Nowadays the internet has evolved into an open forum. Web 2.0 means that now more than ever people can contribute and comment on whatever they feel like and this content will be visible to everyone.
This means that consumers can research brands, products and service providers in a way they were previously not able to do. They are able to see what previous customers have said and make their decision based on consumer experience rather than marketing material and official reviews.
The web has made this possible and the modern internet has a thriving niche in consumer reviews sites. In the days before the Web 2.0 'revolution' a consumer would have to establish their own website to get their message across and rely on the site being visible to the internet using public, perhaps employing SEO techniques if they were really dedicated to getting their message across.
Now sites like ReviewCentre and Tripadvisor along with countless others mean consumers can broadcast their reviews and experiences via huge highly visible sites. When you add the contributions from blogging sites like Blogger and Wordpress the thoughts and comments of the public in general are very much on the radar of the for anyone to view. People know that before making a decision on a purchase this information is only a web-search away.
Companies are generally happy to take geniune reviews on their merits. Indeed this feedback in invaluable to them in gauging their performance and addressing problems. The problem is however how do they stay aware of this content and how do they deal with malicious & unfair content. The open nature of the internet means it's extremely easy to post spurious reviews and stay anonymous.
A program of web monitoring and reputation management is vital if a company is to take reviews on-board and engage with their customers. It is also also extremely useful to gauge if your marketing campaign in general is getting your message across.
Many review sites allow you to monitor their content as the brand owner. Recently HitSearch set up a system of monitoring and notification for a customer in the holidays and tourism sector. Almost immediately this customer was made aware of a mischevious & wildly innacurate review on a high profile travel site and because of this was able to engage with the site's moderators to get the 'review' removed.
This is an extreme case however if no reputation managment provision was in place these reviews would have gone un-noticed. It ensures an invaluable right to reply for companies whether it is just to thank a user for their review, apologise for any problems and seek to make reparations or indeed to address malicious or mischevious comment.