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Times are changing, and they are changing quickly. For those of you who are in the initial stages of drafting your reputation management and social media marketing plan for 2015, you need to step away from a business-as-usual approach and take a moment to consider how the review site landscape is likely to shape up as lead sites seek to implement technologies and tools designed to optimize the way users and businesses engage with each other.
The goal of most review sites is to perfect the way they serve user-generated data to help future consumers engage with businesses that are relevant to their needs, wants, and unique preferences.
Watch Out for Data-Driven Initiatives
Until now, the focus has been on capturing data inclusive of basic metrics based on consumer feedback. The data was served to consumers by category, with minimal flexibility in sorting, allowing a searcher to see who was best or worst rated for a particular metric, category, or niche.
Technological advances are now facilitating the parsing of large amounts of data through approximate string matching. This will result in robust access to information that will help consumers find products and services that are perfectly tailored to their needs based on the experiences of prior consumers.
The most recent implementation of data-driven search by Healthgrades gives us a glimpse of what we are likely to see moving forward. For those in the travel and hospitality industry, the “Just For You” TripAdvisor personalized recommendations is setting a precedent likely to define how the industry will look in years to come.
Big-data initiatives, along with optimized product and service matching, are likely to raise concerns regarding consumer privacy, or cause frustration similar to the consumer response experienced by Facebook as it began serving pre-selected News Feeds based on predictive modeling.
Be Ready for Improvements on Location-Based Engagement Tools and Apps
Chances are that most review sites will find ways to improve location-based engagement, facilitating real-time interactions between businesses and potential customers. Expect improvements on mobile platforms as well as increased penetration in the usage of mobile devices.
As you develop your marketing plan, allocate budget for location-based promos and initiatives aimed at increasing your location-based engagement and maximizing business opportunities with transient customers.
Look Out for an Evolution from Lead Generation to Direct Sales and Direct Booking
We are already witnessing superior implementations of direct engagement where the review site facilitates the interaction between consumers and service providers. Take the Yelp Platform, for example, which enables direct transactions on Yelp; reservations through sites like OpenTable, and the recent acquisition of Viator by TripAdvisor, are also some of the first signs of things to come.
Expect to see an increased number of opportunities to secure business and not just leads, and be ready to pay for this type of engagement. The jury is still out as to the cost effectiveness to businesses of such initiatives. If adopted by the majority of businesses in your niche or segment, chances are these types of interactions will no longer be optional but will instead become a must for every retailer.
Behavior and Engagement Data Will Be More Readily Available
Just as big data will facilitate search results, behavior and engagement profiling based on mobile interactions and direct purchases will likely provide businesses with a clearer picture of their marketing persona. Expect to receive a large dose of business intelligence resulting from data mining and customer tracking, and make a concerted effort to use the data to improve your products and services.
Comprehensive Multi-Platform Integration
More and more review sites will facilitate cross-platform interactions, allowing their users to incorporate social media aspects in the way they engage with review sites.
No longer will users feel as if they are in a silo. Instead, they will have the ability to share and integrate their opinions across many platforms with the click of a button. A great example of seamless integration can be seen on how Facebook connect allows Yelpers to brag and share their Yelp interactions.
Instagram is getting stronger by the minute, with millions of pictures shared every year. Don’t underestimate the power and influence of a visual editorial.
Just like we have discussed in the past, a great image conveying the quality of your products or services is a strong endorsement that often speaks way louder than words. Begin moderating image-based, consumer-generated media, and be ready to react to the visual feedback provided. Think about ways of packaging your concept where it is visually attractive and conducive to a social share, be it via Yelp videos, Foursquare photos, or any other review site or social site that facilitates multimedia sharing. As you work on understanding what drives visual commentary, keep in mind that images have a higher potential of going viral than content.
We here at ReviewTrackers are also constantly working on innovation and integration of the latest technologies and trends. 2015 promises to be a year of tremendous changes, and we look forward to partnering with you to ensure your reputation and review management strategy is optimized and managed to deliver great business leads and outstanding customer engagement.