Finding the Truth in a One-Star Review

Social media has allowed customers and companies to engage in unprecedented communication. It has also allowed customers to review and share experiences like never before. I remember a few years ago when I got my very first job, my manager explained to me that when customers have a bad experience they will usually tell up to 40 people, but when they have a positive experience we would be lucky if they told half that amount. I’ve often wondered how these little statistical facts have changed now that social media has changed how people share their experiences.





One area of the social media review function that has always intrigued me is the validity of a one-star review.

Obviously, there are companies that give poor service, and customers have every right to share their views. Not to mention, other customers absolutely benefit from this information when they are deciding where to spend their hard-earned money. However, I often feel that the abundance of one-star reviews ends up saturating each other and then the truly negative experiences that people have are just lost in the noise. This has proven a real need to be able to distinguish between different levels of negative experiences, beyond the simple 5-star rating system.

I often wonder: how bad does an experience have to be to be rated a one-star? I’ve seen one-star ratings for everything from a late delivery of a pizza to a veterinarian mistakenly putting down the wrong pet. For this reason, I have come up with a few tricks to find the truth in negative reviews.

First, when I see a reviewer give a scathing review of a place, I look at other reviews made by that person to make sure that they are not just a chronic complainer. I still remember seeing one Google user that gave 5 different Wal-Marts in Ottawa a one-star rating without giving a comment…obviously this guy has a grievance with Wal-Mart in general not just one particular store or experience.

Next, I look for reviews that are associated with detailed comments. A one-star review without any comment or with a simple “gross” or “terrible” is not informative or detailed enough for me to take it seriously. In order to truly understand a review, I only give credence to reviews that give specifics about a situation. This also allows me to see if a story has credibility because a story with consistent details is hard to make up.

In reading the comments, I then narrow down the thought process of the reviewer. I see if the reviewer had unrealistic expectations ahead of time, which could have been the cause of the negative experience. I often think that people who give McDonalds a one-star review have some strange standards…it’s McDonalds what were you expecting? However, I must admit that I also question the standards of people that give McDonalds a 5-star rating!

Here is a video clip about famous chef Anthony Bourdain’s opinion on the restaurant review site Yelp:


Now this is not to say that I do not put any faith in bad reviews, I just dig deeper before I make my decision. For me personally, I tend to look at patterns in bad reviews. I ask myself a few questions: Did multiple people complain about the same issue? Were these reviews spread out over a period of time? Does this person just have a personal vendetta or is it a legitimate complaint?

An issue that is complained about by multiple people is obviously a legitimate complaint because more than one person was able to spot it. If the review is from a few years ago and there has been no mention of it recently then it is likely that the issue has been fixed, but if the same issue has spread accross an extended period of time then it likely is not going to be fixed anytime soon. Finally, if a person’s complaint is not echoed by other people then it is very possible that this complaint is speciifc to the indviidual customer and not the company.

By following this process, I have found that I have been able to find some truth in one-star ratings.

One really good trick that I use to find out the truth is that I look for positive reviews and then I see if they mentioned anything remotely negative, even if they did it hesitantly. I often see highly-rated positive reviews where people say “Everything was great, but I must admit I did not really like…”. This type of information is more reliable than a purely negative review where someone is just venting. When you can get a happy customer to say what is bad about a company, this is often where the real truth is found because they do not have any real gripes with the company, they are just commenting about the facts that they observe.


Tell me in the comments about your opinion of online reviews. When you see a one-star rating, do you immediately accept it or do you look deeper? Have you ever left a one-star review? What was the threshold that you used to not rank it higher?

Facebook: Is a one-star review reliable?

Twitter: How often do you give a one-star review?



Hashtags During Emergencies: Informative or Dangerous?

The recent mass shootings, natural disasters, and other emergencies are covered a lot differently thanks to social media. However, I think one particular element of social media needs to be given a special shoutout: The Hashtag.

Despite its early popularity on Twitter, hashtags are now in use on Instagram and Facebook as well. The basic principle of the hashtag is that a user can include a hashtag at the end of their post in order to categorize it with similarly-themed posts by other users (provided they use the same hashtag of course), which essentially allows people to follow one topical conversation even when there are countless participants.

