Why first-time founders should not trust online reviews

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Stop trusting online reviews

If you are an innovator or a first-time founder; chances are you have been actively researching for the best service providers. You might have even decided on few platforms between the time you first had your idea and now. Chances are you got to a point where you asked yourself if these online reviews were indeed genuine. As a first-time founder; you should NOT trust all reviews.

As buyers we have an inflection point. Most of the founders are influenced by those over-the-normal and thousands of five-star ratings. Not to forget, anonymous reviewers who claim themselves as business owners. Like the ones who claim how switching to a particular provider got them so much spare time they started throwing great parties. Or the one where a reviewer swore in their name how choosing a particular provider helped them generate additional sales of $200K within a week.

Ask yourself if it could be really that good.

According to Paul Mahony of Hosting Review, Fake reviews are a curse to first time founders. Paul says a major chunk of online reviews are not real and he has the data to prove it. Hosting Review provides real time insight on hosting providers and provides a lot of weightage in reviewing hosting providers that allow access to genuine reviews.

I also spoke to the million-dollar company Shapermint ( A Trafilea Brand ) which went from 0-54 million in revenue within 9 months. Shapermint is plagued by 100’s of fake reviews planted by its competitors. A question; how can a company doing millions of dollars in sales have so many negative reviews?

Entrepreneurs and first-time founders must look at the data in front of them to identify if the reviews are actually genuine. You should be asking the right questions like; How the hell in the world does a company with thousands of positive reviews still struggle with their sales? Or even better, ask yourself how a company with millions of dollars in sales still struggles with fake reviews.   

Are you asking yourself if most of the organizations plant fake positive reviews of their own solutions and harm competitive solutions with negative reviews? The answer is Yes, says Paul and Shapermint. Do you still find them credible? I suggest, you should not.

Another example is that of a startup that was chosen as the 332nd best company in USA in 2016 by Entrepreneur Magazine. I spoke to its employees and they highlighted further differences in reviews left by genuine customers and those planted by competitors or grudged individuals. If you look at the pattern of those reviews; you might notice there is not even a single negative review about the services provided by the company. However, there are reviews left about the owner of the company. The reviews are personal in nature and seem to have been left by disgruntled employees.

Can you trust an online review? Not always. Hosting Review, ITPL and Shapermint compiled an exclusive list of points to look for when making a purchase decision as first-time founders. They went ahead and shared the list with me. The list includes facets consumers hardly look into when making their purchase decision. The list will help consumers make a better and informed purchase decision next time. Note: If something looks fishy, it might be that. I would suggest signing up and finding out yourself before sharing your card details and asking platforms to take your money.

Why you should not trust all online reviews

These companies came together as part of a marketing survey collaboration arranged by me during one of my assignments as a mentor at San Francisco chapter of Founder Institute. These companies went ahead and called real and fake customers of more than 100 companies. The results and differences in reviews over the call and those visible online were shocking. More than 73% of the online reviews found on websites like Amazon were found fake.

Ask yourself again? “Should you trust every online review when making purchases?” Hosting Review and Shapermint ( A Spanx Competitor dealing in Shapewear ) analyzed thousands of online reviews using Fakespot. They primarily looked for reviews by customers who were not genuine. Ranks were assigned on purchasing patterns, quality of language used by reviewers etc. They even went and tried to find out if the same customer was leaving these kinds of fake reviews across other platforms.

Look for these signs when making your purchase decision to find out if the reviews are genuine.

I switched to XXX and made $200K profit in a week

Fake reviews are found on almost all the products on the website by the same customers. If you find more than 2 reviews on a particular website by the same consumer; I would suggest considering it as fake.

Ask yourself would you spend hours reviewing all the products on the website? Are you that free to just keep posting reviews?

Fake examples are “Awesome product” or “I Switched to XXX about a week ago and I absolutely love them”. Or Something like “It was freaking easy to set up my site and the customer support was exceptionally warm”.

Should you still consider online reviews like these? No! I would advise choosing established providers and companies over cheap price and fake reviews focused platforms.

As a first-time founder you should not choose any solution or company if you have even an ounce of doubt. Why to risk playing with your dreams and end up wasting funds on cheap products.

Weightage of positive vs negative reviews

During multiple checks that ran over 90 days; it was found that genuine platforms usually have a balanced weightage between positive versus negative reviews.

Platforms with fake reviews were inclined towards positive reviews and most of them had more than 90% positive reviews. I mean it does not make sense until you are a customer centric and perfection driven consumer company like Apple. Even Apple does not have positive reviews in excess of 90%.

Ask yourself what is that particular platform doing which even Apple seems unable to accomplish. Samsung; the biggest competitor to Apple still has its positive reviews around just 77%.

I suggest staying away from platforms that have only positive reviews as they are meant to cheat innocent and first-time founders like you.

When to trust an online review?

Still asking yourself if you should trust online reviews when selecting your first time services providers for your platform needs like hosing or something like may be motivating your chubby top performer with a shapewear. I would advise considering genuine suppliers who are known for delivering world class products.

Do not trust online reviews until its balanced. There are multiple ways to find if a review is genuine.

Shapermint advised us to refrain from platforms that have just five star ratings. As I mentioned above, no product is perfect every time until you are building iPhones like Apple does.

Hosting Review recommended purchasing from platforms with genuine reviews. Ever heard the saying; the best ones are always costly. Pay the premium charges and stay away from platforms with fake reviews. You do not want to be on the call with customer support every time because you assumed they were great providers and made the purchase after looking at their fake reviews.

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