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Op/Ed

Review marketing platform sales even more deceptive than their products

(EDITORIAL) Some agent review platforms use misleading stats to sell their products, and some lead agents down the path of illegal review fraud – are you up to date on the topic?

realtor ratings realtor reviews

You are being lied to. By now, most real estate professionals (especially those trying to better understand if collecting ratings and reviews is the right path to boost their business and if so how) have seen the stat that claims 88% of consumers trust reviews as much or more than personal recommendations.

This claim is regularly cited by marketing companies trying to sell you on the benefits of their “review” platforms. That makes sense, and wow, it must really be powerful if that many consumers blindly trust the real estate reviews they see – you better get started, right?

Hold the phone. This stat, to provide real estate context and add credibility, is often linked to a CREA article on the importance of reviews for real estate agents (oh, and they want Canadian Realtors to sign up for their “review” platform). However, that article is linked to a 2014 study that has nothing to do with real estate services and clearly states that of the 88%, 30% only trust the reviews if they believe them to be authentic, and another 26% only trust reviews for some types of businesses but not others.

Do you think real estate is a business consumers are skeptical of? You’re smart, you know the answer to that.

Much like the “ratings” platforms these marketing companies are promoting, they will never give the complete, honest, and transparent answer; the truth. Because the truth would not help them push a product designed to “help” market filtered reviews that is more likely to damage an agent or broker’s professional reputation in the long term, but the story they have spun feels nice and is less scary than honest (potentially critical) customer feedback, with the transparency and accountability that goes along with it.

The truth, based on the same study they are pulling their deceptive statistics from, indicates that closer to only 32% of consumers may blindly trust real estate reviews. With all of the recent fake news and review fraud studies today, the number is likely even lower than it was 4-7 years ago (when the data for the cited study was collected).

The Real Daily’s Definitive Guide to Real Estate Ratings & Review Platforms, 2018 Edition was the first to objectively investigate the services available based on trustworthiness of the reviews collected and published.

Google and Yelp are taking a stand against Review-Gating (the practice of only requesting reviews from satisfied clients). Google has changed their Terms of Service, in part based on the efforts of Jason Brown of ReviewFraud.org and other pioneers trying to expose those companies, sites, and services that engage in deceptive and even illegal behavior that is harmful to consumers.

Agents who hire someone to write reviews for themselves or their competitors, or use a service that allows, suggests, or helps collect only positive customer feedback, are participating, supporting and associating themselves with review fraud. FRAUD, you guys. These are lies of omission and deceptive marketing, and in many cases outright illegal. Be part of the problem or part of the solution. It is your choice.

Learn the ins and outs by checking out “Fake Reviews and Review Fraud,” an online event this Thursday that includes Jason Brown and Kevin Romito, President of RatedAgent/QSC from the real estate industry.

For decades, including a recent gathering in the desert that produced The Parker Principles – a 12 point Manifesto, industry leaders have been calling for greater transparency, accountability, higher standards and quality service to benefit consumers.

In public, very few argue the other side – who would?

Then why is nearly every review platform designed for real estate agents void of serious standards, accountability and transparency, with some even admitting their “reviews” are for marketing purposes only and cannot contribute to improving the customer experience?

Because they know the data collected is selective and it’s not that they don’t care; in many cases it is actually by design, while others find it is easier to claim a secret algorithm or that an icon of a shield does enough to imply authenticity.

Do you like to be lied to? Neither do consumers.

How can one establish a relationship that requires trust while sharing data that has been manipulated for personal gain? This goes for the review services that help agents “get more positive reviews” and then by extension the agents that buy into and use these less than transparent review platforms.

We believe in ratings and reviews and the value they can have to consumers in selecting a professional service provider. We do not believe review fraud, in any form, benefits anyone other than the marketing companies who profit from it and those agents that cannot compete on the reality of their own service standards, so they can literally “fake it ‘til they make it.”

Like many under-regulated, yet powerful early stage technologies and innovations, how they are deployed directly impacts the potential for benefit or harm to society.

Want to honestly “get more positive reviews”? Use transparent feedback to ensure you are providing your best service, learn from your mistakes to provide even better service, then repeat, repeat, repeat.

Lani is the COO and News Director at The American Genius, has co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH, Austin Digital Jobs, Remote Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

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