Online reputation management has become a buzzword for marketers and the equivalent of Voldermort for business owners – many cringe at the sound. I don’t blame them. The guy who opened a restaurant, bike shop or bed and breakfast probably does a great job serving crowds of demanding clients. Now any person with a Yelp account and a gripe suddenly carries as much weight as the brand equity that’s been built over years. However, this is the nature of today’s business. Third party opinions have become a critical part of any marketing plan. Consumers are so bombarded by various media that we trust a fraction of advertisements while we believe the majority of 3rd party reviews.
Google, Yelp, Angie’s List, Amazon, Travel Advisor all post reviews on businesses from mostly anonymous users. The problem with this wave of places to monitor is that the business owner feels at the mercy of the internet because it is open forum and anonymous. So, we can have a proactive game plan or tuck our heads in the sand and hope nothing ever goes wrong…which always works out.
Whether it’s a corner coffee shop or a Fortune 100 company, there are examples abound of good and bad case studies. Take United Airlines, for example, where one passenger who saw his guitar broken by baggage handlers wasn’t taken care of and now has 13 million hits on YouTube after he wrote a song about it! On the other hand, I see restaurants in Columbus like Papaya or Mikey’s Late Night Slice who have had success and even national press for proactive reputation management. One of the most progressive and impactful examples comes from Colorado’s own Icelantic Skis who actually has a group of super-fans who pay to get early product access and become the front line for reviews, endorements and positive feedback. Icelantic was more than proactive, they monetized it. Briliant.
Let’s first address the known facts:
- Word of mouth marketing is the best marketing. Always has been. Always will be.
- Word of mouth now happens online. On steroids.
- Crazies will always exist; there will forever be customers that are never happy.
- The unhappy ones are more likely to voice their opinion than the happy ones.
How to have a proactive strategy:
- Realize that the chatter is happening online, whether you want to be involved or not.
- Realize that the crazies will exist and write reviews eventually.
- Be proactive and get the medium to happy people to write reviews.
- Come up with strategies to engage and solicit reviews through Google, social media followers, post-purchase follow up. If necessary, incentivize reveiwers.
- Keep in mind that 9 positive and 1 negative review isn’t the end of the world, it makes you look real.
- Responding to negative feedback online likely makes you look positive and more responsive.
- Be aware that most consumers nowadays can sniff out fake reviews.
Patch the roof while the sun is shining! Embrace reviews and use them to your advantage. And if you’re not a business owner with reviews to worry about, the same strategies apply to an individual regarding their professional reputation or social capital.
Thoughts? Have you chosen a business or gone elsewhere based on reviews online? Feel free to comment or even write a review on my blog below! And tune in next week when I discuss the coffee in our office and Gen Y vs The Boomers.