When I wrote How to Write a MerchantCircle Review, the Merchant Circle Marketing Advisor D. Marcus Keith whom you may know as ADMAXX at Twitter DMed me. He suggested that what my readers really needed was how NOT to write a MerchantCircle review. Since he has far more experience at MerchantCircle I invited him to write this Guest Post.
How NOT To Write a MerchantCircle Review
~ Guest Post by D. Marcus Keith ~
Early on in its development, MerchantCircle distinguished itself by being “business owner centric”. Other business review sites such as Yelp and Insider Pages are “consumer-centric.” The Web 2.0 community has been split on this issue. Sites like Yelp posit that reviews must be real and they actively monitor for abuses – phony positive reviews that smack of disingenuous platitudes.
In fact, on sites like Yelp and Angie’s List, a poorly written (or even well written) POSITIVE review can easily be removed. (We know because we’ve had people tell us their positive reviews on those sites get tagged and removed.
On the other hand, getting a negative review removed – even when the negative review has all of the earmarks of being phony or possibly written by an unscrupulous competitor – can be next to impossible.
And therein lay the rub: We have seen numerous examples of prominent business owners being smeared unfairly by phony negative reviews. The idea of a business-centric review site like MC giving members more control over review content has some merit. There is no single perfect solution, i.e., one that would maintain full integrity of both positive and negative review content.
While the Web 2.0 bloggers debate the merits of business-centric vs. consumer-centric protocol, there has been some unexpected controversy – specifically on both Yelp and Angie’s List. These sites that trumpet the pristine nature of their consumer-centric basis have been rocked with allegations of “advertising extortion” and disingenuous review manipulation working both for and against business owners who either opt for or against the advertising purchase proposals floated to them by ad sales reps.
According to Kathleen Richard writing for East Bay Express (Yelp and the Business of Extortion 2.0, February 18, 2009): Local business owners say Yelp offers to hide negative customer reviews of their businesses on its web site for a price. During interviews with dozens of business owners over a span of several months, people told East Bay Express that Yelp sales representatives promised to move or remove negative reviews if their business would advertise.
In other instances, according to the article:
…positive reviews disappeared — or negative ones appeared — after owners declined to advertise on Yelp.
So clearly the consumer-centric model is not all it’s cracked up to be. It can be prone to abuse motivated by both an advertising sales model and sneaky unscrupulous competitors.
So what about MC and its business-centric directory model? It deserves some criticism:
Can the reviews be relied upon if business owners can delete a bad review on sight?
Well perhaps not entirely, but it is certainly no less valid than the flawed current consumer-centric model, and in fact much less prone to the worst kinds of abuse as typified by Yelp and Angie’s.
The MC model is vulnerable to a different sort of abuse, perhaps more benign, wherein members are encouraged to write reviews for fellow business owners – a sort of you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours environment. This gives rise to a distinct degradation of quality where members who are not pro copywriters come across often with cheesy-sounding commercial hype typified by this one:
The Glass Guy provides a Mobile Glass Replacement Service for residential and commercial properties including town homes, schools, apartment complexes and private homes, as well as storefronts, office parks and complexes. He has been in business since 1991.
The Glass Guy takes pride in his fast friendly service. He offers very competitive pricing with the highest level of quality. Most service providers must charge for a temporary board-up, and then add a follow up charge for return and installation of the proper glass. The extensive inventory he carries in his mobile shops usually enables him to complete the glass installation on the first service call. He even does shower enclosures!
If you need any kind of window, shower or glass needs, give Ken a call!
The above review was written by a well-intended fellow MC member who has never used the business that was reviewed and comes across like a radio announcer’s advertisement.
Another variety of MC review misuse is this:
CheetahSigns.com is proud to have you connected to us! Thank you very much! If ever you are looking for signs or printed materials, feel free to drop me an email or give me a call! www.CheetahSigns.com
Above we have the fellow business owner who is oblivious that despite the words ‘Write a Review’ he writes a personal thank you and simultaneously plugs his own business instead.
And then we have this – a hybrid of phony positive review combined with a spammy plug:
HAVE PETS? WILL TRAVEL is the best of the best! THEY ACTUALLY REALLY CARE ABOUT THE QUALITY OF THEIR WORK AND SERVICES. Thank you for connecting with CALIFORNIA CUSTOM SOLAR. We wish you all the success you deserve. If you or anyone you know is interested in solar electric please contact us. Let our 20 years of solar experience show you how solar pays. WE WERE GREEN BEFORE GREEN WAS COOL! LET THE SUNSHINE IN 777-777-7777
Above we have a business member who basically posts the same repeated message to MC member reviews, hundreds of times over. Also note the excessive use of all caps.
And finally the worst kind of offender – pure spam in the review section – without mention even of the particular member’s business:
Celebrating Home (Formerly Known as Home and Garden Party and Home Interiors) is a great new party plan with home decor. We have wonderful fundraising opportunities for groups and individuals. I would enjoy working with you. My website is www.xxxxxxx.com., Jeannie Xxx, Now Hiring!
The four examples given are typical of what we consider How NOT to Write an MC Review. To MC’s further credit, the community discussion forum for MC members routinely identifies the abusers of the review process – members policing members in a very positive way. This is a good reflection of MC’s CEO Ben Smith who is a cosummate user – not just developer/promoter – of Social Media and is quite active and accessible via Social Media channels.
So what us the “correct” way to write a legitimate business review? Below are some general guidelines:
HOW TO WRITE GOOD BUSINESS REVIEWS:
What to include:
- Be honest and be interesting
- Focus on what you think your friends would want to know to make a decision about whether to use this business
- Reviews should be as specific and detailed as possible
- Reviews must be based on firsthand experience
- Use descriptive words; be clear and concise; avoid writing in all caps
What not to include:
- Offensive language
- References to illegal activity
- Personal information, such as phone numbers, addresses, etc.
- Messages that are clearly advertisements or commercial in nature
The most important thing about writing reviews is to tell the truth about your experience with that business. Never write a business review based on the secondhand experience of someone else.
Here’s an example of a good review (that could be positive or negative):
- Amazing school, Professional instructors, and Great environment to learn! I’m currently a student at this school and was referred by a close friend of mine. I was always interested in learning a type of “Martial Arts” and after looking at many types I never have once regretted my choice. It is a great learning experience for people of all ages whether it is for exercise, self defense, stress relief, or something just to take your mind off the day. Class times are extremely flexible and work around all types of schedules. If at all interested in martial arts, try it out and I’m sure you’ll be hooked like me
And what if you are on the receiving end of a bad review? Lynnea Bylund addressed that in a recent blog post How to Handle Negative Reviews of Your Business.
D. Marcus Keith oversees interactive content and marketing strategy for the Catalyst House group of companies and heads up its ADMAX Local Search and MerchantCircle Advisor unit.