Who can you trust on the Internet?

“Fake news!” is screamed from the rooftops in our society faster than one could jump off of one. Is it fake? Or do you simply not like the content?


Wherever you land on that political hot button, one of the results of all things “fake” is that Internet-based media companies are scrambling to try to determine who is real and who is not. They need to as consumers purchases are directly impacted by whom they feel they can trust.


Do you look at the stars (online) to decide what to buy? I do. But remember those signs in stores that say “Review us on Yelp!”? I say remember, because, I was told by a Yelp! employee that they’re not supposed to be there any more. It’s part of their “Don’t ask” policy - if Forbes is to be trusted.


As a small business owner, I know word of mouth, or social proof, is the best of all advertising. If your friend or trusted co-worker or family worker likes something, you’re likely to give it a shot. That’s why reviews mean so much to us. Shopify gives some details here if you like clicking for more information.  


ComedySportz Las Vegas is new to this city - it’s the business that I’m part owner of. Mind you, ComedySportz Worldwide (CSz) is not new at all - CSz has been at it for over 30 years in dozens of other cities across the U.S. and Europe. The early buzz we’ve gotten in just four shows has been fantastic.


Feel free to check out this video with some Loyal Fan response, this article in the RJ or these slew of interviews with Fox 5’s Mike Doria. It’s no surprise as ComedySportz is much larger than Las Vegas (clutch your pearls) - running for decades in markets like Chicago, Los Angeles and New York. I’m not saying the show is foolproof - it takes serious pros to do this show well. But our fools are actually pretty great...and we’re just getting started.


Those are the facts. Here’s the problems with fakes:


We have six reviews up on Yelp! If you have a hard time seeing them, that’s because they’re “Not recommended”. Yelp does this because some people cheat the system - fake reviews, paying people for reviews, trolls - all of which hurts Yelp!’s credibility. I get that. But here’s the other thing - the six people that left our reviews are legit. I know them. They came to the show. Doesn’t matter to Yelp! They either don’t know enough or don’t like the activity of the users who left them enough to recommend their reviews, so they’re hidden. Their “Review Software” makes the call.  


Trevor, the Yelp! Employee I spoke with, assured me the reviews are still there - which is true. They’re just buried. If you’re looking at our business for the first time on Yelp!, you’d think we hadn’t gotten any reviews.


Trevor assured me that “Specialties” is an area that reviewers look at frequently. He says they have focus groups that back it up. I’m not sure how they conduct their focus groups, but in all my years of looking at Yelp! I’ve never looked at Specialties - nor did I even know it existed. I knew about the stars, the reviews, the helpful, cool and funny reviews of the reviews, but not the Specialties.


Must be me.


Yelp! uses recommendation software that they say measures quality, reliability and user activity. It initially dropped one of our first two reviews, then all four of our next, and then finally that last one that it, initially, didn’t have a problem with. Their video explaining their system says they approve about 75% of all reviews. How did we get so lucky to have them all dropped?


According to Trevor, it has to do with the quality the users who left the review. Their metaphor is to see their directory (make sure to call it exactly that) as a neighborhood. I’m paraphrasing, but Trevor asked me if I had a “creepy cat lady” (that is exact) or a neighbor who stayed in their house for six years and then finally came out to give a review, would I really trust her? Of course not! (<-- that was also him, I didn’t have a chance to answer the rhetorical).


“The system knows who you are,” Trevor said. Direct quote. That one gave me chills.

All apologies to cats and the women who love them, I don’t have a problem with Yelp! doing what it needs to do to protect itself. Nor do I have a problem with Trevor, who explained himself and Yelp! very reasonably for about 15 minutes. Yelp! adamantly says it can’t and isn’t competing with Google - despite Google Reviews and its growing popularity. Here’s a great infographic on the comparison between the two.


“The bottom line” (another direct and repeated quote) is that it takes time for a user to be seen as trusted, according to Trevor. Maybe even a crazy cat lady can be redeemed at some point if she just comes out of the house enough times and offers enough trusted reviews over a long enough period of time.


Our bottom line is that I can’t ask you to review us on Yelp! - or the reviews will go away to the purgatory known as “not recommended”.


If the Review Journal, Fox 5’s Mike Doria or any of the people who appear in our promotional videos offering their testimony are to be believed, maybe you’ll come check us out on your own...regardless of what Yelp! thinks of the validity of our reviewers. Or their cats.  

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