Just as the twitter world rages the debate on @Zomato credibilities, we couldn’t help but notice what a tweet-head had to say, “The only thing I value about Zomato are the menus of restaurants. Helps me plan my meal. For reviews, I rely on blogs.”
Interesting take on user reviews posted on Zomato and all such similar sites. As the twitter community glorifies and shoots down the credibility of these user reviews posted on Zomato, it was imperative for us to understand the anatomy of this phenomena called user reviews.
Understand we did, and we did not have to go too far for it. Our elder siblings at Akosha have all been too aware of this phenomenon and how!
For nth time, an Akosha representative sent out a mail to a client who was supposedly so impressed by a shopping website that he insisted on posting a ‘positive’ review of the site on Akosha’s complaints page. Oh yes-The complaints page. May be we were not clear enough, but folks it is a complaints page, and last we checked, a complaint meant a negative issue that needed sorting out-not a paragraph singing praises of a particular brand.
The obvious stupidity of this endeavor aside, what was more appalling was that these so called ‘complaint’ reviews about the same shopping website kept flooding Akosha, ostensibly from different users (see images below). Only that the language and style (or the lack of it), triggered a nagging doubt about the multiplicity of the sources of these reviews about that ‘awesome’ website.
This scam of sorts had us thinking, of all those reviews that we had ever read on the user review websites and we couldn’t help but wonder, “What if?”
The Problem With Public Reviews
The public review model in itself is a fairly difficult model in terms of objectivity and impartiality. While the model itself functions on the user biases, it can also be used by the brands/companies in question as a mode of promotion via third parties, masked as a user review, lending it the credibility of a user based platform while actually using it blatantly for promotion. In case of Zomato, we are at least aware of its role as a social media marketing agent of certain brands- what is worst is when the activities are covert. And even more disturbing when this platform is used for generating negative publicity for the competition.
We do not intend to pass a judgment on any of these websites nor is our intention to disparage any particular brand reviewed by them. What we intend to do is to simply highlight the ambiguity that is inherent in the user/public review model itself, social media marketing (as in case of Zomato) notwithstanding. It is undoubtedly a double edged sword, equally potent for both promotion and disparagement.
We treat our readers as discerning individuals, capable of making their own reasoned decisions. All we have to say is next time if we stumble upon a user review, we are going to take it with a bagful of salt.