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It’s been an interesting couple weeks for those who post online reviews..and those who are at the mercy of them.

Conversations about the credibility and independence of reviews on Yelp, Amazon, Angieslist and other sites have been dinner table topic for social media pundits for years.   Yes – sometimes the waiter is rude.  The product didn’t work.  Or the reservation agent was disinterested in your plight.  But how do we decide when to pick up the social media megaphone and complain in public… and when to just chalk it up to a single bad experience.  

The last couple days has seen a lot of great coverage on these topics.  On one hand – the relevance and importance of the online reviews (and the damage a poor review can have on a business) has never been greater (a recent SAP study reports).

At the same time, the decision to ‘go legal’ to defend against (arguably unwarranted) negative reviews appears to be an increasingly popular option.  Click here to read about this trend.     What happens when a single (stupid) action by one employee (that would have gone unnoticed 5 years ago by the internet echo chamber)  threatens to destroy a small business?    Who is the Social Megaphone helping or hurting here?

What say you?  Have online reviews become a sniping ground for competitors and petty complaints?  As a brand when would you choose to ‘go nuclear’ and call in the lawyers to defend your brand against a negative review?  Where is that line? 

(And I ask as someone who personally is struggling to resist posting a negative review about my last car rental experience – with 2 weeks passing since I contacted their so-called customer “service” department to fix it.)

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