They have the power to make or break a business – and half of all British businesses now say their commercial interests have been affected by negative reviews.
According to new research, 52 per cent of those questioned have experienced a decline because of postings online in the last 12 months.
A further one in five are terrified further negative content could destroy them for good – up from one in six two years ago – with more than one in ten reporting the situation is getting worse.
Almost half of the business owners and decision makers questioned have been affected by malicious posts and trolls in the past year too.
Another one in ten feel the landscape is becoming trickier to manage and one in eight – 12 per cent – of those affected say they don’t know how to make things right.
This heightened awareness of the dangers of unmonitored content is growing.
An overwhelming 79 per cent, feel online reviews, comments and forum posts are important to the financial and reputational status of their businesses – an increase of three per cent since they were surveyed two years ago.
As such almost a third say finding ways to monitor and manage negative content is becoming more important to their customer service and marketing strategy.
For those that are trying to protect their interests, the time costs can be huge.
Nearly a third are spending five hours a week managing reviews, with one in eight dedicating up to 20 hours each week.
Who takes responsibility is another important area to consider.
Almost one in five have been forced to create an in-house role to monitor and review online content, while 12 per cent have signed up to a third party review platform, such as Trust Pilot, in a bid to maintain a positive profile.
Speaking about the findings, Igniyte Director, Simon Wadsworth said: “What this latest, 2016, data shows very clearly is just how damaging malicious or unfair postings can be – and just how important managing online content is to businesses today.
“Taking control of a company’s online review and content strategy is crucial to its success.
“Since we launched our Business of Reviews research we have seen a continuing awareness of the need to manage online content – and of the damage unchecked material can do.
“Our 2014 data revealed the scale of the problem and the confusion surrounding how to tackle it.
“The 2016 follow up research reveals people are more worried than ever – the number of people who feel bad reviews have the power to make or break their business has risen from 17 to 21 per cent – but are struggling to find the right solution.
“In a world where online comments, posts and reviews are constantly gaining in significance, firms must find ways to monitor and where necessary, tackle, damaging content.
“Getting to the root of the problem is essential. Employing good customer service and using negative feedback productively can help improve operations.
“It’s about having a robust business with good customer service/complaint handling processes and strong positive dialogue as its starting point.
“As reputation specialists, we are perfectly placed to help people implement this kind of comprehensive approach; devising a wide range of long-term strategies that can contribute to a business’ future success.
“We recently launched our reputation index, a ground-breaking way for Igniyte to review how a brand or individual is perceived online, allowing us to create informed strategies to benefit our clients.
“It allow clients to assess their online rating; helping them collate and evaluate PR, brand mentions and social media engagement to let people know exactly how they’re doing.
“It’s this ‘joined-up’ approach that creates the kind of reputational resilience businesses need.”