NEW YORK, NY -- (Marketwired) -- 05/06/13 -- According to the team at ReputationChanger.com, reviews submitted by consumers are becoming increasingly commonplace -- and influential with potential customers, which can leave brands at the mercy of anonymous Internet sources, underscoring the need for aggressive online reputation management. While online review sites such as Yelp.com were initially launched to provide customer reviews of restaurants and hotels, user-generated reviews have grown increasingly prevalent across the board -- including in some industries that may shock and surprise. ReputationChanger.com has issued a new statement on the dramatic, ongoing expansion of consumer review sites.
"Initially, online review sites focused mostly on companies in the hospitality industry -- but those days are long gone," remarks Michael Zammuto, president of ReputationChanger.com. "In fact, there are sites to review cannabis clubs, and recent news headlines have drawn attention to an online review site where people can leave reviews for prostitutes -- a sure sign that online reviews are growing more numerous, and in the places you would least expect!"
As sites like Yelp.com expand, they include a greater number and variety of businesses, including "head shops" that sell drug paraphernalia and "gentlemen's clubs," allowing consumers to leave feedback or search for insight into virtually any product or service. Not only are retail, hospitality, and service companies finding their offerings critiqued on these online review sites; medical and dental practices, real estate firms, financial planning offices, and even attorneys have review sites solely devoted to their respective fields.
Zammuto says the reason online review sites are becoming so popular and pervasive is the convenience of the consumer experience. "Thanks to the web, it has never been easier for consumers to do their due diligence and check up on a new product or service before they invest any of their hard-earned money," Zammuto affirms. "The bottom line is that no matter what kind of business you own, you should prepare yourself for online review sites to sweep your industry -- if they have not already."
Though online review sites are only gaining in popularity and in influence, Zammuto says they are not necessarily reliable sources of information. "Internet users love these review sites, and statistics indicate that review sites are trusted more than personal recommendations, even from friends and family members," he comments. "The problem, of course, is that not everything said on these review sites is true. Many companies have taken to penning fake reviews in order to puff up their own brands or to disparage the brands of their competitors."
Fake reviews present a two-edged sword to business owners, however. While some companies have taken to faking their reviews, consumers can also submit reviews that have no basis in fact. "You can make whatever outlandish or defamatory claim you like, no matter whether it is truthful or not, and your comments are protected under the umbrella of free speech," Zammuto remarks. "As such, unhappy and malcontented customers have taken to using review sites as a revenge tool. Additionally, businesses are often besieged by nasty comments from rival brands or from their own disgruntled employees."
At the same time, some reviewers like to focus on the more humorous side of things. Rand Corp recently released a book highlighting entertaining reviews, usually a parody of real products on Amazon.com. "Many of these [reviews] are hilarious," Zammuto continues. "But it highlights the need for companies to take control and tell their own story instead of relying on the Internet to tell it for them."
As online review sites grow more prevalent, so do the hazards faced by business owners. "No business owner is totally impervious to defamatory reviews or unfounded online criticism," Zammuto says. "At Reputation Changer, we understand the dangers online reviews can pose to any company's public perception, which is why we're dedicated to helping companies cultivate strong, positive brands -- brands capable of withstanding any level of online criticism or defamation."
Founded in 2009 by a team of online marketing specialists, ReputationChanger.com reviews the online reputation monitoring, management, and defense needs of clients from across the world. Reputation Changer is devoted to helping businesses and people to seize control over the way they are presented online and to helping clients protect themselves against acts of online defamation. ReputationChanger.com's client list includes Fortune 100 brands, mom and pop stores, small business start-ups, colleges and universities, and even government agencies. Additionally, the company lends it services to public figures, politicians, and celebrities, as well as everyday citizens and lay people.
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