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Reviews: Don't get caught doing this; you will be ruined.

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In yesterday's Daily Golden Nugget we told you about Citysearch.com and presented a case study of Roslyn Jewelry in NYC who has bad reviews dating back to 2002 and obviously spammy reviews in the past two years.

Citysearch requires a monthly PPC advertising commitment of at least $299 before they allow you to rebut your reviews. Instead of paying, Roslyn took the frugal approach by creating 4 bogus user accounts each with 1 review. These reviews were posted on the same date, which is a red flag for bogus reviews.

As we said a few days ago, online reviews are forms of user generated content that will help or hurt your business. On the other hand, if done correctly they are also forms of direct marketing.

If you find yourself in the same unfortunate Citysearch position as Roslyn, and you want to take the frugal approach, then we suggest a different strategy to polish off your tarnished (silver) reputation.

Before you answer your online negative reviews, you need to clean your own house. To do this you need to read the reviews and take action to correct the issues. Those negative reviews will make you mad, but you have to find constructive ways to deal with them.

If it turns out that you yourself are the reason for the bad reviews then perhaps some soul searching might be in order. Consider some new entrepreneurial education books or seminars, maybe even some brush up reading about customer service.

Once your house is in order you can move on to tactical reputation management.

If your online reviews are abysmal it will take some time to polish them up. This is not a simple visit to the Sonic. You might need to start picking that grease out of the filigree!

These are the strategic steps we suggest for correcting your bad Citysearch Reputation. Remember, these steps are only suggested as a frugal approach for Citysearch.

1. Create a fake user account.

2. Go to your business listing and post a 4-star review, not a 5 star because you can't simply jump from 0 or 1 star up to 5 stars. It just wouldn't seem natural.

3. In this review you want to present yourself as a customer that was initially upset, but then satisfied. The review should say something like this: "I really wish I had read these reviews before go there, but everything worked out. My experience with them started out with this bad blah blah blah... but then they apologized, admitted their mistakes and went above and beyond what was expected. They've earned my trust back."

4. Repeat some time later, suggested no sooner than 1 month with another 4-star review. After a few months you could create a 5-star review.

Citysearch Strategy Notes:
* This suggested strategy actually goes against the ethics of the owners of jWAG and Sapphire Collaborative (www.sapphirecollaborative.com) . However there are times when we can all justify these types of actions. One such case is if you have truly corrected the issues in your store and are facing down the barrel of financial ruin.

* Before you tow the ethical line you could also call upon your favorite customers to write their own reviews on Citysearch.com. Specifically Citysearch, nowhere else.

* If you do proceed with the contrived reviews then with each of these fake user accounts you should also take the time to write at least one other review of another local store. Consumers may suspect review spam if the user account has a single review. The easiest thing to do is write a good review for another business in town, or maybe a business associate from your LeTip, BNI, Chamber of Commerce or other networking group.

* The goal is to tell a contrived story explaining how you (the fake customer) had a bad experience but then the jewelry store went above and beyond to correct the problem and turned you into a converted happy customer.

* The level of detail in your story should match the level from the customer complaints. Don't over embellish.

* Illustrating customer service is important. One way to illustrate this would be to mention how a delivery date was promised on a specific date 7 or 10 days later, but then you actually get it done sooner.

In conclusion, what we presented here is a marketing strategy to manage a tarnished online reputation. This is one of the approaches a hired Reputation Management Consultant would take. The practice might go against your ethics, and ours, and it's also against the terms of service of Citysearch.

LIFE WARNING: Do not get caught. Never mention this to your employees, your kids, or anyone else you would not entrust your life or livelihood to. You could be ruined publicly and financially if this strategy ever became public.
AT: 07/21/2011 11:41:18 AM   LINK TO THIS GOLD NUGGET
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