While we’ve all seen the usage of Hashtags for marketing campaigns, fundraising initiatives and largescale conversations, there is one very critical usage of the hashtag and that is real-time status updates during rapidly changing emergency situations.

This video below shows some of the important ways that social media is being used by public safety and emergency management professionals:

Let me tell you a story about my personal experience with hashtags.

A few months ago, some coworkers and I started smelling smoke coming from an open window. We immediately went to the window to see if we could see any flames or hear any sirens. To our dismay nothing was obvious, but the smell of smoke was still getting stronger and stronger. Our building’s fire alarm was not activating, but to be safe we did a quick look around our office building in order to be sure that the smell was not coming from inside. After looking for about 30 minutes, we still could not find the source of the smoky smell.

At this point, the entire office could smell the smoke and the air outside appeared quite hazy, but there was still no obvious source of the smoke. We started to become concerned and thought about our different options. One person suggested that we call the fire department to notify them of the situation, but we decided that without any more information than “it smells smoky in our neighbourhood” we would likely create a false alarm for the firefighters. After some quick brainstorming, one of our more tech-savvy employees took out his phone and said: “Let’s see what Twitter has to say about this situation”. We looked up the Ottawa Fire Service’s Twitter page. However, they had yet to tweet any information.

It was at this very moment that I was hit with the true impact of a hashtag during an emergency: crowdsourced updates. Even though the Ottawa Fire Service was not giving out information, they were not the only ones with knowledge of fires in the area. Bystanders and regular everyday citizens were able to inform their followers by tweeting and using hashtags that were Ottawa and Fire related.

We searched the hashtag #ott, #ottawa, #ottawafire, #ottfire, #ottcity and a few other relevant ones. Sure enough, we found the tweet from a regular citizen about a fire that occurred about a 2-kilometre drive away from our office (its closer than that, but a river and some wilderness with no roads separates us). The tweet showed a picture of the flames and of a parked fire truck. Relieved by the fact that everything was being taken care of, we returned to finish our work for the night.

This all occurred around 10:00 pm, but the news websites and their official twitter accounts did not share more information until later. For example, the Ottawa Fire Service shared the following tweet at 1:51 am:

This relatively retroactive information update also made me think of another important, yet maybe not always a positive aspect of social media: the rapid spread of misinformation.

Social media usage by emergency services needs a great deal of care. These organizations use social media to spread information quickly, but they also need to take the time to make sure that they are spreading the right information. For those that are unfamiliar with the consequences of emergency services mishandling social media, read this article about what happened in Hawaii earlier this year. (Fun fact: the Hawaii incident happened on the same day as the events of my story about the fire).

The responsibility to make sure that information is accurate means that official agencies are not going to be sharing information on social media as quickly as the regular citizen. However, can we really trust the information that we read on social media in an emergency if we do not know any background about the account it is coming from? We may be willing to trust some random person on twitter who tweets about a car accident blocking traffic during our morning commute, but would we do the same for someone who tweets about an active shooter situation? Where do we draw the line between timely information and reliable sourcing?

Tell me in the comments below if you have ever found out important real-time information from a hashtag. Do you think that hashtags in emergency situations are beneficial or do you think that the possible spread of misinformation during an emergency will make an already bad situation worse?

Facebook: Tell us about your experience with hashtags!

Twitter: Do hashtags keep you safe?

Can We Really Trust Strangers: Using Social Media to get Advice on Big Life Events

I’ll admit that I’ve heard about how companies are using social media to engage with customers. I’ve also seen customers taking out their frustrations with companies on social media. However, up until about a month ago, I never really used social media for getting any advice on any big life decisions. I used it once in a while to supplement the decision-making process, but I mainly relied on other sources.

Last month, I decided that I was going to plan a trip to Europe for this coming summer. I had a lot of questions. How much was this going to cost? Where should I go? Is it best to go alone or with a group? How much time should I allocate? The questions kept swirling around in my head, and I must say it kind of made a fun trip appear intimidating at first. In order to find the answers to all of these questions, I knew I had to do a lot of research, but then came one of the hardest questions to answer: Where to start my research?

