People trust other people
Precisely the reason why Facebook prioritizes the content of friends and family profiles over business pages. Most small businesses already value word of mouth and will even give benefits to customers or clients who refer friends and family; but the importance may not be fully realized in it’s entirety. Neilsen, a highly trusted analytics and data provider regarding consumer activity and markets, reports:
92% of consumers around the world say they trust earned media, such as word-of-mouth or recommendations from friends and family, above all other forms of advertising.
Word of mouth has evolved to word of mouse with the growth of online activity. No longer is your business or brand solely relying on casual conversations at the hair salon. According to BrightLocal, “85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.” More and more people are researching businesses online before visiting the physical location, or even their website, to read what others have to say.
Just think about the last time you were looking for a place to eat or a new service provider (hair salon, orthodontist, car mechanic). You most likely searched on Google for that particular business type and read reviews. Those reviews determine whether you give them a call or immediately close the business page when you see less than 4 stars. Whether the page has 5 reviews, 50 or 500, we trust other’s experiences.
Businesses need to be mindful that online word of mouse travels much faster than physical word of mouth. Meaning, the damage can be 10x more detrimental if not properly handled and monitored. Likewise, actively responding to online reviews and fostering a place for people to share their positive experiences can generate a financial profit and create social proof.
Google My Business
Google My Business is the best place to start. Google My Business listings are free profiles that you can set up or claim if you are a local, brick-and-mortar businesses or service provider. The listings populate on the right hand side of search to help connect consumers with businesses who provide what they are looking for.
As a business, you can upload photos of the interior/exterior of your store or pictures of services that you offer. Best practice is to always use your logo as the profile image. The listing is essentially another social media platform. You can add your operating hours, phone number, website, and even create post updates or offers (always include an image).
When you set up a Facebook business page, there is automatically a review section. Guess what? Google actually sources those same reviews on your Google My Business page too. Your Facebook business page actually works as an ever growing source of backlinks whenever you reference pages on your website. Be strategic with your social posts. Your Facebook page actually shows up on search when people Google you, so make a good first impression!
Your reputation online is pervasive in so many areas that you may not even be aware of! Your business might be showing up on third party sites related to your industry, popular review sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor, less popular search engines like Yahoo, Bing etc. Google’s algorithm picks up on these different sites so make sure your branding is consistent and you monitor the activity (whether it’s popular or not).
Respond to Reviews
The most important part of both Google My Business and Facebook is the review section. Tip: whether the reviews on your page are positive or negative, R E S P O N D. As a business, you have the responsibility to continue the conversation after you create engagement with clients. Word of mouth happens as an offline conversation, but word of mouse should work the same online. Don’t let people talk about you, or directly to you, without being acknowledged!
Do you know who is talking about you where? You have the responsibility to ensure that the information being sourced/shared is accurate, appropriate and active. The worst thing you can do is “set it and forget it” when it comes to online platforms. Your consumers are active and you should be too.
Do you find yourself being proactive or reactive when bad reviews start circling online? Take action and be the one to start and end the conversation with consumers about your business. People have great experiences at businesses every day, but the one time they have a bad experience is the time they choose to share about it online. Whenever possible, mitigate negative reviews in private. Acknowledge their qualm publicly, but include a private email for them to contact you through in response.
Are you actively generating reviews or do you think people will 5-star you just because? Time to get your ASK in gear! I recommend every small business directly ask their customers/clients to review them online. Send out an email campaign to those you don’t see in person, but review generation is essential to your growth. The more people you can get talking about you and referring your business, the more social proof you have overall (on and offline).
Word of Caution: Don’t Bait the Mouse with Cheese
Many businesses like to bypass the process of organically generating reviews or simply asking politely. Instead, to get the mouse, they jump right to the cheese (incentives). You are not legally allowed to pay or reward customers for writing you positive reviews. Similarly, you are also not allowed to penalize people for writing negative reviews. You can advertise that you are a 5-star business or send an email campaign asking for reviews, but you cannot reward people for writing them.
At Anchor Business Strategies, we use a review platform that monitors and generates reviews on whichever network is relevant to your business (i.e. Google, Facebook). We create custom email campaigns that ask customers to review you online with the touch of a button. The best part about the platform is that it pulls in data from all of your review sites so you can respond to everything in one place. No more anxiously checking each platform every day to see what people are saying!
If you’re interested in learning more about the review tool we implement, feel free to contact us!