Web 2.0 Postings Boost Threat To Small Businesses - InformationWeek

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Commentary
2/15/2009
06:54 PM
Fredric Paul
Fredric Paul
Commentary
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Web 2.0 Postings Boost Threat To Small Businesses

bMighty has always been a fan of smaller companies leveraging Web 2.0 techniques for guerilla marketing. But we know that there's a dark side of Web 2.0 as well, as illustrated by the rising tide of lawsuits surrounding negative posts -- especially on Yelp.

bMighty has always been a fan of smaller companies leveraging Web 2.0 techniques for guerilla marketing. But we know that there's a dark side of Web 2.0 as well, as illustrated by the rising tide of lawsuits surrounding negative posts -- especially on Yelp.The San Francisco Chronicle says that Web 2.0 defamation lawsuits are multiplying. The paper cites California small businesses such as dentists and chiropractors, suing Yelp posters for reviews they claim are false and defamatory. They can't sue Yelp itself bvecause of the state's anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) law.

And that has many small businesses hopping mad, as bMighty covered last year. Former Chronicle columnist David Lazarus, now writing for the LA Times, says Yelp's relationships with small businesses aren't getting any better.

Lazarus quotes several restaurant owners who claim that Yelp is pushing a pay for play model where bad reviews would be pushed to the bottom if the establishment pays for sponsorship. Yelp, as always, denies these stories, though everyone acknowledges that:

Yelp sponsors are able to move their best review to the top of the list. The heading over the sponsored review says this is one of the business' "favorite reviews."

But the story simply won't go away. When I wrote last year's column, it generated a number of comments, as well as an email from Yelp's PR folks pointing to the site's tools and FAQ for business owners.

If all that's not enough, many Yelped businesses worry that their competitors are gaming the system:

Inzunza at Mamma's Brick Oven Pizza said she noticed last year that every time a nasty review appeared on the site about her restaurant, a glowing review popped up for a pizza place down the street.

Coincidence? Maybe. But for good or ill, all of these stories point up the fact that social networking and Web 2.0 can make a real difference to your business. You can't afford not to educate yourself and take them seriously.

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