How Bad Reviews Can Actually Help You

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If you own a business, you have to be online, and if you have to be online, you'll have to deal with bad reviews. It's inescapable — not everyone is going to like what you offer, and a small minority may actually speak up about it. That might feel like an attack on your livelihood, but if you're tempted to freak out, take a beat. Someone's nasty remarks might not hurt your bottom line as much as you fear.


An international team of marketing researchers has just published a study on the upsides of bad reviews. It may sound like a contradiction in terms, but the researchers actually found that a really nasty comment on, say, Yelp or a Google result can make potential customers empathize with a business, rather than writing them off. The deciding factor is whether the person reading the nasty comment believes the comment itself seems unfair. This comes down to whether the intensity of the feedback seems disproportionate to the slights or dissatisfaction described.

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We already know that while online reviews are immensely helpful overall, they also come with some inherent flaws. Restaurants, for instance, may get changeable reviews literally based on the weather, while other studies have shown that up to 1 in 3 online reviews are actually totally fake. Meanwhile, if you're the subject of any online reviews, keep reading them. It might feel cringy to go through all that feedback, but the way you respond to the good and the bad is a great opportunity to show your quality.