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:
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.
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.”
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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