitted were fake, but yet the fake company was able to win the customer service award, with the review site having not picked up on the fact the criteria wasn’t met.