Word-of-mouth advertising has long been one of the best ways for a business to grow, and we've all been a part of it - either dispensing feedback about people and businesses we've spent money with or asking for information about someone we're considering doing business with and that others have relevant experiences to share.
Throughout most of human history, this exchange of facts, opinions, and anecdotes was personal, slow, and came only from those with whom we had some sort of a relationship. The advent of the internet allows others we've never met to influence our buying decisions. Our "always-on" connection to the web through our portable digital devices, along with our insatiable appetite for information about EVERYTHING, places us firmly in the middle of the reputation economy. Whether you want to be there or not.
What is the reputation economy? Simply put, we can now give and receive instant feedback on every single person, place, product, and service that exists in the marketplace, creating a vast repository of experiences and opinions. This quick and easy feedback loop and these online reviews create a very accurate picture of how a company operates and what we can expect from them. In real time. With no way for the business to hide it.
We have stars for a quick visual representation of performance. Along with the stars, we have a corresponding number score - usually on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being the best - we can compare with similar businesses, and then we have the written comments of the reviewer. We often have photos that accompany the comments, especially for food and other "sensory" experiences.
At this point, the reputation economy is like a runaway locomotive - with no way to stop it and an endless track in front of it - extending into the future. Remember, once something goes online it never really disappears. Consumers can look back and see every stop (business interaction) others have had along the way. As a business owner, the only choice you have is to get on board, and the sooner you do so, the better.
So, how do you climb aboard? As a business owner, it's important to model the behavior you want your customers to emulate. To see things from a reviewer's perspective, you need to leave some reviews of your own. Let's look at three ways you can start participating from the consumer side before you ramp up your own review gathering efforts.
Decide to Engage
Make a conscious decision that you will begin to leave reviews for the people and companies you do business with. It's almost certain you have read reviews before buying a product or choosing a service provider.
Somebody had to take the time and make the effort to leave those reviews. As more people make the decision to do that, the rest of us can make better buying decisions.
Commit to begin leaving reviews and write the first one before you go to bed tonight. Think through your experience and write a thorough, descriptive account of your experience. Rate accurately and explain why you gave that score. Add relevant photos.
It doesn't have to be long, but it should provide enough information to be helpful to others. Stars without an explanation are not helpful to anyone, nor are a couple of words such as "Liked it."
Using the speech-to-text feature of your phone, you can leave a review while doing other things. Like sitting in traffic, watching the kids at soccer practice, or taking a walk around the neighborhood. Get creative with writing your reviews.
Leave Thoughtful Reviews
The more reviews you write on a particular platform, the more weight your review will carry. You are seen as someone who pays attention and will make the effort to share your experience so you gain an informal "expert" status.
Set up accounts on several social media platforms and spread your reviews across all of them. Do a Google review today for Company A. Do a Yelp review tomorrow for Company B. Do a Facebook review the next day for Company C. Continue rotating them as you write more reviews.
Don't copy and paste the same review on multiple review sites. Google is starting to list scores from other sites on a company's Google My Business listing so duplicate posting is not necessary, and some sites will syndicate reviews automatically anyway.
Communicate with Those You Buy From
At the beginning of an engagement or interaction, tell the business owner you have read their previous reviews and what made you choose them over another business. This does a couple of things. It alerts the owner or manager that you are paying attention and are engaged in the process.
And if they are paying attention, you just hinted that you'll probably be writing a review. This may result in even better service than you might otherwise receive.
Just to be sure they got it, let them know you are a regular reviewer and look forward to sharing your experience.
If you write a review for a negative experience and then the business resolves your concern, go back and edit your review. Append the update to the TOP of your review. People will see the business was responsive to your concern, but not if your update is stuck at the bottom of a negative review.
You are providing an extremely valuable service when you review a business. You help other consumers avoid mistakes in choosing a business to meet their needs.
You are helping the business by providing feedback they would not otherwise receive, and giving them a chance to fix problems before they get out of hand.
You are helping yourself because you'll make checking reviews a key part of your purchasing decisions, resulting in better money management and fewer headaches.
Everybody wins in the reputation economy when everyone participates.
If you own a business and would like to put a fast, easy review-generating system in place that can be managed from a smartphone, we can help. Click the link below for a 30-Day Free Trial of QUICKReputation. No credit card required. Quick and easy setup. No obligation beyond the trial.
You can also call us at 404.220.7630 if you would like to discuss your reputation management strategy and explore your opportunities. Ask for Michael.