If you’re planning for a holiday and looking for a place to stay, reading through aggregated TripAdvisor reviews of hotels may not always lead to an informed decision.
According to a new LA Times story, basing hotel choice on Web reviews may actually be a bad move. That’s because as much as 40 percent of online reviews could actually be made up or paid for. Moreover, 69 percent of hotel reviews did not actually require a hotel stay. Which means that anyone – a non-guest, a competitor, or a hotel staff member – could write deliberately misleading hotel reviews.
These numbers come from a recent study by Market Metrix, a San Francisco-based hotel market research firm and service provider. The study, entitled “For Hospitality, Social Media Is Too Little Too Late,” comes after technology research company Gartner predicted that an estimated 10 to 15 percent of reviews will be fake or paid by the year 2014.
“As hospitality companies increasingly depend on positive reviews, a market for ‘promotional reviews’ has sprung up to buy and sell fictitious feedback,” wrote Dr. Jonathan Barsky, co-founder and Chief Research Officer of Market Metrix. “Many promotional reviews are obtained through help-for-hire sites like Fiverr and Mechanical Turk. The demand for positive comments has turned online reviews into an arms race. With more properties receiving five-star reviews, even more five-star reviews are needed to stand out from the competition. So you buy them.”
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The study argued that even genuine reviews written by real guests could be problematic and distorted. Why? Because guests who write and post online hotel reviews are usually guests who are inclined to share their negative – instead of positive – experiences during a stay. In fact, there are 3 times more negative reviews than positive on hospitality and hotel reviews aggregator TripAdvisor – and 35 percent fewer positive reviews.
“Opinions shared through social media and online review sites are often extreme points of view and don’t represent the complete spectrum of experience,” added Dr. Barsky. “Sadly, it seems like negative experiences are more motivating to share than positive ones.”