New recommendation site trustmico.com is offering businesses a platform to manage their online reputation, claiming review sites do not work.
The venture, set up with a mixture of private funding and a business development loan from Cardiff council, went live last week.
Founder and chief executive Alex Small said the site derived from his frustration with review sites and looks to tap into the power of friend or follower recommendations in social networks.
He claimed that negative reviews are five times more influential to a purchasing decision than a positive one and that Trust Mico will promote positive feedback and recommendation.
Free to use for consumers, it prompts the reviewer to indicate at the start whether the review will be positive or negative.
If the review is positive, it is shared with the reviewer’s social network. If negative, it is reported to the business.
Small claimed to have surveyed around 100 companies in the UK before setting up the website, including 40 hotels, bars and restaurants. He said he could not find one that had not posted a fake positive review on existing sites such as TripAdvisor.
“Ask any company how many letters of complaint they get and how many letters of commendation. It’s simply an unfortunate fact that we are far more driven by anything negative rather than positive.
“We are not solely focused on the travel industry but TripAdvisor is one of the main concerns. I personally hate online review sites.
“This is all about recommendations from people you can trust. It’s an online word of mouth site. Anyone can recommend a hotel and by doing that give a personal endorsement of to anyone in Facebook, LinkedIn or their email contacts.
“Our whole philosophy is review sites don’t work, won’t work and cannot ever work. People end up having to read around five good reviews to psychologically offset the impact of every bad one. That’s why you get so many fake reviews.”
The Sunday Times this week exposed what it claimed was a market for fake reviews, with writers being offered as little as £3 for each and hotels advertising for people to show them how to get round TripAdvisor’s filtering systems.
TripAdvisor says it has rigorous processes in place to weed out fake reviews, but The Sunday Times quoted an online reputation expert who highlighted that the top-ranked hotel in Rome had only opened in April and already had 40 reviews, all positive.
Small hopes to take his new venture beyond the UK, saying all he needs to enter a new market is an exhaustive database of companies. He claims to have a larger database of UK firms than Yell and Thomson.
Trust Mico makes its money from offering firms’ a range of three subscription packages costing from £4.99 a month to £11.99 a month.
The top package offers firms the opportunity to effectively run a Nectar-style loyalty scheme and to access market data.
Businesses can use Trust Mico to offer customers who are signed up incentives and Small hopes many will encourage their customers to use the service.