Inevitably, your customers will have something to say about you — good or bad — and they will be able to broadcast it to their friends and others through a number of avenues on the Internet. So how do you manage your online reviews? Here are five suggestions.
1) Take charge of your online identity — Don’t let your customers dictate what is being said about your business online. Set up an account on Twitter. Set up a fan page on Facebook — before someone else does.
2) Reach out to your customers — Let your customers know that they are being heard. This goes for both positive and negative messages.
See a poor review? Sites such as Tripadvisor and Yelp allow businesses to respond and to reach out privately to their members when the situation demands it. You can ask the customer to give your business a second chance; if the problem is fixed or they have a better experience at their next visit, they can update their review.
3) Don’t try to game the system — It’s one thing to encourage your customers to write something online if they liked your service. It’s another thing to try to improve your ratings by signing up for multiple accounts and penning glowing reviews under a fake name, or by having all your employees give your business five stars. Yelp and other review sites monitor for such behavior and regularly remove reviews they perceive as phony.
4) Consider hiring a social media consultant to monitor and respond to messages — It can be time consuming to wade through all these sites and posts for references to your business and to separate the spam from legitimate reviews. There are independent contractors and brand management services, as well web-based tracking tools, which can help you keep an eye on what’s being said about your business online.
5) Identify the leaders — Perhaps there’s a blogger with a large following that writes about the industry that you’re in. You may want to consider sending a friendly e-mail to introduce yourself and to offer your product for free for a review. This can go a long way in building good relationships with your customers online.