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Keys to Online Customer Reviews

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In recent years, online reviews have become an important referral source. According to research firm Search Engine Land, “88 percent [of consumers] have read reviews to determine the quality of a local business,” “85 percent of consumers said they read up to 10 reviews,” “72 percent of consumers say that positive reviews make them trust a local business more,” and “88 percent of consumers say they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.”

The quality of those reviews can have a big impact on your bottom line, as well. A Harvard study reported that a one-star increase in a business’s Yelp reviews can result in a 5–9 percent increase in revenue.

Determining how to best leverage customer reviews in order to drive new business is a critical topic in terms of both bringing in new customers and creating brand loyalty with existing ones. Amy Howard is the marketing manager for Imaginovation, a digital marketing firm specializing in web design, mobile development and social media for small businesses. Howard manages the editorial direction of web and social content for the firm, as well as designs and implements digital marketing strategies for clients. She describes how to leverage your online reviews for continued growth.

1. Feature and share reviews on your website and social media.
Reviews are a form of referrals, or word-of-mouth marketing for your business. Sharing them with your customers and potential customers will earn you their trust and boost your brand name. However, the platform you select to share reviews with consumers is the key.

You must feature unedited reviews at a prominent location on your website so that visitors can come across them easily. When posting reviews on your website, you can even include the customer’s name and photo to ensure it looks authentic.

Apart from websites, you can leverage online reviews by sharing them on your company’s Facebook and Twitter pages. Since social networks are transparent, positive reviews about your brand will add credibility to your business. Consider adding the source of reviews when posting on social networks. For instance, if the review is written on some niche review site related to your industry, add the link to this review site when posting on Facebook or Twitter.

2. Handle negative reviews effectively.
Negative reviews are inevitable. If not handled correctly, a single negative review can spread like wildfire causing unbearable loss to your reputation and business. This is one of the main reasons many businesses are skeptical of having a presence on review sites or social networks.

But what those businesses don’t realize is if negative reviews are handled effectively, irate customers will not only turn into happy loyal customers, but have the potential to become brand evangelists who inform their friends and followers about the “awesomeness” of your service. This encourages them to buy from you.

Think of negative feedback as an opportunity for your business to earn customer trust and boost your online brand reputation. Make sure you respond to negative reviews in a proactive and polite manner. If possible, respond publicly to disgruntled customers to show everyone that you try to keep your customers satisfied. Apologize for the mistake and back your apology with some action to solve their issues.

3. Leverage reviews on review sites.
Review sites can be considered the home of your business reputation. These sites allow people to post their opinions about products, services or brands. They even let users search for types of services and then list companies based on star ratings and number of reviews.

There are many review sites like Yelp, Google Local Guides, Yahoo Local, LinkedIn, etc., that businesses can look to for maximizing the potential of reviews. Apart from those sites, every industry has its own collection of niche sites as well. It is vital for businesses to have an active and healthy presence on all these review sites. Businesses should ensure profiles on these review sites include a link to their websites.

4. Showcase brand advocates.
Brand advocates are your company’s best marketers and some reports even suggest that brand advocates are seen as the best source of information by people around them. Get your brand advocates to rate and review your company. Let them tell the world why they love your service. The next step is to share the story of these influential advocates with your audience on your blog, website and social media profiles. This will help you earn instant trust of potential clients and improve your brand reputation.

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