Online and social media reviews are hugely important to businesses large and small. They’ve become a massive part of how people find businesses online and make buying decisions. As a result, it is essential that business operators understand how online reviews work and the benefits they bring.
Reviews and social proof
The concept of social proof relies on the view that we tend to trust the opinion from other consumers, whether we know the people or not, more than we trust what a business says about itself. Of course I’ll tell you I’m a fantastic social media trainer – but does that carry as much weight as if someone who has attended one of my training sessions, or better still, one of your friends, says the same thing? I suspect not. By encouraging online reviews, whether that be on Trip Advisor, Zomato, Facebook or Google, to name just a few, you’re enabling people to spread the word about your business or service.
Reviews and SEO
The presence of reviews helps determine how high your business appears in rankings on Google local search results. Both Google and Facebook consider the presence of reviews and the overall rating you receive from those reviews when determining which businesses it shows and the order that they appear in.
Reviews and buying decisions
These days people rely on much more information before they make a buying decision – and in most instances, that information is being sought online.
Think back to how we used to book a holiday in the pre-internet days. We’d grab a bundle of brochures from a travel agent and base our decision on a teeny tiny photo and the description provided (and of course the knowledgeable advice of the agents themselves 😊). These days, if you want to go on a holiday, you can look at a website, check out your shortlisted resorts’ Insta feeds, Facebook pages, Trip Advisor profiles, and check out what those that have been there say about it. Reviews form a big part of how people make buying decisions these days, and if your business doesn’t have reviews, people will wonder why. Tip: Make images from your reviews to use in your social media and blog posts (like this one!).
Responding to reviews
Imagine you’re at a party. Someone comes up to you and compliments you on the fabulous shoes you’re wearing. Do you look them blankly and walk away? Of course not! It’s a bit like that with reviews. If someone has gone to the effort of leaving a review, then it’s only good manners to respond, to thank them. Not only is this polite, it gives you the chance to show off a bit of your personality and to reinforce (to the reviewer and others) why they chose your business in the first place.
How to handle bad reviews
Deep breath….. This is a question I get asked a lot in training sessions. Bad reviews happen. We all know that. Sometimes they’re deserved, sometimes not. Firstly, you need to decide whether it needs a response. If the review is clearly, plainly inflammatory, offensive or so over the top, leave it. Don’t dignify it with a response. This, however, is a teeny, tiny percentage of reviews so it’s rare you’ll ever need to take this approach.
I’m a big believer in taking the high ground. Even if you know the review is inaccurate or unfair, I recommend thanking the reviewer and asking them for contact details so you can follow up to explore further. In many instances, they won’t respond with their details. Often people want to vent and move on, as is their right. If they do give you follow up details, then contact them privately and see what can be done to resolve the issue. Regardless of the issue raised in the review, always keep it professional and polite. Wait a little while before responding. A rash, angry response will only reflect poorly on you even if you’re technically in the right.
How to encourage people to leave reviews
Often your customers need a little prompting to leave a review. It can be as simple as asking them to do so and providing some instructions on how to do it. This great article from Webby Web Design explains the process.
So, as we’re all consumers in one way or another, perhaps it’s time you thought about leaving reviews for others. It’s a simple, but effective way to support the businesses you love, and hopefully, they’ll come back and do the same for you.
Author – Stacey Murray – Presenter for Pathways Australia
View Stacey’s Social Media course and in-house training here