A friend of mine and I were asked to leave a camp site last summer for “too much hilarity in our tent”. It was 11:15 in the evening but the curfew was 11pm – we’d only got our tents up at 10pm and so a few scotches were needed. At the time, I was furious at being treated so badly and was adamant that I would write up a damaging account of the experience on Trip Advisor.
However, I wanted some money back so I went to see the manager first to understand his side of the story. We spoke for 15 minutes and after this, I agreed with him that it was the camp site that was wrong – it was the wrong camp site for us. It started me thinking about the damage I could have done to his business and how wrong I would have been.
The fact is that it would have been one person’s view of their personal experience and it could have ended up as a permanent record of his business.
I later watched a TV programme about Trip Advisor and I find myself feeling sympathy for the criticised businesses. There are people signed up to Trip Advisor for the express purpose of reviewing accommodation, even writing articles from the hotel room whilst they are staying there. They gave the business manager no chance to either deal with or reply to the issues.
Social review sites like Trip Advisor can be excellent and are a great source for anecdotal opinion. The power shift from supplier to customer is on the whole positive, but are we entering a phase of handing too much power to the people?
What really worries me is the number of active reviewers – are we not moving the power from a well chosen few to people who have not been chosen by anyone? Often the reviewers motives are to be questioned, as they could just be frustrated writers or serial moaners looking for an outlet to vent.
It got me thinking of ways to validate and review the actual reviewers. A reviewer is ranked according to the number of reviews they make and their objectiveness. In my opinion, the fewer reviews one writes, the better the quality. A review is generally posted by someone with strong views and it isn’t possible to have strong views about every place you stay or eat at. Most places we visit are OK, perfectly adequate. Very few invoke a strong reaction.
What we need is a form of verification where the reviewer is and can be held to account. As I thought, I realised that we have replaced formalised reviewing and content creation in the form of professional journalists with amateur unregulated reviewers and content providers.
Do we need to return to the old ways, finding a solution for regulating social media OR do we find a way for both to co-exist?
My Uncle runs a Yorkshire based sports news agency. He has done this man and boy, and there is little he doesn’t know about Leeds United FC. The bulk of his work is not wiring elegant prose about the beautiful game, it is checking facts and figures and reporting on the base news of the games.
There are few bloggers who would take on this task unpaid and so his job is safe for now. However, the blogger can add another dimension to the game that my uncle either doesn’t get himself from the reporters box or doesn’t have the time to give.
A system that combines accurately balanced and unbiased facts running alongside the amateur anecdote is what is needed in order to provide a full and realistic review.
However let’s consider another business that is going to be hugely effected by social media – that of the Con Artist.
We were conned by a supposed Sales Person last year called Matthew Terry (aka Fox) of the Solution Sales company. He’s since been arrested, but he conned many small businesses over a period of two years.
He was eventually caught because one of his victims posted a blog post about him and his fraud. Myself and the other victims all posted to this blog post and eventually the police had no choice but to investigate.
Please let me know your thoughts about the positive and negative side of Social Media.