Realizing the perils of social media for any commercial activity, an online business reviews company Yelp (NYSE: YELP) is trying to bring some order to social chaos.
Yelp announced Thursday that it will be taking additional steps to protect consumers from biased reviews. The company will place a consumer alert message on a business’s profile page when it determines that there have been significant efforts to purchase fake reviews to mislead consumers.
At this stage, social media sites are just for some idle junkies who have plenty of time to waste by just hanging around there. These sites are not yet ready for any serious online marketing. (Read: Five Bitter Truths about Social Media)
“Yelp has become so influential in the consumer decision making process that some businesses will go to extreme lengths to bolster their reviews,” said Eric Singley, vice president of consumer products and mobile, Yelp. “While our filter already does a great job of highlighting the most useful content, we think consumers have a right to know when someone is going to great lengths to mislead them.”
The consumer alert will call attention to attempts to purchase reviews for a business profiled on Yelp. When consumers click on the alert, Yelp will show them screenshots exposing the effort to mislead the users.
The alert will be removed from the business’s Yelp page after 90 days, unless evidence of ongoing efforts is discovered, which may renew the warning period.
Initially, nine businesses will have the consumer alert message posted on their profile page, but the company will be posting alerts like these on an ongoing basis as warranted.
Beyond alerting consumers to attempts to purchase reviews, the next step in Yelp’s Consumer Alert program will be to let consumers know if a business has had a large number of reviews submitted from the same Internet Protocol (IP) address, which can be a helpful indicator that they lack authenticity.
While the review filter already takes this type of information into account, Yelp believes that consumers also have a right to know if this activity is going on.
Yelp connects people with local businesses. The company was founded in San Francisco in July 2004. Since then, Yelp communities are active in major metros across the US, Canada, UK, Ireland, France, Germany, Austria, The Netherlands, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Belgium, Australia, Sweden Denmark, Norway, Finland, Singapore and Poland.