Facebook Star Ratings Create Cause for Concern

facebook starsIf you are in advertising and marketing, then you know that Facebook is constantly making changes to its site, pages and policies, and the company is not always perfectly transparent about these changes. You also know that within the past month star ratings on a scale of one to five have begun to appear prominently on business pages, right under the name of the business. Individual reviews and ratings also appear on the page, in the right-hand column for desktop and above page posts on the mobile app.

When these ratings first appeared, I saw several articles and blog posts talking about how these ratings could be good or bad. HubSpot argued both ways in an attempt to remain neutral, as did TechCrunch, while InvestmentNews tells advertisers they should be concerned. Business Insider says that the ratings will put Facebook in direct competition with Yelp and FourSquare.  Other sources, like Social Media Today raised the questions we should all be asking.

Although the Facebook star ratings are supposedly still in the “testing phase,” I see some major cause for concern as an advertiser if they continue with this rating system.

First of all, while we are in this testing phase of Facebook ratings, it is unclear exactly how this system is playing out. Facebook has been collecting ratings via mobile devices and check-ins for months, and has only recently decided to put them on the desktop pages. However, they supposedly don’t appear on all company pages yet, one determining factor being whether an address is listed.

All companies want good reviews. Everyone wants to be a five-star business. We have loyal, committed customers, who clearly love what we do and who we are. If we didn’t have them, we wouldn’t be in business.

The Facebook ratings system is undermining that.

  • Reviews and ratings are largely inaccurate. Reviews and ratings are supposed to allow people to make decisions about businesses, services and products based on others’ opinions. But businesses have been known to post false reviews on competitors pages, and employees post positive reviews on their own pages. We’ve seen evidence of false reviews in September, when it was highly reported that 20% of Yelp reviews are “suspicious” and fake. If Yelp can be 20% fake, why does Facebook think their ratings would be any different?
  • Reviews and Ratings are based on whether you have an address listed. As a manager or CEO or any employee, I want people to know where my business is. I want people to come to my store and buy my products. But if I have a few bad ratings on my page and I don’t want people to rate my business, I need to remove my address. These two things shouldn’t have any correlation. I should be able to tell my loyal and future customers where they can buy products without the risk of one bad review.
  • Most ratings are private. When a user rates a page, they can choose whether it will be public or only seen by friends or family. These private ratings still add to your overall star-rating, even though you can’t tell who wrote them or contact them to try to resolve their issues.
  • The number of total reviews only appears on mobile. It’s helpful to see that you have four out of five stars based on only six ratings–but you’ll only be able to see this on a mobile device.
  • No matter how many people like your page, those few ratings will show. You might have thousands of fans, and tons of people like your content. But if only two people have rated you, and they gave you bad reviews, that’s your star-rating, like it or not. Your star rating makes it seem like that’s what everyone thinks. A star-rating seems like the average. But if the majority of people thought your business was terrible, they wouldn’t want to hear what you have to say and wouldn’t follow your page (Logically. People aren’t always logical.)
  • People are more likely to give bad ratings if they have a bad experience. And less likely to give good ratings if they have a good experience. We have started to take ratings websites with a grain of salt. (Like RateMyProfessor.com, Yelp, and many other ratings sites.)
  • There’s more room for spam. So far I don’t think spam messaging has been too much of an issue on Facebook. But I’ve seen enough spam messages in the ratings boxes than I’d like already.
  • “Reporting” spam “ratings” to Facebook still doesn’t remove it. If I click the X in the corner and go through the steps to report spam to Facebook, I would like to see it removed from the page. That’s all.
  • People hide behind the anonymity of social media. People will say things on social media that they would never say in person. We’ve seen this in teen cyber bullying and we’re seeing it with business reviews. The CEO of Twitter even confirmed this on the Today Show. This restaurant patron would never have made this comment to a manager’s face, but he was able to say it on Facebook. Perhaps we will see more individuals vent through ratings on Facebook, when they could have just asked a manager a question or made a simple request while they were at the store.
  • Desktop and mobile settings don’t seem to correlate. If I have changed my settings on my desktop to not show a map of my address, why should I see it when I pull the page up on mobile? If I have seemingly reported and removed reviews with obscene language, why am I still seeing these reviews on mobile? Isn’t Facebook Facebook? Are there separate mobile app settings I should be aware of, or is Facebook really just going to play this game?

So far the only solution I have seen to the ratings system is to disable the map of the address that is on your page, thus disabling check-ins. But, see above-mentioned bullet point.

In an ideal world, the ratings would help businesses. Satisfied customers would tell everyone that they had a great experience, and people with honest issues would leave feedback and could be contacted to resolve and alleviate concerns. Good ratings would attract new followers and generate leads for future business.

But the world is not an ideal place and the internet even less so.

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