This is kind of a taboo topic.
When I shop online the very first thing I look at are the reviews. Overtime, I've even fabricated a somewhat complex algorithm to determine if a product is worth purchasing based on them. How many reviews does it have? What's the overall number of stars? What is the content of those reviews? What is the 1 star to 5 star ratio? Etc.
It's kind of ridiculous.
But I get it. People want to buy things that other people recommend. At least, for mass produced products, I completely understand.
There are some fundamental problems with buying things this way, though. First, literally anyone can leave a review. Sometimes the review will say "verified" to imply that the person purchased the product. But from what I understand, this is easy to get past. The scary thing is, a no name brand can pay people to leave tons of 5 star reviews on a bad product and the average consumer is none the wiser. This happened to me once when I purchased a computer mouse that ended up being terrible.
I think they're called sponsored reviews.
Second, the same goes for bad reviews. Literally anyone with an internet connection can leave a bad review. A competitor. A stranger. A troll. To safeguard this, companies give business owners the ability to dispute a review but only according to their guidelines. This means that, typically, as long as the review doesn't include hate speech, swears, or less than PG content, it stays regardless of whether or not it's real. These safeguards are essentially worthless.
The companies that host reviews want as many as possible and are very hesitant to remove them because the more reviews they have, good or bad, the more money they end up making.
I haven't dealt with this personally, but I've heard so many horror stories of businesses ruined because they couldn't get negative or fake reviews removed.
Now to be fair, some business are just bad and deserve negative reviews. That's fine. But for people like me that offers a service, it can be detrimental. You see, I don't offer a mass produced product. Every client, every wedding, every guest that I encounter at a wedding is different. Since I am not a robot, but a person offering a service, my relationships with them are equally unique.
Since the name of my business is my real name, literally every interaction I have with anyone, casual or professional, can come back to me. Bad break up? A vindictive ex girlfriend could get all her friends to go online and leave bad reviews. (just hypothetical) My personality rubbed someone the wrong way at a wedding? They could go online and leave a bad review!
In fact, it could literally be something I said in this blog or any others that might trigger someone. It takes just minutes for them and they may enjoy the satisfaction of hurting someone, but for me it would take days if not weeks of fighting with review sites to take them down, if at all.
Thankfully, I haven't had to deal with any of this and my reviews so far have been stellar. I've been blessed with such incredibly amazing clients that absolutely astound me with their thoughtfulness and warmth. But I've also encountered people in my personal and professional life that just by nature hate everything or are just having a bad day when I crossed paths. It's just life, and it's just the way people are. We're impulsive, prone to mood swings, have emotional scars, and we're largely a product of what has happened to us.
But in the middle of all our human weaknesses, we can love, be selfless, and choose to be happy.
Let's be real. On my end, I can't really do anything about our reviews culture. All I can do is be honest and offer the best services I can with enthusiasm and sincerity. It's a good thing that I want the best for my clients, honest to God. It occurred to me the other day that I have a job where I would never want to call in sick. And just for that, I count myself blessed.
UPDATE January 24th, 2018:
IT'S HAPPENED. Not to me, but to one of my photographer friends. She woke up this morning with three fake reviews on her Google listing, all negative, from people she doesn't know. I don't envy the headache that's about to follow for her to get those reviews removed.