Cartoon of unhappy and happy customers thinking about reviews.

Dear Consumer: Do a Small Business a Favor and Write Reviews

Social media is all about personal connections, recommendations and reviews. Whether someone is urging you to agree with them on a political point or raving about their new favorite restaurant in the neighborhood, you will care more the closer you are to them.

This extends to reviews as well. If you are searching for a business on Google, Yelp or wherever, you are likely to not only read the reviews, but be swayed by them. This may be especially true on NextDoor or other apps that are neighborhood-centric.

Unfortunately, just like there is fake news, there are fake reviews. Judging by a long thread on the Facebook help desk, this is a widespread and longstanding problem. But, there are also true reviews that can be devastating for reputation management. All it takes is one person with a suboptimal experience to make someone else think twice.

In addition, there seems to be a cadre of self-appointed food critics out there who really go out of their way to heap on the snark with ample sides of hypercriticism.

What can a small business do? It’s simple: get good reviews from happy customers. Serve them well. Ask for reviews at the point of sale or in emailed invoices. Also, make sure you encourage customers to provide feedback, including constructive criticism, directly through a customer service channel, thus giving you an opportunity to make amends and diminishing the chances of a review rant appearing.

What Comes Around Goes Around

Ask yourself when was the last time you gave a business a review? Given I am engaged in social media marketing, I always feel obligated, if I enjoy an experience, to write a great review. Some recent examples:

For my dentist (Edge Dental) on Google: “Came back for my cleaning today and Dr. Lai answered all my questions. He also scrutinized an area of concern we will check again if it doesn’t improve in a couple of weeks. Great office staff and perfect location on Memorial Drive. I know I am in good hands.”

For my favorite Thai restaurant (Thai Chefs) on Yelp: “The last time I had Thai food this good, I was at an upscale restaurant in Bangkok. This place is a cut above. The food is outstanding. The service is attentive and warm. My first time here and I can’t wait to come back!”

For my favorite auto shop (AAMCO Bellaire) on Google: “I had a check engine light another mechanic couldn’t figure out and then found out if I wanted the dealer to look at it, I would need to drop off the vehicle for at least 48 hours. Beal’s shop ran the codes and asked about the idle speed (like the previous mechanic) and then came up with the correct solution: buy some premium fuel and run it down the highway. That worked! This is my place now for oil changes. Also, I have thought about lifting my Jeep and Beal cautioned me about possible complications. He then spoke to the lift-kit shop and reported back to me that those guys would indeed do it properly. That’s above and beyond service!”

Call it good karma. Put positive vibes out into the universe by giving good online reviews and good reviews may come back to you. Again, though, the best way to generate good reviews is to ask happy customers to write them. It just takes a moment for a beautiful review to blossom.

For more information on social media marketing, contact consultant Katharine Fraser.

 

 

Bullseye on notepad denoting strategy meeting.

Preparing Your Social Media Strategy

If the definition of luck is preparation meeting opportunity, give yourself the ability to succeed in social media marketing by organizing your strategy and messaging.

There are two things that must be done for digital marketing: prepare a plan at the outset and then periodically review how the plan is working (or not) in practice. Adjust and add elements when necessary.

Strategic Planning

Start with your brand’s voice. What is the culture of your company and to whom are you seeking to convey that. Here’s a useful exercise: think about what adjectives you would like your customers or clients to use for you? Reliable, quirky, funky, conservative, resourceful, creative, etc.? What are you bringing to the marketplace? Decide how to define yourself and that will inform what tone the content writing should take.

Next, let’s fill out a content calendar. What objectives do you have this quarter and the next? What seasonal offerings require advanced planning for marketing? What message and offers need to be delivered and what is their schedule?

Critical Response Plan

A question I frequently here is what do we do about bad reviews? This is certainly the ugly side of social media and platforms such as Yelp and Facebook are notorious for making it very difficult to get rid of a fake review by a disgruntled former employee or a crazy customer. If you really want to be scared, read this thread with Facebook business page owners complaining – to no avail – about horrific fake reviews by people overseas who have never purchased anything from their stores.

What to do? You need a answer at the ready in your back pocket, so the moment some social media crank comes after you, lay out the prepared remarks. For Critical Response Planning, pre-detemine who needs to be notified of a problem and the decision-making hierarchy. If the No. 1 person isn’t immediately available, who is the backstop for approving how to handle it. Your social media manager will need to be in touch with these principals. At the very least, the social media manager should work with you to craft pre-approved messaging they can issue in an immediate response.

