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How to generate online reviews

Thursday, September 19 2013 3:17 PM
By Kalen Kubik

Embracing Online Reviews

Online reviews have been around since the beginning of the internet. They might not have been the concise, five-star rating that they are today, but people have been sharing their thoughts on companies online since its inception. We love to talk about our experiences, good or bad or meh. You know this. I know this. You're not surprised. Well, how many reviews does your company have? All across the web, how many reviews, positive or negative does your company have? Five? Ten? If you want to seal the deal with a customer online, social proofing through a review is a phenominal way to do that. If you have positive reviews on Google Plus, Google will serve you up a little higher. You need to be driving clients to write reviews for you. Reviews are becoming more important as the web grows into a more communal space.

Why do you need reviews?

There are two types of reviews, what I call timeline reviews and permanent reviews. A timeline review is a review on Facebook or Twitter, which can get buried in your newsfeed. These are dangerous. If you're not managing your social media and it's on autopilot, you're customer is going to feel ignored if he is not addressed. Permanent reviews are Google, Yelp and other platforms, where the reviews just stack up on your account. Everytime someone searches your brand, these are what pop up and influence others. While timeline reviews are important, permanent reviews have longevity. Focus on turning timeline reviews in to permanent reviews with great response time and diligence.

Not everyone knows you exist. If I've never heard of you and my friends have never been there, I am going to go online to find out about your company. We trust strangers on the internet. We get advice from people online all the time, from relationships to how to fix our cars. We believe strangers because most people online are just like us and want to be helpful. You're asking someone to give you their money, to take time out of their day to come see you. Time is valuable and if I'm spending time and money someplace, I better have a great experience or I'm not going back. If five people agree the store, restaurant or product is terrible, I'm not going to spend my money there.

Don't fear the online review, embrace it. Most reviews are positive. Why? Because people do not waste their time on mediocre. People are driven online in a jubilent, "OMG, Best Auto Service Ever!!" or a rage "Worst Mexican Food Evaarrr!" You will rarely see middle of the road reviews for an offline experience.  If you're store is long-standing, you're probably going to receive great reviews, because those who receive bad reviews don't remain in business for long. If you're a long-standing business, take solace in the fact that people probably love you and you should give them a chance to express it online, so they can convince more people to love you.

But how do I get Permanent Reviews?!

We've all gotten that two minute salespitch from the register worker. You know, the one where they take out that intoxicating hi-lighter and screech a big circle around the $1000 prize you could win. Why do they have to offer this staggering prize? Because no one is really excited about their milk and bread buying experience. Once again, mediocre experiences don't motivate us to go online.

So, how can you get people to fill out online reviews for you? There are a variety of ways and there are ways that may be unique just to your business. Asking for them is a great way to start. How many people have you actually asked to give you an online review?

Keep it in store

If possible (and it usually is) have your customers fill out the review in store for a free "X". I see it a lot in restaurants. "Fill out a review, show it to your waiter and get a free mini dessert." You can make this even easier with QR codes that take people directly to the review page. Have your staff bring it up. "If you review us on Yelp! receive "X%" off you're purchase." If most experiences are average, you must exchange value for value. Is a dessert worth the five minutes it's going to take me to make an account and type out a review?  

Find the Fanatics

Every awesome brands has its regulars. I see it mostly at the coffee shop I frequent. We all give each other that little head nod as we claim our table for the night. Get your most excitable customers to give your review. Your fans are probably better at selling your business than you are. Being close to a brand, we tend to sell things that we think are what our customers want, when really they're not at all. You wouldn't believe at the number of reviews I read where a mother only returns to a restaurant with clean highchairs. Highchairs? I would never have thought that a big sell, but it is. Your fans know how to sell your brand to their friends and would probably be happy to write a short blurb on Google+ for you. Be sure to reward them for doing so.

Manage your Timeline Reviews

Not a day goes by where someone isn't complaining about a brand on Twitter and most companies, if they're on their toes, are addressing that person's complaint in real-time. "Oh, we're sorry our product broke Mr. Anderson. Let me get your info and we'll mail you a new one for free." Sound crazy? It's all brand management. These companies have thousands of followers. That puts you on a stage where, if you don't perform, you can fall off your pedestal. If you're harvesting online reviews, you must be managing your reputation.

Link to Review Sites

Link to the sites you'd most like to be reviewed on in social media posts and on you website. Your fans are always watching and those fanatics will jump on reviewing you if you pair it with a deal. Once again, you must exchange value for value. You're essentially paying them for their time. Reviews are an investment. Getting five solid reviews online, maybe 10, maybe 50 can make your business a huge success for a mere dollar payout. You may acquire hundreds of customers from those few reviews. 

Be Awesome

The best way to get online reviews is to shock and awe a customer. This requires total awesomeness on your part as a business. If you knock the socks off of a client and drive them online, hats off to you. This is where your brand starts to gain a following. Maybe you are, but the customer doesn't know what to do with the awesome you just handed them. Tell them, "Review us online, Sir. Tell your friends."

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