What Is Your Opinion Really Worth?

opinion
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I don’t care what you like. And I care what you don’t like. I’m not going to buy something just because you gave it 5 stars. And you are not going to stop me from buying something because you only gave it 1 star. Your opinion has lost all credibility. Its value has been completely diminished. It means nothing.

But it’s not your fault. It’s their fault. Those that tried to win the game by beating the system. They ruined their own credibility and the credibility of the system. And took us with them in the process.

Here’s How it Used to Be

I used to be able to go onto Amazon.com and find unbiased reviews of a book to determine if it was worth reading before buying it. Not anymore. Authors now put together launch teams that create dozens (if not hundreds) of inflated reviews well before the book is even launched to the public in an effort to build momentum.

I used to be able to go onto Yelp.com in order to find a good restaurant that I have never been to before. Not anymore. Legitimate reviews are now the minority. Outweighed by overwhelmingly positive or negative reviews. Reviews that have nothing to do with the food. Reviews like those received by registered Republican Scott Van Nuzer, owner of Big Apple Pizza in Florida, who gave President Obama a bear hug on camera and has since been the recipient of over 2,000 reviews. Half of which are 5 star reviews. Half of which are 1 star reviews. None of which are from people that actually ate his pizza.

I used to be able to search Google+ Local in order to find credible contractors and other service providers to hire for stuff like fixing my roof or mowing my lawn. Not anymore. Service providers build up their reputation by creating false positive reviews. And knock down their competitors by creating false negative reviews.

I used to be able to go onto Facebook and Twitter to find influencers in just about any field. These were people that stood out from the crowd. They had the attention of many. Enormous platforms that they built for themselves. Not anymore. With an increasingly high percentage of fake user accounts, bought likes, fabricated followings and software programs built to game the system, there is no way of knowing who has actually earned their following.

Nope. Not anymore.

So, How Do We Clean It Up?

We don’t. It’s too late. The flood gates have been opened. The Internet has been inundated with falsified information. And we’re too far gone to turn back now.

Sure, Facebook can try and remove fake accounts and likes. Yelp and Google can remove reviews that wreak of a lack of integrity. Amazon can monitor when and from where reviews come in. But the damage has already been done. It’s impossible to know what to believe any more. The system can’t be trusted.

And because of that, we are now on our own. Again.

Where Do We Go From Here?

It is up to us to determine what is good and what is not. What works and what doesn’t. What to do and what not to do.

Read a book because it sounds like it might be interesting, not because of how many stars it received. Go to a restaurant that makes you feel good when you walk inside, not because someone you never met before thought it was good. Hire the contractor that was thoughtful enough to wipe his feet before walking into your house and then answered all of your questions honestly and respectfully with integrity. Seek out people on Facebook or Twitter that add value. Maybe they make you laugh. Or inspire you. Or teach you something new. Or listen to you.

Take one big step backwards. Be an individual again. Start relying on yourself. Dust off your intuition. Listen to your gut. Experiment. Try new things.

Experience life…uninfluenced.

Featured image courtesy of FRΛNCISCΛ licensed via Creative Commons.

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  • Hill Climber

    This I like for so many reasons, I can’t even list them all!!!

    • http://www.marcensign.com/blog Marc Ensign

      Thanks!!

  • http://www.drmichellemazur.com/ Michelle_Mazur

    With the advent of the fake reviews, likes, twitter accounts, I think getting recommendations is more about the personal relationships we have. If you, Marc, said “Michelle I just read a book, and it was awesome sauce. You should read it.” I’d put it on my list and ignore the reviews. I have a relationship with you and trust you (I’m a sucker). Likewise, if I need a contractor – I ask my friend the interior designer for recommendations. The recommendations from the real relationships we have are way more important than any of the reviews of a product on a site.

    • http://www.marcensign.com/blog Marc Ensign

      Very true! Especially being that I very rarely say awesome sauce, so you know when I say awesome sauce it is the most awesomest saucemest ever!

  • Sharon Reichert

    I’d say this blog deserves 5 stars, but then someone might think I was paid off! ; )
    Seriously, it is too bad that those few who feel they must win at all costs, only thinking of their own bottom line, end up ruining things for the rest of us.

    • http://www.marcensign.com/blog Marc Ensign

      Thanks Sharon! Fake or not, I’ll still take the 5 stars! :)

  • Marie Rotter

    I really like the points you’re making here. Whenever I see a five-star review, I don’t pay attention to it and look for more two and three stars and figure those are the “real” people.

    I think to add credibility, you need to have a registered site. For example, on Expedia, you can only leave a review of a hotel if you’ve actually purchased a stay at that hotel through Expedia. Sites like that have tremendous credibility and I expect we’ll see more review sites like these in the future.

    For those of you that haven’t seen it, there was a research study published last month that analyzed bogus reviews and tried to find a pattern to pick out the real ones from the promoted ones. They couldn’t. The full study is here: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2128860

    • http://www.marcensign.com/blog Marc Ensign

      Funny! I do the same thing. I read the 2,3 and 4 star reviews because I figured, if someone is going to fake a review you figure it’s going to be one of the extremes!

  • Mack McCoy

    I was never the person to consider on on-line reviews.

    All my life, my friends – people who know me well and look out for me – have recommended boring movies and books, over-priced restaurants and bars, and when I have made recommendations to them, they’ve told me, “Yeah! We know!”