Traffic Management

The term Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) is bandied about and you should review which are most appropriate in measuring how well your social media and website marketing are performing. How many people do you reach? How many respond or engage with you. Are you tracking in your client management or customer acquisition system how many were referred by the content marketing or social media advertising? Are you reviewing the Google Analytics data for your business website to see where the website traffic is coming from? Did you know it specifies which social media channels are bringing you website visitors? Are you reviewing Google Adwords metrics and weighing that against the efficacy of other digital marketing spends?

Overall, to optimize your social media and content management, prepare your strategy, be ready to respond to critics and gauge your digital traffic.

For more information about Adroit Narratives, check out the services menu.

Angry woman pumps fist with fiery backdrop.

Fake news, Fake Reviews and Prevailing Truth

Recently, a real news outlet covered the story of an airport gate temper tantrum by a grown woman. The story seemed sympathetic to her plight as an aggrieved customer. A Facebook friend and I had diametrically opposed views of her rant, which came after the airport was closed due to high winds. Frankly, I think she should have been kicked out of the airport. If I had been a traveler at the gate, I would have been rather put out having to put up with her.

What does that have to do with digital marketing and social media? I liken this screaming maniac to the negative review frustration felt by businesses when a raving lunatic trashes their business on Yelp, Facebook or other outlet.Angry woman pumps fist with fiery backdrop. I’ve seen this happen a few times and it’s awful for a business owner to be on the receiving end of an unfair review. Some examples:

  • A customer had not paid in full, but wanted the products she ordered already and accused the business owner of being a criminal in a Yelp review
  • An ex-employee apparently relapses and accuses more than one former employer of being crooks

I bet you have seen many of these examples. We rely on Yelp for road trip dining and it never fails to amuse me how ridiculous the negative reviews are, such as a Denny’s customer poo-pooing the butter substitute packets. The only time I have ever been truly scared away by a review was in reference to bed bugs at a hotel. I’m not sure I want to provide guidance to the libel slingers of the world, but tossing around bed bug allegations can be damaging.

Admittedly, I don’t have any hotels as clients, but my advice is generally the same no matter what your business.

Respond in way that is generic and professional. Provide your policy in a way that hints at the context of the complaint. (We’re so sorry if our all sales are final policy presented a frustration for you…) Do not meet the mud-slinger at their level and don’t get into specifics to rebut them. This is not a trial and you are not a litigator. If the material is so objectionable that you think it needs legal review, by all means, call an attorney.

Report the negative view as harassment or a violation of the community standard of the platform. Each is a little different, but those flagging mechanisms are available. Usually, you just need to right-click on an arrow to get to the report post prompts. If you cannot wait for Facebook to get around to pulling a negative rating, you could remove the rating function on your business page. Unfortunately, it does not let you cherry-pick which reviews to keep or delete. If you must immediately pull the shade on reviews, go to edit page info and change the category from local business to another category, such as company.

Take a deep breath. It is highly unlikely to end up as bad as #pizzagate, where a fake news story, a.k.a. absurd conspiracy theory, led a gunman to show up at a Washington, D.C., pizzeria in search of heinous criminal behavior allegations being spread ad infinitum on social media. Reflect on the full context. Do you have a lot of positive reviews to counteract the negative one?

Maybe your report on a review will be taken in account and the rant removed (I’m please to say that happened for a business I know today). Or maybe, customers and prospective customers will take the negative review with a big grain of salt or see it for what it is: someone unfairly taking their problem out on your business, like the airport meltdown lady.

Another possibility, is that the abuse Comet Ping Pong faced was so egregious and extensive that Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Yelp etc. are going to need to respond to a growing outcry from reasonable people that they recognize they are indeed publishing platforms and not just technology companies. This means they will have to accept some accountability for what they allow to fester and spread on their platforms, just like a publisher.

Either way, the key thing for your business is to define it yourself, with the help of happy customers. Don’t just ask people to “like” you on Facebook. Encourage them to check in and post comments on the products and services they buy. Post regularly to your page with stories about your industry, specials you are offering and special guests that may come in. Post videos to Instagram and Facebook. I’ve seen video being rewarded on Facebook with more reach than written posts alone.

Remember to put some goodwill into the universe by checking in and reviewing your favorite businesses too! Getting an oil change and surfing the web from your phone? Check in! Eating an amazing Thai food dinner at a restaurant you hadn’t tried before? Review it! You’re helping those businesses just like you want your customers to help you.

And remember, you cannot make everyone happy. See below where, after I praised my food processor in a Facebook comment on a news story, another consumer criticized it with a bad experience from decades ago. Please bear in mind that negative comments will often be taken less seriously than you think. Do not let negative comments keep you out of social  media. It is here to stay.Facebook comments about Cuisinart quality on a Washington Post article about a recall.