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generate online reviews

If you are a marketer or a business owner, then you are probably pretty confident in your understanding of how negative reviews happen.

The customer is dissatisfied. Your organization fails to catch the situation early enough to remedy it, motivating the customer to voice his or her opinion in public forums, mainly as a rant, and in some instances in an effort to receive remedy or compensation.

It is human and natural to want to complain when things don’t go as expected. What, then, drives positive reviews? When things go right, chances are that customers received what they had paid for. What would then incentivize them to post a positive review? There are many theories that seek to answer this question, ranging from the desire for recognition to the ability of certain businesses to foster loyalty strong enough to trigger positive feedback.

(Check out: “Look on the Bright Side: 4 Ways Bad Online Reviews Can Be Good For Your Business”)

Because capturing more and better reviews is the bread and butter of review sites, companies spend significant time and money researching review generation strategies aimed at improving the quality, frequency, and length of online reviews.

Today we will explore gamification, which might just be one of the most effective ongoing engagement tools to get individuals to engage in voicing their opinions online and generating other social signals in association with their consumer behaviors.

What Is Gamification?

Gamification is the process by which business is conducted following the basic mechanics of play, including social interactivity, point scoring, and level-based status. Gamification seeks to trigger basic desires and needs of the users that activate impulses that will allow them to attain perceived status or achievement within a set environment and in the larger societal context.

How Are Review Sites Using Gamification to Boost Engagement?

Yelp and Gamification

Yelp boosts user engagement by granting “elite” status. Members of the Elite Squad are selected every year, and they can self-nominate. To qualify, a Yelper must demonstrate significant positive engagement through reviewing, interacting with other Yelpers, and using Yelp tools such as marking reviews as funny or cool. In addition to the perception of status created by the badge, elite members are invited to a variety of exclusive social activities hosted by local businesses in partnership with Yelp. Learn more about what it takes for a user to gain Yelp Elite Status.

Foursquare Going Beyond Check-In

In August of this year, Foursquare introduced “Foursquare Experts.” This layer of gamification to Foursquare engagement bears some of the characteristics of Yelp but is far more democratized. It allows a larger number of app participants to achieve the coveted status based on engaging in certain behaviors, namely repeat business to establishments.

In addition, the system is set up in such a way that participants are incentivized to provide high-quality tips by receiving points toward their expert status for tips that other users like or mark as helpful.

TripAdvisor Appeals to Pride in Performance

True to their well-known liberal approach of allowing businesses to ask for reviews, TripAdvisor has taken the gamification route in their solicitation pitch. In order to get fresh reviews from users, TripAdvisor launches E-mail campaigns that provide users with performance metrics associated with their reviews, listing the number of viewers or how many reviews away a user might be from obtaining a higher status badge.

According to Aaron Hung, director of partnerships for Asia Pacific for TripAdvisor, this type of campaign resulted in a 185 percent lift in click-through rate, compared to its previous campaigns, and about 47 percent of those who opened their emails submitted a new review.

generate online reviews

Why Does Gamification Matter to Your Business and How Can You Bank on It?

When there is an increase in the quality, volume, and audience of reviews, everyone wins. If your business review profiles are set up to encourage engagement and you have a better-than-average online reputation, then you should expect a bigger share of engagement from top tier reviewers.

To put it simply, reviewers seek recognition by association, and thus are likely to patronage highly popular venues recommended by other elite reviewers or experts. Additionally, elite reviewers are likely to leave more interesting and descriptive reviews likely to persuade those using review sites for the purpose of venue discovery to give your business a try. Consider the following strategic moves to get the most from game-based social engagement:

Create Value-Ad Opportunities Via Offers and Promos Using Review Site Mobile Apps

Consider escalating promos and deals that encourage multiple visits to your business. For example, you could reward Foursquare Experts after five visits in a row with an incentive in the form of a freebie or a discount. Even if you opt to post a one-time-only offer, chances are reviewers with high levels of engagement on specific review sites and apps are most likely to view and use the offer.

Tailor the offer to be aligned with the preferences of prior expert reviewers. For example, if expert or elite reviewers have bragged about your peach martini, then why not push a discounted offer in association with a first or second check-in. A good promo can create goodwill and introduce customers to new products and services for which you need to create increased awareness.

Up the Ante When Responding to Elite Reviewers

If you are already managing and responding to your reviews, then keep tabs on elite and expert reviewers. If you are lucky enough to get a great endorsement from one, then make it a point to respond with special attention to detail. Likewise, if you receive a negative review, then be quick to offer an apology, if appropriate, and provide an avenue for remedy or resolution. 

Participate in Review Site Events Focused on Elite or Expert Reviewers

Consider sponsoring or participating in social events hosted by review sites aimed to cater to their best and most engaged users. By participating in these events, you will have the opportunity to get to know them and, with luck, you will have gained a friend and a brand advocate. 

Identify Your Most Loyal Reviewers

If you have incorporated loyalty-based promos to your strategy, then you will have the opportunity to connect the dots and begin to identify reviewers who are highly engaged with your business. Provided they are not Yelp divas, make it a point to become familiar with their preferences, and make accommodations accordingly.

As a final suggestion, you, too, can incorporate gamification to your overall marketing strategy by finding ways to engage and recognize your best customers. This can be done in combination with common review sites and location-based apps, or as a standalone program with internal incentives. With some fine-tuning and the willingness to listen to the voice of your customers, you will see significant gains in revenue, engagement, and brand advocacy.

(Image credit: Yelp)

Kevin Kent

Kevin is the Director of Finance and Operations at ReviewTrackers. Every day he finds creative ways to solve business owners' problems and identifies key issues to help them achieve top results.