    Point being – you or I or whoever are not a trusted guide for very many things – especially if they’re not things we’re going to do together. On the other side, I don’t think I’ve ever had dinner with a friend that wasn’t enjoyable, regardless of how bad the restaurant was!

    • http://www.marcensign.com/blog Marc Ensign

      Good points Mack! Thanks for sharing!! I agree, with the right people you could pretty much eat off the floor of your car and have a great time!

  • http://www.websitebegin.com Joe Boyle

    I was just thinking about this the other day – a person that I was working with suggested creating a ton of fake reviews of my website on another website. I told him to eat dirt and that was that. I agree that it is a flawed system that has been created – look at Fiverr. You can get a hundred fake reviews on Amazon, iTunes, anything – for just $5. Crazy.

    I like to find new things based on what they (the person/thing itself) proves to me. For example, here’s how I found you – I was reading a blog and scrolled down to the comments section as I generally do. Then, I read a comment by you and thought, “gee, he has some good ideas”. I hopped over to your website, got reading, and subscribed. That interaction had no bias whatsoever – nobody influenced my decision, and there was no gimmicks saying “THIS GUY IS TOTALLY AWESOME!”. You were just somebody that I found on a comment – it was a one in a million chance, and that’s all it really came down to. A chance.

    Imagine if people only gained popularity based on what they prove to people. Whether it’s through content that they wrote, a comment that they left on somebody’s blog, or the conference that they spoke at. What if people didn’t have all of the tools of today and instead had to rely on actually putting in the sweat? If you didn’t, I wouldn’t be asking you that question right now – that’s the reality of the situation. Pretty interesting, isn’t it? Keep up the good work, Marc – thanks for the tweet today ;)

    • http://www.marcensign.com/blog Marc Ensign

      You are on the right path with your stuff…you don’t need to create fake reviews. You will have plenty of real ones soon enough. Good for you for maintaining your credibility.

      I love that you found me that way. And that you still stick around. I never asked you to leave a comment but you always do. I never asked you to read my blog but you always do. That speaks volumes to me. It means that I’m doing something right. Especially because I am attracting people that I respect myself.

      • http://www.websitebegin.com Joe Boyle

        Shucks, Marc. I feel wanted :P

        I’ve found that I really only try to communicate with those that present themselves. If somebody said to me, “Hey, check out this guy Marc Ensign – he’s really cool!”, the chances of me actually visiting you for the first time are extremely low. There’s a reason for that – you wouldn’t have proven anything to me about yourself. Keep up the work, Marc ;)

  • Gary Wong

    Marc,
    You have just identified one of the business problem

    It sounds like a business opportunity!! :-)
    ie, To solve the problem of creditability

    • http://www.marcensign.com/blog Marc Ensign

      I don’t know if it’s something that can be fixed. It’s not a credibility issue as much as it is an issue of people being skeptical and not trusting what they see, hear or read. How do you fix that?

  • http://twitter.com/sharongreenthal Sharon Greenthal

    I don’t believe anything anyone says in the media if they have something to sell. I also don’t believe anything celebrities say during interviews, having been prepped and pre-screened by PR people who’s job it is to make them look as innocuous and likable as possible. The truth is buried under piles of promotional bits, false reviews and so on. I go with my gut, and usually I’m right.

    • http://www.marcensign.com/blog Marc Ensign

      Here’s the dangerous question then. Without getting all Democrat vs. Republican, where does that leave us with politics? Like it or not, politics is 99% sales and 1% kissing babies. If we don’t believe people that have something to sell, how can we believe in and trust our leaders from our local representatives up to the president him or her (eventually) self?

  • http://twitter.com/mightyrenegade themightyrenegade

    Very provocative Marc, and because I’m your unofficial cheerleader, nicely done. I think that part of the problem stems from everyone being in such a damned hurry. Most people have this concept in their mind that the internet is ‘right now'; as in, that’s how fast you’ll get noticed, make money, etc. I made a decision a while ago to build things organically.
    On Twitter, I follow only real people who Tweet with their hands and not from a program (or at least I try – some still get by if I’m not paying close attention). The same goes for FB and blogs that I read.
    I believe that as this false information / follower / autoresponder thing spirals out of control (and it WILL spiral out of control, if it hasn’t already), people will gravitate towards those in whom they feel their trust is safe. Just like any radical swing in one direction, the pendulum will take a counteractive swing in the other.
    By the way, I feel like I should come clean now and tell you that I think you may be my brother from another mother.
    Now that I feel better having gotten that off my chest, I’m going to go check out Joe Boyle’s blog. You see that Joe? I’m about to go prove Marc and you right. REAL and good people will find each other.
    Hooray for Marc! {by the way, I really was a cheerleader in college}

    • http://www.marcensign.com/blog Marc Ensign

      Give me a “B”….give me an “R”….ehhhh, never mind! I’m right there with you. I know plent of people that specifically went out and bought likes and followers so that could start out looking more important. I decided to do it organically instead. It was harder. No doubt. Just kook at my first months worth of posts. No comments and 2 shares each. But in return I have friends, not followers. Look, you’re not just some guy that reads my blog…we’ve spoken outside of this little forum. I wouldn’t hesitate crashing on your couch the next time I’m in Texas…and your always welcome on mine in NJ. You can’t buy that. Brother from another mother? Absolutely…and you can’t buy that either. You can only build those types of relationships organically.