Small-business owners were nervous when Facebook recently began letting people leave reviews and star ratings on their business pages, a practice similar to sites like Yelp or Google+ Local. Now they’re discovering flaws in the ratings system and saying Facebook reviews are hurting their business’s reputation.
Some business owners are so irate that they’ve formed their own Facebook page called Change FB Ratings to vent about the issue. (The page recently had almost 500 “likes.”) Kim Harrington wrote that her window business—Paneless Home Services of Carrollton, Texas—received several fake negative ratings after promoting an offer on the company’s Facebook page. She wrote:
“I tried to boost an offer on my business page today and I may never do it again. I received five new reviews from people who have never tried my service all rating us between 1-3 stars and lowering our true 5 star rating. I will not continue to boost with no control over who is allowed to rate.”
Another business owner said his page received a low rating before his company even opened. “Anonymous ratings need to go away,” wrote Steve Miles. “I have a brand new business that hasn't even opened yet and someone (probably an erstwhile competitor) already gave me a bunch of 1-star ratings. This ‘feature’ is a joke that makes Facebook LESS VALUABLE.”
The problem, critics say, is that people can leave Facebook reviews anonymously, so it’s easy for an unscrupulous competitor or disgruntled customer to leave bad reviews or low ratings to harm a company’s reputation. Anonymity also makes it impossible for a business to track down customers who leave negative reviews and to try and remedy their issue.
Some businesses are so frustrated that they’re trying to trick Facebook into removing the star ratings from their page, such as by deleting their address or choosing a non-business category in their page description, but obviously those aren’t ideal solutions for businesses trying to use Facebook as a promotional tool.
Anonymous online reviews have become a problem across many online review sites, and is leading to legal battles, according to PCWorld.com. A Virginia court last week ordered Yelp to hand over the identities of several people who left negative reviews of a carpet-cleaning business.
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