Fake News and Fake Reviews: Increasing Awareness Could Benefit Multifamily

Reputation Management

It has become one of the biggest stories of the New Year: fake news. Some say it helped sway the Presidential Election. Others insist it has been used to fuel smear campaigns against public figures. In December, a Twitter hoax claimed the Minnesota Vikings were going to open their state-of-the-art new stadium for the homeless on a cold night.

By now, most people have been exposed to fake news in some capacity, particularly on Facebook. This has increased skepticism of published reports, particularly those that do not originate from trusted sources.

For the multifamily industry, this might be a good thing.

With opinion sites influencing upwards of 54% of leasing decisions, according to an NMHC/Kingsley Renter Preferences study, increased awareness of fake information could make prospects more suspicious of negative reviews. Some angry residents will post exaggerated rants to harm a community because they didn’t get their way. In rarer cases, competitors will plant negative reviews, posing as an unhappy resident to disparage a competing property.

False information can have a serious impact on businesses and the reputations of the people who work there. Its impact is too great to be dismissed as meaningless. The troubling stories about fake news have put all organizations, including external review providers, on notice that they should improve the accuracy of the information posted on their sites. 

Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean fake reviews won’t continue to happen. If your communities are victimized with fake reviews, there are a few things you can do to mitigate them and prevent reputation damage.

  • Report them if they violate the terms of service. Don’t overuse this option, but when a fake review is obvious and it violates the review site’s terms of service, reporting the review is critical to managing your community’s reputation.
  • Respond kindly no matter the content. You know it’s fake, but the prospective renters reading it might not. And they’re more likely to side with the resident because you’re the big, bad “landlord.” Treat fake reviews the same way you’d treat any other review, showing prospective renters that you’re a customer-friendly organization. Readers will see the difference between how you’re handling the issue and how the angry “resident” is. 
  • Research the fake review and reach out to the fake reviewer. Do this privately and professionally to maintain your own reputation as an upstanding organization. This will notify them that you are aware of their attempts to defame your community. 
  • Depending on the content of the review, reach out for legal assistance. If the review is false and malicious, a legal professional may be able to send a cease and desist letter. Use this method sparingly and never send a legal letter like this to a current or prospective renter. This tactic is only for those truly trying to harm your reputation.

Fake news and fake reviews will not disappear anytime soon. Many will still spread lies, half-truths, and misinformation to manipulate opinions. But now that awareness of fake information and its consequences has spread, those falsely disparaging your communities will have less of a leg to stand on.