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On-Line Reputation & Reviews

The last major component of Digital Footprint has to do with on-line reputation. The on-line reputation of any business has two basic elements to monitor and manage:

  1. Cumulative Rating
  2. Individual Reviews

Small business owners typically feel a lack of control about on-line reputation, and often feel review platforms don’t treat them fairly. This area, more than any other, tends to have a lot of emotional landmines.

The Inevitable “Bad Review”

Any business will eventually get a negative review. If you’re around long enough, it’ll eventually happen; no matter how hard to try to avoid it. That’s frustrating, because often bad reviews blindside owners and management. More often than not, that customer (if he or she is, in fact, a customer at all) made no complaint at the time when you could have taken action to resolve the issue.

We’ve seen business owners go down very unhealthy rabbit holes around reviews and on-line reputation. Here is an application of the 80/20 rule; 20% of businesses spend too little time on reputation, but 80% spend far too much effort.  In this way, reviews often become the tail wagging the dog.

We’re not saying ignore them; depending on your business and what you sell, reviews can make or break your business.  Some examples of business types where reviews need extra attention include restaurants, hotels, anything having to do with services for kids (moms like to caution other moms about bad experiences), and beauty services like salons and spas.  This list is not exhaustive, by any means.

The One Time You Don’t Want to Be “Perfect”

And if you’re kicking back saying to yourself, “We’ve got a perfect 5.0 rating – so no issues here.” Think again…

In a world where every claim is automatically circumspect, consumers have grown to disbelieve any perfect ratings. They make an assumption that you’re gaming the system somehow, and that “no one can have a perfect rating.”

Believe it or not, we advise clients to set their goals around a 4.7 rating on a 5.0 scale.  Anything in the 4.3-4.9 range is ideal.

How Platforms Decide Which Reviews to Feature

But to wrap up this overview, another hot topic we commonly encounter when we sit down with business owners is featured reviews, and why and how the review platforms pick the ones they highlight to users.  Review platforms don’t provide full disclosure about how they work and how they make decisions because they don’t want to make it easy for businesses to manipulate them.  In fact, they make it far easier for users to manipulate them than the businesses they review.

We get the most complaints about Yelp!®.  As of this writing, there has been rampant speculation that Yelp!® will be sold.  Our own hope is that it will be sold to a large tech company who will ultimately dismantle it (intentionally, or otherwise).  We’ve never understood how Yelp!® can provide a platform that allows users fairly unfettered ability to criticize and inflict real damage on a business, and then pretend to be a trusted partner of that same business by offering advertising and marketing opportunities.  Most small businesses we talk to feel this same disconnect.  For now, it’s a necessary evil because the reviews get pulled over into the Bing and Apple platforms, both of which are relevant.

Facebook® and Google® are the two other primary review platforms, and depending on your business category (similar to directories) there are some vertical platforms that allow reviews to consider important.  Examples of these include TripAdvisor® in anything travel and hospitality related, OpenTable® in restaurants, and HealthGrades® for licensed medical professionals.

Determine How Important Reviews Are to Your Customers; That’s How Important They Should Be to You

Here is another application of the 80/20 rule: 80% of consumers will either not look at reviews at all, or will only look at the aggregate rating of your business, while 20% will pay closer attention.  Depending on the business type and some other factors like overall cost of purchase, consumers may value reviews higher.

For most businesses, on-line reputation requires a one-time set-up/clean-up, and then a small checklist of ongoing monitoring and management to make sure you’re adding new reviews regularly, you’re responding to reviews properly, and potential customers who seek you out see a clear picture of how great it is to do business with your company.

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