The Internet is a wonderful/weird thing. Receive a positive online review from one happy customer and new ones may soon come through your door in droves. Or get a bad review and the next thing you know, no one’s even knocking or calling.
Whatever happens, one thing is clear: online reviews can affect your business in more ways than you can imagine. And, whether you like it or not, you’ll have to spend some time and effort on managing them.
To make the job easier, we came up with this list of best practices in managing online reviews. Check it out!
Monitor, monitor, monitor. You won’t hear anything of what your customers (existing or potential) are saying if you’re not tuned in. So listen. If you would like to track reviews and comments on sites like Google Places, Yelp, Yahoo! Local, Angie’s List, Insider Pages, etc., then obviously we’d recommend that you try out our Web-based ReviewTrackers platform. Meanwhile, if you want to monitor the rest of the Web – say, on Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs), news sites, social networks, videos, etc. – then just sign up for Google Alerts and get E-mail updates every time someone mentions your business or brand.
Claim your online identity. The first step in online reputation management is to take control and plant your flags where you can. Sure, you have a website, a company blog, maybe even a Facebook page. But cover all other bases, too. Not only will this help you keep an eye on what people are saying about you; it’s also going to prevent unpleasant cases of brand identity theft.
So go claim your local listings on online directories like Google Placs and Insider Pages. Create a Twitter account for your brand. Set up an account on Yelp as well as on an industry-specific review site. And if you want to secure your online identity in all other social networks, try out a service like KnowEm and get the job done for a minimal fee.
Generate creative, original content. There’s no need to wait for a disgruntled customer / ex-employee / blogger to post bad stuff about you. Be proactive! There are tons of places where you can post your own good stuff: company website, blogs, Facebook Page, Twitter profile, YouTube channel, industry-related forums, etc.
Of course, the more creative you are, the more likely you’ll be able to stand out – and the more people will share your content – through back links, retweets, Facebook shares and likes, reblogs, pins, Plus Ones, thumbs up, etc. (Did we miss anything?) This viral effect will, in turn, put your online reputation in a more positive light.
Encourage your patrons and regular customers to write reviews. One of the best ways to generate some positive buzz for your brand and business is to get your happiest customers to do the talking. How? Well, just ask. It wouldn’t hurt. You may even be surprised by how many of them are already users of review sites like Yelp or Foursquare or Google Places.
Measure, measure, measure. We recommend that when you monitor and manage, spend some time measuring as well. Perform an audit of your search results on Google (and other search engines) to see how well your online reputation is doing. If you see positive results, good. If you see negative results, comments, reviews, then that should help set the direction for what you’re supposed to do in the coming weeks or months. (One of the best tools for doing this is Radian6, which we also highly recommend.)
Respond to and engage with reviewers. It’s easy to thank the people who write good reviews about your business or brand. But what about those critics? You can’t always silence them, but you certainly can respond to them.
Every time you’re notified by ReviewTrackers of a new bad review, then find a way to contact whoever wrote it. See if you can change the way they feel about your business or brand. (If necessary, offer a freebie or a coupon or a refund or something.) Or, if they’re being difficult, then explain your side of the story so that everyone else on the review site can see how much you care about your customers. In all cases, be polite and patient. It won’t ever do you a favor to lose your cool.