Transparency and Social Media

It’s difficult to please everybody, all the time.  But when it comes to social media sites that depend on customer (user and advertiser) satisfaction, it pays to be transparent so the company can grow and make money.   Especially when that site is Yelp, a user-generated business directory that allows anyone to write reviews. It’s wildly successful and can make or break businesses.  Yelp’s entire success is based on trust: The reviews are supposed to be un-biased, real experiences that are not financially motivated, as in they’re not paid for by the business that is reviewed.   It’s selling authenticity and trustworthiness. So what’s the problem? Recently, a number of businesses are not happy with Yelp’s lack of transparency.

Why? Because gaming the system is not hard. And because of that, the company (like others) has an automated review filter system that takes down reviews that are seen as untrustworthy. This is based on pre-set algorithms and such. The issue becomes that some legitimate business reviews also get taken down or they simply disappear. And this has those businesses (they hugely benefit from reviews on Yelp) question the foundations of the system. (Not to mention that some of the more unfavourable reviews are legitimate.)  According to Yelp, they’re dealing with this discontent by hiring new business outreach managers that will now connect with businesses to educate them about how Yelp works.  But then again, releasing too much information could be used against Yelp to game the system.  So how do you deal with this issue? Moreover, could this problem indicate a flaw with the concept of user-generated content online? We trust it more because we feel a sense of connection to it, yet question it because there isn’t an editorial team behind it fact-checking for accuracy.