More Social Sites May Reveal Commenter Identities

Marketers appreciate and even encourage consumers to post positive comments about them on social media and review sites. The consumer practice of checking these comments and relying on them to make purchase decisions is widespread. But what surveyformhappens when individuals try to manipulate a marketer with negative comments?  David Streitfield covered this topic recently in a New York Times post and shows how some social sites may be forced to reveal the identity of reviewers as part of First Amendment Rights consideration. This trend has big implications for the way marketers and service providers handle consumer identity.

In a case that involved a Virginia-​based carpet cleaner, the courts ruled that Yelp had to give up the names of anonymous reviewers. The goal of the carpet cleaner was to personally contact unhappy customers who posted negative reviews about him on Yelp. When Yelp refused to hand over the names of these negative commenters, the carpet cleaner suspected that the remarks had been posted by a competitor seeking to damage his reputation.  As such, the courts agreed that these comments constituted defamation of character and were not covered by First Amendment free speech rights.

Streitfield reports that Yelp is next taking this case to the Supreme Court in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Industry experts worry that ruling against social review sites in situations like this will impact site operators. While their interests must be considered, what should a marketer do when they suspect that a competitor is posting negative reviews to influence potential clients? And how should a marketer respond when a customer insists on discounts or coupons in order to remove a negative review? Should a social site remove the comments? If you've encountered these situations, how have you handled them?

To learn more about audiences that are likely to comment, especially brand friends and followers, check out check out the AudienceSCAN report available on the Research Store at ad​-ology​.com.

Kathy Crosett
Kathy is the Vice President of Research for SalesFuel. She holds a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Vermont and oversees a staff of researchers, writers and content providers for SalesFuel. Previously, she was co-​owner of several small businesses in the health care services sector.