Online reviews have emerged as one of the major factors that influence purchase behaviors of today’s consumers. Thanks to sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor, as well as social networks like Facebook, Google+ and Foursquare—all of which allow users to rate and review local businesses—reviews carry potent word-of-mouth power that can draw or drive away potential customers.
- Research firm YouGov found 88% of consumers in the US trust reviews as much as they do personal recommendations made by friends and family.
- According to Cone Communications research, 4 out of 5 consumers reverse their purchase decisions based on negative reviews.
- Influence Central data showed 90% of consumers think reviews are more important than any information provided by a salesperson.
It comes to no surprise companies now embrace reviews as part of their marketing strategy. A Search Engine Land report found as much as 83% of marketers believe managing reviews “absolutely” delivers good ROI. Handled properly, online reviews can also support and enhance the effectiveness of your social media strategy.
Here are 7 ways to use reviews in perfect harmony with your social media marketing efforts, and ultimately make a positive impact on your bottom line:
1. Identify Most Relevant Online Review Sites
Each business can have its own unique set of social media review sites. That’s why it’s important to know who is talking about your brand and where. Social media is earned media, and success requires listening. But to be able to listen to your customers and your target audience, you first have to know where their conversations are taking place.
This is why it’s so critical to listen on all the possible social sites, channels, and platforms that are relevant to your business. You may already have a business page on Facebook and a branded profile on Twitter, but don’t stop there.
— DHS News (@DHS_News_) September 29, 2015
Plant your flag on review sites and other social apps as well. Yelp, Google+, TripAdvisor, Foursquare, Citysearch and Yahoo Local are just a few of the places your business could be mentioned. Once you’ve done that, identify and claim your business on niche-specific sites where more customers may be talking. For example, Zomato, OpenTable, and Zagat are ideal for restaurants, while Cars.com and DealerRater are for automotive businesses. If you’re a medical provider, Vitals and Healthgrades are essential review sites to know. This tactic sounds simple enough, but few use it. Here’s an alarming statistic, 50% of small businesses have inaccurate online listings. More so, as much as 49% of these businesses haven’t bothered updating their information at all. Claiming your listings improves your visibility. More importantly, it improves your capacity to listen and puts you in a position where you are able to socially engage.
2. Respond to Your Online Reviews
There is no reason to fear the voice of the customer. While negative social media comments and one-star reviews feel like a punch in the gut, you have to face customer feedback head on. The savviest brands know in order to succeed on social media, you have to develop meaningful relationships with your fans and followers. This even includes your biggest critics and haters. Responding allows you to engage with the vocal customer who wrote the review. It also creates an opportunity for impartial observers–your potential customers–to have a fairer, more reasonable perception of your brand. According to industry research, 78% of consumers feel responsive businesses care more about their customers than those who do not respond at all to online reviews.
Natasha L. had a great experience with us. Feel free to let us know what you think! https://t.co/eFKGLh1EA9
— Kismat Indian (@KismatIndian) November 5, 2015
When writing your review responses, keep in mind that the goal is to build goodwill. So be nice and approach every review–no matter how negative it might be–with care. Staying engaged and providing polite, professional responses may even pave the way for your harshest critics to give your business a second chance.
3. Encourage Happy Customers to Give Positive Reviews
A great way to get your positive reviews going is to have your happy customers start the conversation. Then you can share your best reviews on social media networks. The notion that your happiest customers might be antisocial–that their silence could be skewing your brand reputation–is disenchanting. There’s also no need for it to come true.
On social media, where user-generated content (UGC) rules, you can shape your strategy in ways that inspire trust and empower your community to speak. Instead of focusing on promotional brand content or paid advertising as your top investment priorities, you can let UGC work wonders for your brand reputation. A great tactic for leveraging UGC is to collect feedback from your happiest customers and encourage them to post reviews. These people can be powerful word-of-mouth catalysts for your business, so it makes sense to keep them engaged.
