Monday, July 4, 2011

Impact of Review Sites on your Business

Impact of Review Sites on your Business

When it comes to social media, most businesses nowadays understand the power of Facebook/Twitter and have started learning the ropes.  In fact, according to the recent “State of Small Business Report”, 75% of small businesses have a company page on a social networking site. The Facebook and Twitters of the world make it easy for business owners to control their own PR and manage their brand image. After all, they can set up their own accounts, write their own posts, respond to comments or complaints as they see fit, delete inappropriate posts, etc.

Social Media Tactics Used by US Small Businesses, December 2009 (% of respondents)

But what about user generated content sites? The ones driven exclusively by customer opinion and review? The ones where you can’t control what gets posted? Sites like the uber-popular Yelp? How does a conscientious business handle such sites?
For those who aren’t familiar with it, Yelp is a user-generated content site where members write reviews about every kind of business under the sun. The rating system consists of between 1 and 5 stars, and prolific Yelpers (as they’re known) can be designated “Elite”, earning invites to cool parties and events.
Of course, any good business owner wants to have happy customers. Negative reviews or feedback don’t give anyone the warm fuzzies. But many businesses handle these challenges in ways that are self-destructive.   Many try to pretend to be customers, start their own accounts and write fake reviews. BAD idea, and the worst kind of sin in the Yelp Community.
Some of the warning signs indicating a fake review:
•    Review is written by someone with no profile picture or other reviews
•    Review is 5 stars and is very vague or sounds promotional in nature
•    Review actually refers back to another website or other marketing tool or product
Another major no-no is sending nasty messages to Yelpers who’ve written negative reviews, and/or showing up at their houses! Check out the story of a San Francisco business owner who did just that, and what ensued.
For businesses looking to utilize Yelp (in the right way), they offer accounts for business owners, and additional tips and instructions on how to respond to reviews and conduct themselves on the site.
Through an official Yelp business account, business owners can respond to reviewers, check their stats and utilize the site in a variety of different ways. Even better, business accounts are totally free! They also allow owners to track their business page and see how many visitors they’re getting. According to Yelp, over 26 million people visited the site for info in December 2009 – that’s a market business owners could be reaching.
Another site that can be a terrific boon for businesses is the location-based social site, Foursquare. The site allows for people to “check-in” at local establishments, follow their friends’ whereabouts, and get insider tips left by former visitors. The site suggests that businesses offer rewards for customers who return often to their establishments. Foursquare allows business owners to see how many times a particular person has checked in, and they can offer freebies or rewards accordingly. The site now actually showcases special offers that biz owners are offering to their “Mayors”.
In the end, these sites mean opportunity for businesses. Honest feedback from current or potential customers is truly invaluable, and if companies learn how to use it and respond to it effectively, it can pay off, BIG TIME.  Of course it’s scary for most businesses to face this type of information in the beginning, since it’s impossible to predict what people might say or post, and everything can affect your business. But the more educated business owners are about these sites and the proper way to use them, the better off their establishments will be!
Additionally, Destination Marketing Organizations and local Chambers of Commerce can assist in this process, by helping local business owners to harness the power of these sites and learn basic rules. Knowledge is power!

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