More Social Sites May Reveal Commenter Identities

by | 2 minute read

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​-olo​gy​.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.