HELLO PETER. JEAN-PIERRE MURRAY-KLINE TALKS ABOUT RATING WEBSITES. (JULY 2022)
Hello Peter, lets talk about Rating Websites
My Aunt Marian said to me when I was growing up that if I don’t have something nice to say, rather keep quiet. This is something I have remembered into my adult life and often forces me to remain mute during meetings while a client, supplier or colleague stare back at me with confusion at my lack of verbal response. You see, I might have been able to keep my mouth quiet, but I am certain the rest of my face speaks volumes,
and that brings me onto the subject of this article: ‘opinions’, and ways to share them, specifically online. There is one particular website in South Africa which we like to share opinions on: hellopeter.com.
I took an opportunity to interview Vinesh Nair, a Brand Strategist at hellopeter.com. Upfront, let me say THANK YOU Vinesh for your time and valuable contribution to this article, I hope we can stay in contact.
Now, some of you might know already that in preparation for articles, I sometimes do video interviews, as was the case in this instance. I find a video to be a good tool to entice the ‘instant gratification generation’ into reading the actual article. Too few people read now a days, and that makes my work as an author tricky! It has meant I have had to adapt and also do videos, social media and even keynote talks in front of people to get my message into the public.
Unfortunately the video I recorded for this interview has disappeared. Let me blame Zoom, technical gremlins, loadshedding and human error. This means you will not get to see the face of Vinesh or my other guest in the video, Cameron Lee Billson from Dhooge Law. Cameron was a last minute valued added professional to join our chat, an especially welcomed guest for reasons you will come to learn soon. Cameron, I would also like to extend a THANK YOU for your contribution. I think between the three of us we have shared some pearls of wisdom that can add value to anyone who cares about their Online Reputation and how to deal with reviews on rating websites.
Let’s get down to business!
As a business and environmental technologist, my objective is to study and consult on how people, nature and technology interact, make that relationship more effective, sustainable and in many ways moral. Our interview was about Online Reputation Management, the role of rating websites and the legalities about what one posts online. I had a particular interest in the legal ramification for negative posts which are published with intent to harm a business or person. Now this happens more often than you might think and it is probable that your business is going to have to deal with not only negative reviews, but ones that have been written with deliberate intent to harm. The knee jerk reaction might be to get upset when this happens or call Cameron to get an interdict or a cease order issued. You might also be tempted to write an equally nasty reply to the comment.
The fact is, online reviews are part of business, and will probably become a bigger part of your companys online strategy in the coming years. We know that people complain more than compliment. You must manage the human element. Complaining is in my opinion an evolutionary skill humans acquired. Indeed all ‘practices’ and ‘habits’ of all living things evolved to help survival. Complaining is something humans have perfected and may very well be the reason we are at the top of the food chain, but that is a subject for another day, so you know: I actually write a lot about evolution and nature in general. These subjects form part of my ongoing studies and helped for a great final chapter in my new book called Future Thinking 2022-2023.
Online review websites are the new playgrounds and coffee rooms to share opinions. HelloPeter.com is part of the ‘Review Website family’. In South Africa it is the largest independent entity rating website, which is why I was so lucky to get Vinesh to join. An interesting nugget: several years back the owner of HelloPeter.com contacted one of my businesses to quote for services he needed. I remember the afternoon that sale lead arrived very well. Anxiety immediately peaked from the thought on how my reputation might be effected if Peter himself didn’t like our work! Can you imagine Peter himself reviewing you!
HelloPeter.com has since been taken over by a new entity, and one that appears to be engaging well with respect to ‘the process of reviewing reviews’. You might also find it interesting that you can review HelloPeter on HelloPeter.com.
One of the scenarios I put forward to Cameron and Vinesh was at the extreme end of the spectrum. Imagine a scrupulous character, perhaps even an undercover competitor of your company, logging onto a rating site, and posting the most awful reviews and information. These types of shananigans happen all the time. E-sabotage is big business. You need only spend a few minutes Googling the subject for examples and you will learn about corporates hiring e-criminals or anti-reputational agents to run competitors down. Entire countries have been accused of E-sabotage against sovereign states. These things happen every day and of course when posting a review one does not need to provide evidence upfront, and once the post is made, it’s out there forever and most people don’t try to authenticate a review, they accept it as fact.
Did you know? Other than the negative opinion being seen by a potential client, many search engines plug into review website data and reviews can influence your actual search results for your businesses on websites.
Now, I explained the above scenario to my two guests and asked them for their opinion. I asked if a good lawyer could argue that the person posting the review and perhaps the review platform itself might be ‘breaking a law’. I made a point that for a website to host content that is there with intent to harm or incite violence or damage to property or person, could be interpreted by law as illegal. I explained that a good ISP (Internet Services Provider) would be inclined and ethically motivated to shut down websites that are found to host such information. I also reminded everyone about the global crackdown on fake news being posted online, after all: if content is not factually accurate, it is technically fake information.
