London's best kept secret?
Vice journalist, Oobah Butler recently asked the questions: Can TripAdviser be manipulated? Can it be trusted? By opening an 'appointment only' restaurant in his back garden in South London, The Shed's founder decided to do something a little out of the ordinary.
Butler portrayed his garden shed as a restaurant in an attempt to gain respected rankings on TripAdvisor. Fake reviews and photographs created from household items such bleach, shaving foam, paint, and even his own foot were posted on his TripAdvisor listing! Butler even positioned his outdoor furniture accordingly to represent a restaurant environment.
A false reality?
Despite this, the ‘restaurant’ managed to gain verification from TripAdviser within weeks. At the beginning The Shed ranked at number 18,149. However, thanks to fake reviews written by Butler and his friends, six months later it was ranked at number 1.
When asked about the reasons behind his secret project, Butler explained his interest in TripAdvisor as a site and how manipulated its listings can really be. As users, we naturally trust the content displayed on this review platform, but why? We don’t trust everything we see on Facebook or Twitter; we are aware of ‘fake news’ on these sites. However, we seem to quickly put our trust into reviews, written by strangers, that could also be fake or untruthful. Maybe TripAdvisor has more in common with other social media channels than we first thought?
This is not to say TripAdvisor isn't an important channel. For many it's a reliable source of information and marketers (especially of leisure and hospitality brands) should always ensure reviews are managed. TripAdvisor is a great way to publicly demonstrate how you as a brand can put a wrong right. Although TripAdvisor does share some similarities such as ‘fake news’ and the ability to post and share, with other social media giants, it is more of a search engine than a social platform. (Read our article: Opinion Piece: Is TripAdvisor a social media platform?) The Shed's big secret was finally revealed when TripAdvisor eventually caught wind of the venture. After going viral with the publicity stunt a media frenzy has stirred, but was it a successful experiment?
Well it got us all talking, that's for sure! For a deeper insight into this interesting media stunt, check out Vice's video below.