Two Major Facebook Updates: Rate Users and How Customers Recommend Your Practice

For Lawyers, Doctors, and Dentists

In the past week, there have been two major news updates about the Web’s most popular social media platform.  These changes will impact both Facebook users, as well as your practice. 

The first news was that Facebook has started to judge the credibility of its users as a way to predict their trustworthiness when flagging problematic content.  The second relates to Facebook Business Pages and how customers can publicly announce their satisfaction with your practice.

Change #1:  Rate Users?

Over the past few years, while you have been dealing with online reputation and customers reviewing your practice, Facebook has been taking steps to combat false information by going beyond examining content that users flagged as problematic to judging the flaggers of such content.

The Washington Post first reported (Aug 22) that Facebook has begun rating the credibility of its users on a scale of zero to 1.  The trustworthiness of its users is part of its efforts to fight against fake news and misinformation.

Previously, Facebook relied primarily on the good faith of its users to police, report and flag problematic content such as pornography, hate messaging, or fake news. Now Facebook appears to be judging the credibility of those doing the flagging. The fact is, not all of Facebook’s 2.2 billon users used the platform in good faith and people with a particular agenda used the platform’s reporting tools to falsely flag credible content that was not untrue.  (Check out this video to spot fake news)

The Washington Post quoted Facebook Project Manager, Tessa Lyons:

“One of the signals we use is how people interact with articles. For example, if someone previously gave us feedback that an article was false and the article was confirmed false by a fact-checker, then we might weight that person’s future false-news feedback more than someone who indiscriminately provides false-news feedback on lots of articles, including ones that end up being rated as true.”

Facebook responded to the Washington Post article disputing the article’s reference to rating its users’ trustworthiness and does not employ a reputation scoring system. A Marketing Land article reported a Facebook spokesperson comments:

“What we’re actually doing: We developed a process to protect against people indiscriminately flagging news as fake and attempting to game the system.”

Even if Facebook denies some of the details of the The Washington Post’s article, comments from its spokespersons indicate that Facebook is highly focused on the users that flag false content and taking steps to gauge their accuracy.  It also shows they are using third-party fact-checker results and not just relying on automation and technology.

Although Facebook has down played the issue and refer to it as their fight against misinformation, this will probably magnify the “Big Brother is watching you” concerns by many users. I even had a colleague share a Netflix’ Black Mirror series episode called Nosedive that parodied the concept of rating users after we discussed the issue.

Of course we will likely not be the end of this story, and the issue of personal privacy will continue. If there is one“take away” from all of this, it is to maintain realistic and credible views across all social media platforms.

Change #2:  Switch From Reviews to Recommendations

There is no question that positive customer reviews are essential for your practice, and according to BrightLocal, Facebook is the second most popular local review website, behind Google.

However, if you haven’t already noticed, Facebook has changed how consumer can provide public feedback on a business pages by changing the ability to post star-rated reviews and ratings to simply recommend, or not recommend the business.  

No longer will Facebook users be able to give a star-rated review of your practice.  They will only be prompted by the question:  Do you recommend [business]? 

Depending on the selection of Yes or No, customers will be appropriately prompted to provide more details.

  • If Yes: “What do you recommend about [business]?”
  • If No: “How could [business] improve?”

The Average Rating (out of 5) will still remain, but the rating will be based only on previous star-ratings and all new recommendations.  

So how will this impact your practice?

Tracking and Reporting

The most immediate impact will be on review management software which has been developed to track and report star ratings reviews and comments through an API.  Currently Facebook’s recommendations function has not been opened to API, so tracking data will not be reported.

However, practices will still be able to direct customers to share their experience to generate more recommendations.

I anticipate Facebook will eventually set up an API and review management platforms will need to adapt their reporting to accommodate recommendations.

More Customer Engagement?

Although it is difficult to tell at this early stage, I believe the new format will eventually stimulate more customer activity and maybe even change the substance of the comments.

First, with only a Yes/No option, consumers researching your practice will need to read into the text feedback to get a more detailed picture of the customer’s experience. 

The second thing is Rich Endorsements and Suggested Attributes.  These will make it easier for consumers to leave recommendations and provide more explanation by using tags and photos, as well as text.  Displaying tags that users simply click on can entice users to get started, and the tag descriptions can stimulate more thought about their experience.  This is currently only available to restaurants and coffee shops, but expected to roll out to other review-heavy industries.

Even before these advanced features get rolled out to your industry, the wording of the recommendations prompt will likely influence the response from your customers.  By asking those that recommend your practice “What do you recommend about [business]?” it prompts them to think about specific attributes of your practice or their experience.  For those that choose to not recommend your practice, the wording “How could [business] improve?” positions the question in a more customer service setting.

Customer reviews and recommendations will continue to play a larger role in the marketing results of professional service providers.  How reputation websites gather customer feedback and display it will continue to evolve.  Your practice will need to adjust, but continue to participate.