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There’s no denying that one of the most powerful features of social media is its ability to influence consumers. Online reviews have given a strong voice to the consumer, and as such have become a dominant vehicle for influencing purchasing decisions. A recent study by market research company Dimensional Research finds that 90% of consumers say positive online reviews influence their purchasing decisions, and 86% said their decision was based on negative reviews. Unfortunately, many small businesses do not monitor online review sites, leaving many positive and negative reviews going unnoticed and potentially damaging the company brand.  The prevalence of these review capabilities make it imperative for small businesses to become vigilant and active, but where to start?

To begin, each business should set up Google Alerts. This free service helps you monitor keywords, such as your company name, owner’s name, email address, etc. You can customize settings so that you are emailed every time the keywords are mentioned. This is an easy way for small businesses to monitor the web for content being added with keywords you have created.

Next, create a free Yelp Business Page and Google My Business Page. With Yelp’s free business account, you fill out a short form that creates your profile. From there, you can upload high quality images to your profile, respond to comments, and create a Yelp Deal. With Google My Business, you are registered with Google, are connected to Google Maps, can customize your business profile with photos, can respond to reviews, and more. It is highly encouraged to join both of these sites if you are not already on them. Yelp and Google reviews aren’t the only two (others are TripAdvisor, Angie’s List, Yahoo Local, etc.), but they are two of the biggest ones.

Once you start receiving reviews, manage your brand. Here are some tips from Yelp, which also apply to other online review sites:

Responding to a positive review

Responding to positive reviews should be easy, right? It does sound easy, but it’s also surprisingly easy to get this wrong.

When contacting a positive reviewer, your purpose should be simply to deliver a human thank you and let them know you care. That’s it. No gift certificates. No mailing lists. No event invites. No reactions to the minor complaint in their review. No requests for them to tell more friends about your business.

This may seem counter-intuitive, but just try to put yourself in the reviewer’s shoes and think about whether you would really want anything other than a simple thank you. While a gift or invitation sounds like a nice idea, it can also be mis-interpreted as a bribe or payment for the review. Remember, this customer already likes your business — just use this opportunity to thank them and introduce yourself.

Responding to a negative review

This is hard. Before responding to a negative review, take a deep breath and think very carefully about what you are going to write. Or even better, don’t think too much: just keep it simple by thanking your customer for the patronage and feedback.

Negative reviews can feel like a punch in the gut. We care deeply about our business too, and it hurts when someone says bad things. For you founders and sole proprietors out there, a negative review can even feel like a personal attack.

The good news is that by contacting your reviewer and establishing a genuine human relationship, you have a chance to help the situation and maybe even change this customer’s perspective for the better. We’ve heard lots of success stories from business owners who were polite to their reviewers and were accordingly given a second chance.

But please be very careful here: if your reviewer perceives that you are being rude, condescending or disingenuous in any way, there’s a chance he or she could get angry and make the situation even worse. Keep in mind that this is a vocal customer who could well copy and paste your message all over the Web.

So just keep your message simple: thank you for the business and the feedback. If you can be specific about the customer’s experience and any changes you may have made as a result, this could go very far in earning trust.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What should I say in a public comment? Just keep it simple and polite. Yelpers appreciate honesty and like to know when businesses are making changes based on their feedback.
  • Are there times when it’s better not to comment? Yes, sometimes it’s to your advantage not to comment at all. If you’re upset, you might write something that will reflect poorly on your business. Wait until you’ve had some time to think about a review; there may be legitimate concerns brought up in the review that you can address in a constructive way. If you want to thank someone for a positive review, send a private message instead. Comments that simply thank users without providing new information can be perceived as overbearing.
  • What if a review is completely false? Can I say so? Sure, though we always recommend trying to resolve issues through private messaging first. If you feel a public comment is necessary, present your case as simply and politely as possible, and do not attack the reviewer under any circumstances. Remember that potential customers will be reading your comment and you want to leave them with a positive impression of your business.

Public Comment Reminders

As with private messaging, we ask that business owners upload a clear photo of themselves to help personalize their message. You can use Public Comments to tell the community what you’ve done to address a specific concern raised by a reviewer, provide correct information when a review contains inaccurate or outdated information, or provide your version of a difficult situation when you’re unable to resolve a dispute through private messaging. Remember to be polite and stick to facts since your comments are public and can be seen by potential customers.

Please don’t use public comments to launch personal attacks, advertise, or offer an incentive to change a review.

Don’t Feel Ashamed to Ask for Reviews.

Chances are, people won’t leave positive reviews unless you ask. People are much more inclined to leave reviews when they are not satisfied. Unfortunate, but true. Because of that, encourage your happy customers to leave a comment about their positive experiences. Here are a few ways to encourage it:

  • Include a link to your review profile in your newsletter
  • When a customer gives you a compliment in person or on the phone, ask if they wouldn’t mind leaving an online review on Yelp or Google.
  • Include a link to your review profile(s) on your website

Turn Reviews into Insights

One last tip, and this is an important one: Turn these comments into insights. What services or products are reviewers asking you for? What are some of the frustrations customers have? Are there any commonalities among the reviews? Armed with all this information, can you improve your business to reduce these sorts of comments in the future?

 

 

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