Want to whinge about a company on social media?

Want to whinge about a company on social media?

Wendy Knowler unpacks what not to do when posting on social media about a company.

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I’m always telling people to check out a company online before doing business with them - not after, when it’s too late if they are on the dodgier end of the spectrum.

But how do we know that the rave reviews on a complaints platform such as HelloPeter are authentic, rather than a business singing its own praises in the form of a fake review?

Very good question. When I get a batch of complaints about a company failing to deliver or delivering really badly, I go onto HelloPeter - on which more than 1,000 reviews are posted every day - to see how many others have also received a raw deal from that company.

And when I see almost equal numbers of one-star and five-star reviews - either terrible posts or total raves - then I smell a rat. 

And happily, so does HelloPeter.

CEO Alon Rom told me they have quite a few automated mechanisms to flag potentially fake reviews, including multiple reviews emanating from the same IP address, multiple reviews written about the same business within a certain timeframe, and patterns in email addresses being used to register accounts.

“We also do random checks,” he told me. 

The HelloPeter team asks for paperwork between the parties such as an invoice to prove that the person who posted the rave reviews was a genuine customer.

“Given the daily volume of reviews it would be very difficult for us to screen every positive review and verify authenticity,” he said, but the opposite also applies where many leave negative reviews that are inaccurate or defamatory, which are also investigated. 

"As technology improves we are looking to implement additional measures to help ensure the content that lives on HelloPeter represents factual experiences,” Rom says.

And I often ask him to check out a company when I notice a suspicious number of very similar sounding rave reviews, which has quite a few really bad ones already.

In the case of a Durban-based removals company, HelloPeter recently did checks on 14 positive reviews about the company, and they only got feedback from one of them. So 13 positive reviews were removed from their profile.

I’m not naming the company yet because I’ve just received a humdinger of a complaint about them which I’m about to investigate.

Watch what you write!

And what if it’s you who has posted something negative about your experience with a company and the owner or their attorneys contact you and try to intimidate you into removing it?

They often use the “defamation” word and threaten legal action. It can be very intimidating, if you don’t know your rights.

But if what you have written on a public platform is 100% true and in the public interest, it is not defamation and you have nothing to fear, legally.

To remain on the moral high ground, though, avoid using abusive language, caps lock, massive fonts, and multiple exclamation marks. Just stick to the facts without any of the drama.

They can’t touch you if you do that.

Also read: What if you don't get your visa? Wendy Knowler investigates

Get in touch with Wendy via her website or her Facebook page. Please note that Wendy is not able to personally respond to every email she receives. If she is able to take up your case, she will contact you directly. Here are other avenues for you to consider.

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