Meanwhile, if you’re already enjoying a five-star reputation on Yelp or TripAdvisor, find your best reviews and share them on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. It’s a great alternative to pushing loud sales messages that don’t always work anyway.
According to Forrester, 46% of Internet users in the US trust UGC and consumer-written reviews, while only 15% trust promotional posts by companies and brands on social media. High ratings and reviews also do more than just drown out the negative. Moz contends that review signals are among the top seven factors in local search, so your ability to effectively collect and share reviews will have a positive impact on your search visibility, too.
4. Promote Your Business On Review & Social Media Sites
By its nature, social media creates opportunities to exponentially expand your network, extend your brand’s reach, and grow your audience. Don’t limit your efforts to “Like us on Facebook” or “Follow us on Twitter.” Let people know they can also find you on Yelp, TripAdvisor, Google+, Foursquare and other platforms. This serves as a demonstration of your authenticity, transparency and openness to feedback, which can be the most critical factor to succeeding on social media.
Promoting on review sites and social media profiles serves as a great opportunity to show your creativity because there are dozens of ways to promote your presence such as:
- Emails and newsletters
- Website widgets
- Social Media Integrations
- Banners and Posters
- QR codes
- Window clings
Sites like TripAdvisor and Foursquare even provide businesses with exclusive marketing collaterals (think plaques, stickers, and certificates) based on performance achievements within their respective communities.
Review management and social media marketing allows you to gain insights about–and make improvements to–the customer experience.
5. Identify & Resolve Customer Issues
If your customers have raised issues on social media in online reviews, you need to locate these problems and resolve them. Social media has transformed how businesses handle complaints and respond to customers’ needs and expectations. Outside of Facebook and Twitter, the voice of the customer can also be heard on community-based, review-driven platforms.
If you aren’t already providing “social” care and support, here’s something to consider. Nielsen found close to 50% of US consumers use social media to ask questions, report satisfaction or make complaints. Again, don’t limit yourself to just Facebook and Twitter. Extend the scope of your efforts to include online review sites. That way, you can see the bigger picture and more effectively identify and resolve customer issues, while also creating new opportunities to foster customer loyalty and win lifelong fans.
6. Leverage Feedback & Reviews to Gain Customer Insights
Just like UGC on social media, customer feedback and online reviews can be harnessed to help your business discover and interpret key insights on what and how customers think. Support the objectives of your social media analytics by tapping into your precious review data.
Here’s another reason to claim your listings–most major review sites will give business owners access to review analytics and reporting features. You also have the option to try out ReviewTrackers’ one-stop review management dashboard.
Regardless of rating, your online reviews likely contain a wealth of information that’s crucial to making smart business decisions, such as those involving product and service improvements, value perception, reputation management, pricing flexibility and competitive benchmarking.
Case in point, positive reviews can sway a consumer to pay nearly 9% more for a product or service. And a one-star rating improvement on Yelp can translate to anywhere from a 5% to 9% swing on revenue. If you aren’t measuring social media sentiment and staying on top of your reviews, you’re probably missing out on opportunities to gain a competitive edge.
7. Share Positive Feedback With Your Team
Behind some of the savviest brands on social media are organizations that demonstrate a commitment to creating a customer experience culture. If your social media strategy successfully drives customer engagement, generates five-star reviews and your profiles flourish with hearts, likes and favorites, don’t hesitate to share and celebrate with your team.
Not only does this boost staff morale and employee satisfaction, it can also ignite vibrant and powerful brand evangelists in your team. Engaged, happy and motivated employees serve well as the voice of your brand in social media interactions, while making your brand irresistible to your community.
The best way to increase brand advocacy and impact the purchase behavior of today’s consumers is brand interaction. Leveraging review websites as well as social networks can greatly improve the word-of-mouth power of your social media and positively impact your bottom line.
Brian Sparker: Brian is the Head of Content Marketing for ReviewTrackers, a review management and customer feedback platform designed to help companies efficiently monitor online reviews, manage brand reputation, and enhance the customer experience in ways that make a positive impact on the bottom line.