The internet revolution has given us all a voice that can be heard by thousands and, in rare cases when a post goes viral, millions of people. For consumers (that’s all of us!) this can be immensely powerful giving us ‘real’ insights into others people’s experiences from staying at hotels, to choosing a particular model of washing machine or getting a treatment at your local massage clinic.

The importance of reviews cannot be underestimated. For massage therapists in Brighton this has recently been brought into focus by one unscrupulous massage centre leaving fake negative reviews on many of its competitors listings on Google Places. At the same time not surprisingly they left several positive reviews for their own business.

Review sites such as Google Places, Qype and Trip Advisor are now often the first place people go when wanting to buy a product or find a service. Readers do however need to make judgements as to whether reviews are genuine or not and whether the reviewer if genuine is likely to have the same values, standards and expectations as yourself (lets face it – there is no pleasing some people!) . Trip Advisor is a great example of this having recently come under criticism for claiming to be a site where the reviews can be trusted but without a foolproof way to ensure the reviews are genuine.

With this in mind we can broadly class reviews into 3 categories – the good, the bad and the ugly!

The good review will drive more business to you, get you noticed by Google and reaffirm where you are doing things right.

A bad review is gutting BUT can be a wake up call and make you reflect on your practice. In the world of massage you really are only as good as your last massage.

Then there is the ugly review – posted by your competitor to try and discredit you. This is the worst sort of review, in that it tells you nothing to improve your business, shows how malicious and insecure the business posting the review is and, of course, can have a serious detrimental effect on your business.

Review sites are coming under increasing pressure to find ways to establish whether reviews are genuine, and rightly so. It would be a great shame for this great resource to be polluted by so many fake reviews that it ceases to be of any value anymore.

If you are looking for a massage centre in Brighton the reviews on Google places is still a great place to start. You can spot the fakes both good and bad fairly easily. Click on the reviewer and see if they’ve left lots of bad reviews for other similar business in the area (a sure sign this is an ‘ugly’ reviewer) and then a few glowing reviews for themselves. Integrity will always win the day (lets hope)!

Mark Alexander is the owner of Natural Balance Therapies in Hove,  a remedial massage therapist, part time lecturer in Business Studies and occasional Blogger…(when he feels inclined:))