Consumer attitudes and decision-making processes continue to evolve. In 2012, several industry-wide surveys indicated that as many as 3 out of 4 consumers trusted online reviews equally or more than word-of-mouth recommendations. This continues to rise as individuals become more familiar and comfortable with review sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, Fourquare, and Google+ (Google+ Local/Google Maps).
Small business owners know that they ought to bank on this trend, but oftentimes, due to both lack of knowledge and lack of time, online review management and engagement becomes deprioritized.
SMB owners are often forced into playing catch-up when they come to the realization that online consumer opinion is not a one-way street. The voice of the customer deserves attention and engagement, for in it we find significant potential for the failure or success of many business organizations.
So what’s a business owner to do when he discovers that proper review management is way overdue?
Prioritize review sites and perform online reputation management
Depending on the nature of your business, efforts should be allocated to the sites that matter most for your particular segment. For all businesses, perhaps the most important listing – and the one that is most likely to drive web presence and traffic – is Google+. This lists your business on Google+ Local and Google Maps.
By setting up a Google+ Business account (you can get your page here), the chances of consumers finding your location are greatly amplified. Furthermore, customers are given the option to review you, which results in listings that display a score that is conveyed visually via stars. Since 97 percent of potential customers search online, special effort and intentionality should be placed on Google+ for Business.
Second in priority is conducting a scrape to identify if reviews already exist in other websites. We recommend using the ReviewTrackers software for this. Once websites with reviews have been identified, proceed to enhance or activate your business profile and engage with posted reviews as soon as possible.
Finally, make it a point to list your business on sites that are highly relevant to your business. For example, if you are a restaurant make sure your Yelp, TripAdvisor, Urbanspoon and OpenTable profiles are properly displayed and contain the most updated information about your business.
Adopt a review management method and cycle
The main goal in establishing a review strategy is twofold. Primarily, the goal is to generate new leads for the business, and secondarily, it is to develop a brand in a way that conveys quality and trustworthiness.
The key to achieving these goals is to establish a method aimed at engaging reviewers regularly, effectively, and comprehensively. Many organizations utilize a Rapid Response Strategy, while others adapt their cycle to resource availability or review velocity. Regardless of the approach a business implements for the management of their online reputation, the principles driving review management remain the same. Show that there is care and a culture of constant improvement and innovation.
Harness review-generated business intelligence and use it
Online customer reviews are the ultimate free business intelligence. Using the unprompted feedback provided by customers equips organizations to effectively and quickly address negative trends. Instead of having to wait for controlled annual surveys, SMB owners are able to tweak the way of doing business in almost real time as reviewers provide daily feedback.
Finally, if a business has no idea where to start, we have compiled a list of the top review websites available for online business engagement. In most cases the links will take you directly to the business relationship page:
Urbanspoon for Business