To be a business owner, you’ve got to have thick skin. Sooner or later — and probably sooner — somebody’s going to offer a word of criticism, and whether that criticism is right or wrong, you’ve got to keep from taking it personally.
We all know this, but it’s hard to abide by it; no matter how tough we are, it hurts to have someone speak critically about something so important to us. When it comes to online reviews, however, the problem isn’t just that they can bruise the ego. Online reviews can actually have a major impact on the business’s bottom line.
The importance of social reviews
Statistically speaking, 70% of all consumers now consult with online reviews and use those reviews to inform their purchasing decisions. Social networks like Facebook and Google+ are certainly aware of the increased prominence of online reviews, which is why — in an effort to be all things to all people — they’re steadily boosting the role of online reviews in the social experience. Go to most any business page on either social platform and you’re sure to see some star ratings and words of customer feedback.
For the business owner, those reviews can be make or break. Given the statistics about just how many consumers consult online reviews, it is not unreasonable to suggest that bad ones can cause a company to lose customers and to lose sales, especially if there is a competitor’s business that enjoys more flattering social scores. Google+ reviews may be especially impactful, as they appear on the pages of Google search engine results.
How to deal with social reviews
For business owners, then, it is worth taking a moment to think about the practical aspects of social reviews: What can and can’t you do about them? What should and shouldn’t you do?
- First things first: You can’t force people to leave you good reviews. You can’t force people to redact their negative ones. And generally speaking, you’re not going to be able to get Facebook or Google to remove reviews that you find offensive; you would have to prove that the reviewer is lying and has a malicious intent, and even then it’s a tall order to have somebody else’s freedom of expression revoked, no matter how nasty the review might be.
- With social reviews, engagement is key. This is especially true of positive reviews: Take the time to say thank you. Often, your response to a review is just as important as the review itself, and being active in engaging the reviewer — making note of your gratitude toward your customers — can engender much goodwill toward your customers.
- Usually, it is good to respond to critical reviews, too, especially if there is an issue you can resolve. Showing a willingness to right wrongs and offer a more positive consumer experience can benefit your brand, and in many cases the unsatisfied customer will be happy to remove the offending review, when the issue is resolved.
- Every now and again, you may run into a review from someone who is simply unreasonable and it’s your call as to whether you wish to try to engage them. Note, however, that responding to a bad review — especially a Google+ one — can actually boost its ranking/visibility in search engines, so proceed with caution. Sometimes the best approach is to ignore the really nasty reviews and work on getting enough satisfied customers that the negatives are outweighed.
- A final note: Encouraging happy customers to leave their positive reviews is smart. You don’t need to bribe happy customers; just ask them, on invoices and receipts, to help you out. A robust and active social media presence may encourage reviews, because it keeps your company’s social media pages fresh in the minds of consumers.
Social reviews have a very real impact on your company’s public perception, its reputation among consumers, and ultimately your bottom line — and while you can’t control them, you can engage them in a way that’s positive and proactive.
Josh Hurst is the content marketing strategist for Grammar Chic, Inc., a writing and marketing company based in Charlotte, N.C.. The Grammar Chic blog can be found at www.grammarchic.net.