The first thing I did was google “Trip to Europe”. This obviously was a pretty ridiculous effort on my part, but hey it got the ball rolling. It brought me to a few websites that were informative, some more than others. This at least started me down the road of researching for my trip, but then I came to another big issue: what advice can I actually trust? If a big website really talked up a certain destination, how was I supposed to know if the website was paid to promote that place or not? Also, what information was the author going off of? Had they been there themselves or were they just writing a piece based on what they had heard from sources.

After a few days of researching, I had enough of reading articles and web pages and decided to give myself a break, so I looked up travel advice videos on YouTube. On YouTube I found a plethora of travel advice videos made by people from all sorts of different backgrounds and life experiences, and it was at this moment that I realized just how social media can contribute to a big decision in my life. I found the videos made by these users to be more informative and realistic than those corporate sites that I was reading before. Social media allowed everyday users to write, video, and photograph their experiences from their own angles and vantage points.

It was nice to watch a bunch of videos about different travel vloggers and hear about their first-hand experience and advice. I was able to see what items they brought, where they recommended visiting, what they didn’t recommend, it was all there! I was able to really get a feel for how this person was based on the type of videos that they put out (obviously I realize that they are still complete strangers, so I took their advice with a grain of salt, but I found that I could get a feel for the type of traveler that they were).

I found that a lot of the vloggers were very good about talking when they were sponsored by a company and were promoting their products because of it (protip: if they mention a company by name and have a link to a few of their products in the comments, then they are probably sponsored). Even if I found a certain piece of advice to be a bit suspect, I could read the comments or watch other videos made by other YouTubers to see if they had the same opinion as the vlogger. The one thing that I took away from the social media research was that I felt like I was getting the better context for the advice that I was getting compared to the information that I was reading on the corporate sites. This really gave me a confidence boost that I was making an informed decision when it came time to spend money on the trip.

The one big piece of advice that I will give others about using social media as a decision-making tool is to take the advice with a grain of salt and do not rely on just one bad/good review to make a decision. Some people have one bad experience with a company and they may just go off on them because of it. Make sure that you read and watch as much about others’ experiences as possible, and then aggregate all of the opinions to inform your own. Also, read about the person’s background and read their reasoning for having the opinion that they have. This is where the true strength of social media comes into play; you can really hear out someone’s thought process and you can compare their thought process to your own. You can also build up or tear down their credibility in your head by reading the other content that they have created. You can often see a pattern if someone is a constant complainer or if they’re too positive and not giving the honest truth.

An example of why you should listen to someone’s reasoning is in the video that follows. It shows a woman who bought a very popular travel bag that has a lot of positive reviews on youtube called the Osprey Farpoint 40 (Here is a link to all of the youtube reviews about it: In the video, she claims that despite the positive reviews, she does not like the bag because she cannot fill it up with as much stuff as she wants. In my opinion, she is overpacking one compartment, and in the video, you can hear her say “I gotta admit, the zippers are beasts”. Therefore, even in a negative review, I heard her reasoning and took it as a recommendation to buy the bag because it had strong zippers.



Obviously, I have found social media very useful for planning a big trip. Tell me in the comments about your opinion on using social media to get advice on big decisions! Have you ever done it before? If you did, how did it work out for you?

Facebook: Can Facebook make a decision for us?

Twitter: Ever asked a stranger for advice?

3 Myths about using Social Media for Business

For the past 5 years or so I have had it in my mind that I was going to try to get a job in some area of marketing. Marketing seemed like an interesting and fast-paced world, and I knew that if I wanted to get ahead in the field I would have to work on some of my skills.

I knew that in order to be successful in the field I would have to refine my people skills for any sales positions that were available. I knew that the increasingly technical side of marketing meant that I would have to be proficient in digital marketing, content creation, analytics, and whatever other new technology was invented that week.

However, the one thing that I did not think I would need to improve was my social media skills. I, like most people, have Facebook, Twitter, Instagram (although I don’t use it often), Snapchat, etc. While I am not addicted to the stuff, I definitely use it periodically throughout the day for a variety of reasons (keep in touch with friends, find out information, ask questions, etc.).

So, it came as a real shock when I went for an interview at a tech start-up and they started asking me questions about social media marketing, and I was beyond confused.



