Whenever someone does a search for your business, they're bound to get someone else's opinion about it. Even if your business efficient, well-run and has a great mobile presence, all it takes is a lack of reviews – or some persnickety comment – to derail a potential sale.
So what should you do? Here are a few suggestions to help you manage this critical part of your online identity.
The first thing you can do is a little old-school marketing. If you have a traditional retail location, put a placard or sign somewhere asking people to leave a positive review on Google Maps, Facebook, Yelp or another service where you see a lot of traffic. You can also offer a discount, such a small percentage off a service or an inexpensive freebie, in exchange for an honest review. [Looking for a new place to promote reviews? Check out these Yelp alternatives.]
Check-ins are worth promoting as well. If someone checks into your store on Facebook or a service like Swarm, people in their timeline get a chance to see what they're up to. None of these are a guarantee, but they're a solid place to start.
Take digital control
Every site on which you can receive reviews has a platform where you can manage your presence. The Facebook Business Manager has a ton of tools (of varying ease of use) that let you tweak the appearance of your page. It's also the main hub where you can see the number of reviews, check out visitor stats or respond to those who have left a comment.
Additionally, Google has ramped up the capabilities of how your business appears during a Google search, particularly on mobile. Be sure to grab the Google My Business app to take charge by adding pictures, information, or the details about your business. A similar tool is available for Yelp, which remains a popular source of reviews.
By having an active presence, you're more likely to get reviews and can nudge your customers to send in a few. This is especially critical on Facebook and Google, where they play a major role in how your brand's presence is analyzed by those who may find it.
Respond to reviews (even if they're negative)
There's bound to be a time when you get a review that you're not thrilled about. The question is what to do about it. Facebook, for example, doesn't let you delete reviews just because they're less than five stars. You can report one if it violates the company's guidelines, but your best move may be to gently push back.
Google offers some suggestions for this process if you need some guidance. The key takeaway is to be professional and courteous. Offering a refund or explaining the situation in more detail may be enough to assuage an irate customer. At the very least, it will demonstrate to others that your business is responsive and listens to feedback.
While this may sound like just another thing to manage, there's great value in paying attention to user reviews. A survey by BrightLocal found that 84 percent of those surveyed trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. If you aren't tapping into the potential with online reviews, you're missing out on the chance to convince some new customers to give you their business.