Marketers of both large and small businesses are working incessantly to manage their online reviews. A one-star review on Yelp or Google can be a serious concern, and having your aggregate score fall below three stars can be seen as an emergency. An unprecedented amount of time and energy is being invested towards managing online reviews. Small businesses have even begun paying micro-influencers to influence how the public views their brand and pander to specific demographics. What’s all the fuss about?
Why Reviews Matter
Consumers are writing and reading more online reviews than ever for a variety of reasons, and it’s having a big effect on businesses. As consumers have grown to spend an increasing amount of time online each day, their habits have changed.
According to one survey, 97 percent of consumers said that they opt to read reviews for local businesses, with 12 percent performing daily searches. And worryingly, despite the fact that 79 percent of consumers read at least one fake review in a year, 84 percent claim that they can’t always discern between a fake or legitimate review. Around half of those surveyed will not choose a business that has less than a four-star rating.
These facts send a clear message: If you aren’t managing your reputation in regards to online reviews, you’re likely missing out on a lot of business.
Managing Online Reviews
In an ideal world, a positive online reputation would be the natural product of an effective and empathetic business. However, it actually requires a good deal of work. Generally speaking, there are two ways to improve your reputation through online reviews: earning more positive reviews and addressing negative reviews.
How to Earn and Leverage Positive Feedback
Of course, the easiest way to earn positive feedback is to offer stellar products and services, as well as responsive customer service. But how can you encourage customers to actually take the time to write a review?
In order to earn more positive reviews, companies have begun marketing to consumers with modern trends in mind. In particular, research from Northeastern University indicates that content creation (particularly video marketing) and social media engagement are expected to continue to rapidly rise in popularity, so these are effective avenues for ensuring engagement. Soliciting users for feedback through these channels — possibly with incentives like a discount or samples of specific products — can increase your brand’s footprint on Yelp and Google.
Once you’ve earned some positive feedback, leverage it! Mention your sterling reputation on social media and in print material, directing users to check out your business’ online reviews. In this way, print material can become an integral part of your search engine optimization efforts. Sending potential customers to Google to learn more about your brand not only shines a light on your good reputation, it can also suggest to customers that your brand is transparent and authentic.
Addressing Negative Reviews
When you encounter negative reviews, assess them to determine if they are authentic. If a review seems vague or irrational, it might be a sign that the reviewer is simply looking to vent — or, more malicious, that the review is fake, potentially from a disgruntled employee or unscrupulous competitor. Most review platforms have a means through which you can report suspicious reviews. Yelp, for example, allows business owners to flag reviews for review from site staff.
If the review is legitimate, take it as a form of constructive criticism. Does the reviewer’s complaints indicate issues with your business? If certain complaints resurface in many reviews, that is a sure sign that you need to re-evaluate your business practices. Respond to these reviews by apologizing for their experiences and laying out your plans for improvement going forward. When customers see you take their negative feedback seriously, they are much more likely to give you a second chance.
Online reviews can make or break your business. A positive reputation in online reviews can lead to improved growth, but failing to solicit feedback or address negative reviews can dissuade prospective customers from ever exploring your offerings. Have you had any notable positive or negative reviews? How did you address them? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!
Avery T. Phillips is a freelance human being with too much to say. She loves nature and examining human interactions with the world. Comment or tweet her @a_taylorian with any questions or suggestions.