The way to use online communities to promote your business?

The Guardian reported recently how reviews for the production of the Wizard of Oz at London’s Southbank Centre on the discussion board of Whatsonstage.com, the “leading online forum for ordinary theatregoers” were tepid at best, until suddenly three rave reviews appeared. Only 75 minutes later it was revealed that staff at the Southbank Centre had themselves posted the reviews. A forum moderator had noticed that the three rave reviews had all come from computers that shared the same IP address, the code that identifies an internet connection. This left the Southbank Centre somewhat embarrassed.

There is no doubt that fake reviews have appeared in the past, certainly in print – fake restaurant, book and stage reviews, for example. However with the combination of excellent moderation and sophisticated technology, it’s more likely these days that online fakers will end up with egg on their faces! It’s important to know what is and what isn’t acceptable about promoting yourself, your business and your brand online.

A better response by the Southbank Centre might have been to acknowledge the reviews, and provide the facility for the unhappy theatregoers to engage with the Centre to explore the problems and then use the feedback to improve services – which would have made great news to distribute around the internet.