Fake reviews play a key role in business communication as the growth in review websites in recent years has been exponential. Google Maps, TripAdvisor, Yelp are the best known review websites. Their credibility depends on the quality of their business reviews. If the credibility of consumer review websites is undermined by a rising tide of reviews that have been posted online not by bona fide customers, but by unscrupulous and disreputable “online reputation management companies” specialising in “Search Engine Optimisation” (SEO) then their value will be diminished. In traditional industries such as the airline industry, company assets include tangible assets such as aircraft, less tangible assets such as landing slots, intangible assets such as brand image and company reputation, and human resources in various employment grades. In social media enterprises, the distinctions between tangible assets, less tangible assets, intangible assets and human resources do not seem to apply in the same way, as intangible assets predominate, with human resources reduced to a minimum. (TripAdvisor / Yelp) Their core asset, the resource on which this market capitalisation is founded, consists of millions of consumer reviews which they collect online, obviously without having to pay royalties to the reviewers. In cases in which the reputation of the website is undermined by fake reviews, this can have an impact on market capitalisation. The exponential growth in market capitalisation is one of the main reasons why fake reviews are an issue. Another significant reason is that in competition theory, markets can only work effectively and efficiently when the consumer has access to all the information about a product, a company, hotel, restaurant or service. In cases in consumers have access not just to asymmetrical information but also to deliberately misleading reviews falsified by disreputable “reputation management companies” then the efficient working of the market is likely to be undermined. This foregrounds the more general point that the identification of online authors and businesses seems to be increasingly problematic, with new kinds of online fraud reported in the media almost on a daily basis. How can we distinguish between genuine reviews and those posted by "reputation enhancement" companies or employees of the firm under review? Can (should) the law enforcement authorities play any role or adopt sanctions against fake reviews? Multiple studies conclude that online reviews can make or break companies. According to one survey, 90% of consumers say that online reviews influence their buying decisions. A highly-cited Harvard Business School study from 2011 estimated that a one-star rating increase on Yelp translated to an increase of 5% to 9% in revenues for a restaurant. Cornell researchers have found that a one-star swing in a hotel's online ratings at sites like Travelocity and TripAdvisor is tied to an 11% sway in room rates, on average. Gartner projects that by 2014, between 10% and 15% of social media reviews will be fake.
Consumer Review Websites and Reputation Management / Bromwich, William John. - STAMPA. - 1:(2015), pp. 47-48. (Intervento presentato al convegno Discourse, Communication and the Enterprise VIII – Dicoen VIII tenutosi a Napoli nel giugno 2015).