I expected them to ask me about likes, posts, comments, and other vocabulary that I was used to, but instead they started asking me about Facebook IQ, Direct messaging campaigns, Twitter analytics, Facebook Ads Manager, and other terms that had never come up in my day-to-day social media usage.

It was after this interview that I realized that my idea of social media experience and a company’s idea of social media experience were not the same…at all. I knew at that point that if I wanted to work in digital marketing for a company, I needed to get some social media training, which is why I enrolled in this course.

Below I have outlined 3 of the biggest myths about using social media for business.

Myth #1: Personal social media and business social media are the same thing

Many people just assume, like I did, that because you use social media, you can easily jump into a social media team at a company, but sadly the transition will not necessarily be a smooth one. There are a few ways that your personal use of social media will help, primarily from a familiarity with the overall platform, knowledge of customer experience, and depending on how observant you are, you may be aware of some of the customer-facing strategies that other companies are engaging in.

That being said, there is still a large gap between personal and business use. For businesses the main goal is Return on Investment for their social media efforts. This excellent article written by Amanda Jensen shows that while the platforms may be the same, the purpose and subsequent usage of social media are very different when it comes to personal and business usage.

When you are using social media for business, your content needs to have a strategy behind it. You cannot just post something to show off your creative side…unless you have a really cool boss. With a business, their social media is often times planned and scheduled well in advance with an editorial calendar. There needs to be integrated and congruent marketing campaigns being conducted on the different platforms. Analytics need to be tracked and reported to superiors. Budget and billable hours need to be used efficiently.

The best way I could describe it is to compare driving your personal car with driving a race car. The steering wheel and gas pedal are still the same, but that is about where the similarities stop.

In order to become skilled at using social media in a business setting it takes training, practice, and always keeping up with the newest trends and technology on the market.

Myth #2: I need to hire a millennial for that

This is one that I hear a lot.

Many people think that it is just millennials who can lead the social media efforts of a company, but this is simply not true. A lot of people have it in their minds that millennials are just naturally good with technology and social media, but they often forget that the main reason why millennials find these things so natural is because of the amount of time that they have spent using it.

As mentioned before, just because you use social media a lot, it does not mean that you can run it for a business. And regardless, to be skilled at social media for business, you need to take the time to get some training and practice what you learn. Social media skills have absolutely nothing to do with age, it’s all about the amount of experience.

This myth is being debunked all over social media, especially on the content-rich Facebook platform. According to Statista, over 47.6 million Facebook users in the United States are over the age of 54, with many of them spending over 11+ hours a week on there. Wouldn’t it make sense to have someone around working for your company to be around the same age as these wealthy potential customers? I think so!

So stop thinking that social media is just for millennials, and that millennials are the only ones who can make your company profitable. It just simply isn’t true!

Myth #3: Advertising is too Expensive

While social media does allow for paid marketing efforts, it also allows low-budget (even no budget) marketing campaigns to reach a wide range of audiences. Social media is a great place for users to openly talk about what interests them, and often times they join groups or follow organizations that they find relevant. By carefully analyzing your target market, and discovering where they hang out on social media, your business can promote your brand and products, often times for little to no cost.

On Facebook, look for groups that revolve around topics where you think that your products could bring value to consumers. Another great place to locate a homogeneous target audience is on topic-specific discussion boards like Reddit.

On Twitter, tweet at influential figures and invite them to try your product, sometimes they will reply, even to say no, but this will bring some exposure to your brand from the large following base that the person has.

On Instagram or YouTube, send an influencer a free version of your product in exchange for them making a post about the benefits of using your product. This will expose your product to their followers, who likely have a need for the products that you offer.

The main goal with all of these cheap efforts on social media is that you want your posts to have a large reach in order to maximize brand awareness. Once people are aware of your brand, and they click-through to your website, then you can really start to show off the different offerings that you have.

Not to bad for something that cost you next to nothing!

For more low-cost ways to promote your brand on social media, check out this article by ThriveHive.


There you have it! 3 myths about using social media for business. It’s not about age, it’s about getting training, experience, and keeping up with the changing trends!

Let me know in the comments about any misconceptions you had about social media before you started studying it! Do you think that social media for personal use and for business use are really that different or no? Why?



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