Have you brushed off online reviews, placing more importance on word of mouth, soliciting prospects and trying to engage with customers? Maybe you think absence of online reviews is even a good thing – after all there are no bad reviews, right? You may be making a tremendous mistake that could be hurting your bottom line. In reality, online reviews are more important than how high you appear on Google. Why? Consider the following hypothetical story:
Social Proof at the Nightclub
It is 9pm at the city’s most exclusive club. Eager to gain entrance, people are waiting outside in line. An elite crowd is seated at the windows, while the bartenders are already making a killing. Their tip jars are brimming with cash.
Behind the scenes however, the situation is a little more contrived. You see, there is ample space in the club for everyone, no waiting is really necessary. The crowd of “elites” are seated by the window on purpose to make the club appear more full. Meanwhile, the bartenders have “primed” their tip jars before their shift even started, placing bills into the containers until they appear half full.
Social Proof on the Internet
What does this have to do with online reviews? Everything. What we are talking about here is social proof, and the underlying concept behind it. The fact of the matter is, human beings take cues from other human beings. People see others waiting in line to gain access to a club, and decide that this club must be exclusive. The “elite” crowd is seated at the window first, so the club appears to already be packed. And tip jars are primed because we, as human beings, subconsciously figure “other people have tipped well, so I should too.”
How to Harness the Power of Social Proof with Online Reviews
You see, social proof is everywhere, especially on the Internet. It is one of the most important tools you can harness to turn prospects into happy customers. It is a way to engage with your current customers, a way to demonstrate to the public that you appreciate their service, and will remedy any negative experience customers have had, putting prospects at ease. What’s more, online reviews will improve your SEO rankings, allowing you to rest in that coveted spot on the SERPs.
Developing a Strategy to Use Online Reviews
When you have a heap of reviews from customers who have already been to your business, you can become that “exclusive club” from our hypothetical story. People will see that a healthy amount of customers already use your product or service, and this social proof will drive even more business. Just like the bartenders were wise enough to prime their tip jars, you too can prime the internet for influential social proof. It’s not the reviews themselves that will convince prospects to solicit your business, it’s how you use your reviews.
Let’s take a look at the top seven online review sites, how to understand them, and how to use them to bolster your bottom line.
Google My Business
Google My Business is number one on the list, because Google is the go-to site that your audience uses to find information. Your prospects will of course expect you to be listed on this site, with all of your business information properly inserted on your site. If you don’t list your business hours, for example, you may lose a potential customer who simply browses down to the next business that they know is open.
How to Use Google My Business
- Include as much information as possible on your Google My Business listing. This is the review site where people are most likely to use when they are searching for details.
- Identify and verify your business with Google so that your prospects know you are a legitimate business.
- Optimize for mobile on this site. Ensure that customers can tap to call or tap for directions.
- Describe who you are and what you do in a compelling way. Try to think of the reason someone might be searching this site and appeal to this pain point.
Yelp may be the most utilized and well known review site on the internet. You will definitely want to make yourself available on this site to collect valuable insight and social proof. Your audience typically will use Yelp to get a “real idea” of what your business is like. Unlike other review sites, Yelp doesn’t allow you to solicit reviews. The people who consult with Yelp are seeking other customer’s opinions, and it is important to understand this, so you can react accordingly.
How to Use Yelp
- If a customer leaves a negative review, respond to their comments immediately. Express empathy, and present the customer with a solution.
- Gather valuable insight from customer reviews. You can spend hours analyzing website analytics, or you can get feedback straight from the horse’s mouth.
- Use Yelp’s massive popularity to monitor your brand and enhance your brand image.
People don’t just jump on Facebook to connect with people they met in high school anymore. Facebook has become a source that your customers are using for news, upcoming events, and business information. When people visit your Facebook page, they are expecting engagement. If someone sees that you haven’t been active on this site in months, they are likely to pass you by for a competitor.
How to Use Facebook
- Use private messages and public responses to respond to public feedback on your page.
- If a prospect wants to know more about your business, take the time to publicly answer any and all questions they may have.
- Log in every day to demonstrate you are active on the network.
- Consider using Facebook ads to target specific demographics of your audience that you know perform well with your business.
Foursquare is a must have for brick and mortar store, as the site places emphasis on “checking in” to local businesses. Your audience is going to expect you to be on Foursquare, with your business details, and a correct address. Foursquare is a social site, and it is important to understand this to drive business. The more check-ins you have, the more social proof you have.
- Use Foursquare, and their second app Swarm, which gamifies check-ins to gather even more check-ins.
- Optimize your website for mobile, so Foursquare users can interact easily with your business.
- Keep your business information, particularly any address information up to date so prospects can access you.
Although people are using other sites for information, Angie’s list is still a big player in the online review game. Your customers will expect Angie’s list to stick up for them. Understanding this will work to your benefit, as you can use the site as an intermediary between your customers and your business.
How to Use Angie’s List
- Run your business above the board – be honest, and don’t overcharge your customers.
- Give every customer the “A-list” treatment. The smallest customer has just as much clout as your most important customer on Angie’s List.
- If a customer leaves a negative review, work with the site for conflict resolution. Angie’s List may determine that you are in the right and will side with you over an unfair customer.
Bing places is one of the best ways to “get yourself out there” online. The service allows you to add your business information to the Bing search engine. While this may not sound too impressive, Bing controls a sizable share of search engine traffic. Your audience is using Bing to search for information, much like Google My Business, so it is important to make your business information accessible on this channel.
How to Use Bing Places
- Thoroughly fill in all business information, including name, address, hours of operation and phone number.
- Frequently check to see that all of your information is up to date.
- Verify your business with Bing so that you will appear legitimate on the site.
HundredX is software that focuses on gathering honest feedback about your business. After subscribing to this service, you can solicit reviews from your customers. Your audience is going to expect a platform where they can be completely honest. This of course is important to your business because customer feedback can let you know what you are doing right, so you can do more of that, and what should be improved.
How to Use HundredX
- The most important way to use HundredX is to use HundredX. Although it is a subscription service, it is a valuable source of information.
- Ask customers to leave reviews as they interact with your business, so you can get a “real time” idea of what they are thinking.
- Ask customers to leave reviews after they interact with your business, so you can see how their opinion has changed from the beginning of the business relationship until the end.
To use online reviews effectively, remember to engage with both good reviews and bad. Let your customers know you are active by logging on to these sites. Ensure that your business information is correct and up to date.
Prime that tip jar. Make it easy for customers to leave reviews. You may think that a bad review is the worst thing that could affect your business on an online review site. In reality, having no reviews is going to be most detrimental, so get yourself out there.
The Big Picture
Remember that the way you use online review sites is more important than the reviews themselves, so have a solid strategy. For example, if someone leaves a bad review, weave damage control into your strategy. Offer empathy and a resolution, and prospects will walk away with a good feeling about your business in spite of the bad review.
Online reviews are one of the most powerful ways to grow your business online. Not only can they boost your word of mouth buzz, but they are a prime opportunity to harness the powerful benefits of social proof.