Businesses of the internet age know how important it is to have customer reviews prominently displayed in search engine results, on their websites, and on forums like Yelp.
Why? It’s simple: Other than a recommendation from a family member or friend, displaying reviews from others online is the best way to encourage people to give your business a shot.
In fact, according to Bright Local, 91% of 18-34-year-old consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
You cannot hide from customer reviews. Those that choose not to show their reviews will be passed over for those that are more transparent, and proud of their reputations.
So, once you understand the importance of customer reviews, the next step is to gather them – and that can be easier said than done.
One underutilized tool in this effort is your social media presence. You can use various social media platforms to encourage, collect, and display way more customer reviews than what you might get from sitting back and waiting for people to find you on TripAdvisor. An oft-reviewed business, with a positive score, is going to get more business down the road as well.
Here’s how to get more customer reviews through social media to better promote your business:
Social media sites – particularly Facebook, but also Google (if you want to consider the search engine’s offerings beyond the failed Google+ “social media” experiment) and YouTube – are prime real estate for leaving reviews. The first step for you as a business owner is to allow people to review your business on these platforms.
Take Facebook for example. After setting up your business’ page on Facebook, make sure that you’ve enabled reviews in your back-end settings. Once you allow visitors to post recommendations on your page, you’ll start accruing a rating that will appear in search results on the platform.
Note that you can still moderate and even hide or delete offensive or unrelated reviews or comments on your page, so you aren’t simply allowing anyone to post whatever they want without consequence. A page with no reviews or rating at all, however, raises a red flag for potential customers.
Be sure to activate and verify your Google My Business page as well, which will allow visitors to post reviews that show up in Google’s search results.
It can be tempting, as the moderator of your business pages on social media, to delete your negative reviews. Heck, that even goes for your three- or four-star reviews. If no one will be the wiser, who cares if you get rid of your negative feedback? You’ll be left with a perfect rating, and doesn’t that look great to potential customers?
Not exactly. Everyone knows there’s no such thing as a perfect business, so a review page with dozens or even hundreds of five-star reviews raises questions as to the legitimacy of your business. A business with a 4.8 score might be more appealing to someone than a business with a 5.0 score. The former seems authentic; the latter, a fabricated mirage.
Plus, negative reviews give you an opportunity to receive honest feedback about your business that you might need to hear. Perhaps your customer service team isn’t meeting your high standards, or your checkout process is cumbersome, or your in-store experience has turned off some visitors. Choosing to simply ignore and delete that kind of constructive feedback isn’t good for your business.
Finally, as we’ll get into in a bit, letting people air their grievances – and giving yourself a chance to publicly respond – is a good thing.
At its core, social media is about interaction. Think of how boring Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and every other platform would be if you could only talk to yourself.
With that in mind, you should interact with anyone who comments, posts, or reviews your business on any of your social platforms. Responding to your followers lets them know that you’re listening to them, and makes them more likely to respond to your posts in the future.
When it comes to people leaving reviews, you have an opportunity with social media to champion their positive reviews as well as address concerns they might bring up in a constructive way.
When a new potential customer arrives on your social media page and sees that the business engages with everyone – satisfied and dissatisfied customers alike – they know they’ve found an active company dedicated to serving their customers, in any and all settings.
And because 89% of consumers read businesses’ responses to reviews, according to Bright Local, this, in turn, may convince them to post their own feedback when the time comes, earning you even more customer reviews through social media.
When a customer has something to say to your business, good or bad, what is your system for processing that comment and responding?
Many businesses have a standard customer service process – maybe you ask people to fill out a form online, shoot you an email, or give you a call. If you already have a system in place, you may be reticent to encourage customers to also get in touch with you via social media.
But the benefits of fielding customer service issues through social may outweigh the drawbacks. For one, allowing people insight into how you deal with a customer service complaint, step by step, will boost your reputation as a passionate and customer-focused business.
Secondly, you can use the interactions – including, hopefully, the pleased reactions of the people you help – as reviews in and of themselves. What better way to demonstrate how dedicated you are to customer satisfaction than showing, on a public platform, how that process plays out in real time?
For complicated customer service requests, you can respond and point people in the direction of a different avenue for a final resolution (such as posting your customer service hotline phone number). Even simple responses like these, however, go a long way towards assuaging disgruntled customers and assuring new ones that you’ll be responsive in case of an issue.
Social media started as a way for people to interact, and soon brands got involved. Now, these platforms aren’t just for communicating, but for actually shopping. You can use these new capabilities to your advantage.
For example, you can now sell your wares through shoppable posts on Instagram. It’s possible for customers to complete a purchase, from browsing to sending payment, without ever leaving the Instagram app. The same goes for Instagram’s parent company, Facebook. You can create a shop and catalogue, and link your business bank account, with relative ease on these platforms.
At this point, your users’ experience of shopping with you will take place entirely in a social media ecosystem. You can then encourage shoppers to leave a review through the very same app that they just used to buy from you.
You can also encourage them to share their purchase on their feeds, using your company’s handle and/or hashtags in the description. These forms of user-generated content are the modern day positive review, and you can reshare them on your own feeds for maximum value.
Especially when you have a new business, you need to do everything you can to encourage customers to not only buy from you, but to also leave feedback.
Offer exclusive incentives through your social media posts that will encourage customers to not just leave a review, but make it clear they got the prompt through your social media.
For example, alert customers through social media that they can receive a small rebate on their purchase, or a discount on their next one, if they write an honest review of your business on Facebook or Yelp with the hashtag “#HonestReview.” (Just a suggestion.)
The review doesn’t have to be five stars for them to receive the discount, just honest. Hopefully, their experience with your business generates a five-star review on its own merits.
In order to encourage people to follow you on social media, you can make these offers limited-time-only. That way, people will sign up to get notifications from you on social media, with the intent of buying from you, and then leaving a review.
It’s a win-win-win for your business.
This last step involves bringing all aspects of your digital marketing efforts together to achieve a common goal. You can, and should, leverage your influence on one channel to raise the influence of another.
For example, if you use email marketing to connect with current and potential customers (which, if you’re not, you should: it’s been shown to have the best return on investment of any digital marketing strategy), you can include links and CTAs – call-to-action buttons – to your social media platforms, asking customers to leave reviews.
You can also include CTAs on your company website that point people towards your social platforms.
The cycle doesn’t stop there, however. On your social media platforms, champion signing up for your email newsletter, visiting your website, and, of course, visiting review sites (Yelp, TripAdvisor, Google, Facebook, or others).
Whenever a customer visits one of your channels or interacts with your brand, you should make it as easy as possible for them to visit your other channels, particularly those that ask for feedback.
Social media is a powerful digital marketing channel for businesses of all sizes. For many small businesses, however, there is a tendency to think of their social platforms as a one-way channel. They use it to communicate updates, or pass along links to products or their blog.
The truth is, you can use social media to advance a number of digital marketing causes, from garnering reviews to strengthening bonds with new and loyal customers alike. The first step is recognizing that you can listen on social media just as much as you broadcast (if not more so).
With that in mind, start using social media to gather reviews of your business – whether by fielding customer service requests or by simply interacting more often with your followers. You’ll be surprised how much your followers will offer you in terms of feedback if you show them that you’re willing to hear what they have to say.