Many countries are implementing regulations on the hosting and the act of sharing or posting fake e-news or e-information. HelloPeter.com operates in South Africa and needs to be mindful of local regulations. A review on Google or Facebook would be more difficult to tackle because of jurisdiction and the cost of legal action on mammoth international entities.
The HelloPeter.com platform allows people to post reviews: meeting the right of people’s freedom of expression and speech, and/plus allows those being reviewed to respond publically, and/plus goes one step further and enables reviews to be escalated for ‘inspection’ and ‘mitigation’ with the HelloPeter.com team.
The challenge all rating websites have is how do they allow freedom of speech and also protect people’s reputation? They need to balance law, regulations, e-freedoms and e-behaviour while providing a service to the public, because lets be honest, rating websites do help us feel more confident in which company to use. HelloPeter.com has become proactive in curating the review process on their website.
Vinesh also explained that anyone who posts a review or wants to respond as a company has to register and provide their information. This step can help with reducing the ease of abuse that comes with anonymous comments.
I directed a point to Cameron. I called Review Websites and the internet the ‘Wild West’ because no one really controls them. In South Africa SAPS and our Courts are essentially in charge of all e-matters and e-crimes, but they are still interpreting the laws including the Cybercrimes Act 19 of 2020. This Act references ‘Data messages that incite damage to property or violence’ as breaking the law. I proposed this could be applied to a person or their business. Could you be breaking a South African law by using electronic communication or an electronic device to share and / or post harmful or untrue information about a business? I wrote an article on this Act: https://www.jeanpierremurraykline.co.za/cybercrimesact19of2020_jeanpierremurraykline.html
In time, as with most new laws, a number of cases will help set a precedent and it will be easier to see the line we should not be crossing. As with most new technologies, it is you and I that set the standards of ethical behaviour. What we do online is not trivial. There are real world influences and ramifications. You can lose your job from something you do on social media, or you could become a victim to e-abuse. Your children can be exposed to predators, or they can have access to boundless information giving them an advantage in life. The ‘online world’ is still in its infancy and we all need to mature with it. We must be mindful of our e-behaviour.
Cameron explained in the interview that there are laws in place which help protect you against defamation or acts of harm. He and I both agree that before you take legal action you first exhaust all other avenues to mitigate the issue at hand. Cameron’s own law firm is happy to engage online with their clients who might post reviews, and he is in a particularly difficult sector and many clients only use lawyer’s for situations they don’t want to be in, lawyers are often a begrudged purchase and getting a compliment from a client is even harder in that situation. There are ways to improve your rating, but you must be willing. HelloPeter.com has staff who actively reach out to people and try to support the process of getting better reviews.
Both Negative or positive reviews, it is important you understand their value and the importance of Rating Websites. Online Reputation Management is not something you should ignore and if you think it’s a minor influence for potential future customers, you are very wrong. I want to share some links provided by Vinesh well worth reading:
Let me conclude this article now with three final points.
If you take a close look at HelloPeter.com you will see that those who leave reviews, are issued a review status themselves. Those who only offer negative reviews, are people who have not been happy enough with any company to offer a positive review ever. Take that into consideration when considering their opinion, remember, some people just like to complain or are there to do harm. Rather be a person who also gives credit when it is due and if you post a negative review, keep it factual and constructive, that is part of good e-behaviour. If you need help with your review on HelloPeter.com you can reach out to Vinesh at email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you find yourself in a trickier situation and you have done all you can to mitigate a nasty review within your power, and you still need help, call on Cameron to see what can be done to use the law to defend your name or business reputation: email@example.com | firstname.lastname@example.org
Did you know: I develop online reputation management and e-crisis response and action plans?
THE FINAL AND MOST IMPORTANT POINT. Rating websites can be used to a business’s advantage. If you engage and actively invest in your businesses online reputation, you will find that online Review Websites are an opportunity for:
- You to learn about your client and market,
- Engage with clients and potential new clients,
- Improve your businesses position on the internet,
- Instil trust and confidence in the public’s perception of your company.
‘A Future Thinker’
The Business and Environmental Technologist.
Jean-Pierre Murray-Kline is an entrepreneur who runs several online businesses. He is a published Author who researches, consults and facilitates strategy sessions about the most important matters affecting our generation and the changes to technology, business and the environment.
- Digital Architect & Scenario Planning.
- Online Marketing
- Keynote Talks
But wait, there is MORE!
Who is Jean-Pierre Murray-Kline?
Jean-Pierre is a South African Serial Entrepreneur, Published Author and Change Champion who has worked in over 300 types of industries in some capacity or another. His own online businesses have generated millions of Rands and involved sectors including Law, Web & App Development, Events & Entertainment, Property, Technical Services, Media and Tourism.
He has travelled to over 50 cities World-Wide, and is extremely active as a Business and Environmental Technologist.
Jean-Pierre is often asked to be a Guest Speaker on any variety of the many subjects he continuously studies and writes about.
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