This morning, Carl V. Natale posted about reputation management on his blog The Takeaway, and it's a great read, touching on the themes of reputation and transparency that I've noted in recent posts here.
The post includes a quick survey of resources and strategies for monitoring what's being said about your company and even your competition.
At the end, Natale cites a regional SEO blogger's post about a temptation that arises in small business marketing -- posting positive reviews about your own business and negative ones about your competitors.
I think Natale is absolutely right here. There is nothing transparent about trying to game the system. Just like shady SEO practices, whatever bounce you get from engaging in sock puppet reviews will be more than offset by the longer term reputation damage that comes when your efforts are exposed.
If you don't see the ethical issues that arise from this kind of tactic, consider a hypothetical situation... Suppose you were considering a candidate for an open position at your company, and as part of your hiring process, you request references.
Now suppose that the contact information your applicant supplied was bogus. Perhaps the references weren't former bosses but were instead friends or relatives. Would you hire someone who went out of their way to misrepresent their reputation to you? Why should your customers expect anything less from your business?