Traditional social media provides us with our own bullhorn. We can share information with current clients, engage with potential new ones, and develop colleagues and resources in our own respective industries. Three specific sites turn this situation around and hand the bullhorn over to your clients in a way that is less in your control than the medium of facebook, twitter, etc. is.
Perhaps you don’t know about these sites, namely TripAdvisor, Google Places, or Yelp. You think you may not acquire customers from there. And perhaps you are right. But you need to at least claim and manage your pages so that you are in a position to answer whatever may be said about you on those sites. Potential customers, for better or worse, will read these reviews; remember that the conversation about your business is already going on in social media. You just have to decide if you want to be part of that discussion.
Step 1: Claim your page
Each website will be different. For Google Places, you will likely be able to simply type in your business name and city and watch your business pop up on the right side.
For my example I’ve chosen my favorite French restaurant in my arrondissement in Paris. At the very bottom of my screen shot you will see “People also search for” and some pictures. Below that you will a very small line of text that asks, “Are you the business owner?” Click on that and work through the registration process.
To make it easy for yourself remember to use the same email address for all of these sites, use the same pictures, and make sure you are putting out the same message.
If you already see ratings – and some that you don’t like – don’t get distracted! Get registered first and then we will have time to go back and address some of those disgruntled customers.
For Yelp you can click here to start by registering for a business account and then you’ll be guided through to search for your business.
Now – do you need a TripAdvisor account? Only if your business is travel related – or you are a restaurant. Restaurants even in cities that are not “tourist stops” get reviewed on TripAdvisor so make sure you have one. If you are a salon in the middle of nowhere, then you can probably skip TripAdvisor. Otherwise click here to get started.
Step 2: Encourage customers to review, in order to get you “started”
All of the review sites have additional features to allow you promote your business more. Because some of them have been accused of “extorting” owners they take a very abstract approach of the idea of asking for reviews. Yelp has more than once blogged about “not asking for reviews.” This is, of course, ridiculous. This is like saying, “well, if you like the wine, just downplay it like you’ve had better before and be hipster-ish about it.” I’m sorry, Yelp, business owners have been asking customers for referrals since Medieval times and your website’s existence doesn’t change the rules. There’s no harm in telling a customer, “Hey, if you liked your experience, please review us online – we would really appreciate it.” The aforementioned blog article mentions business owners whipping out a laptop and putting it in front of a customer with the Yelp page pulled up or talk of “bribing for reviews.” Look, there are unethical people out there and sure people do this stuff, but to paint it as normative, and then write a blog article explaining why you shouldn’t ask for reviews because of it? It just doesn’t make any sense.
If you have particularly loyal customers, encourage them to go on there and leave you a review. Don’t tell them what to say, don’t let them do the, “you write it up and I’ll sign it” move. Tell them they have to write it because it’s gotta come from them. Ask once or twice and then leave it be. That’s as organic as it gets. Think of it as “priming,” because after that you’ll just be dealing with reviews, good and bad, as they come.
Step 3: Maintain and communicate
Look, not everyone is going to be happy. That’s part of life on this beautiful planet. But potential customers care about how YOU respond to the complaint, not just about the complaint itself. Take a look at this response from a comic book store owner.
Instead of letting himself get angry he explained his position clearly and thoughtfully. He made it clear that he wanted to earn any business given to him and made it clear that he really doesn’t know who had left the review. Was this a perfect response? No, but we aren’t always perfect. What was great about it was that he took the time to respond so now it’s on the customer to decide what he/she wants to believe or do with the information given.
If you have specials or coupons you want to share – these pages are great places to do it. All the websites give you mechanisms to share “specials.” Also upload photos – the more people can “see” you and your business the more they will trust you and be comfortable.
Step 4: Relax and make maintenance of these pages part of your social media routine
Remember that 50% of social media is just showing up consistently. If you don’t have a social media strategy, we need to talk. If you do – great – just fold maintenance of these pages into your daily social media routine – and find ways to put “find us on Yelp” etc, like this business does right at the top of its home page.
Good luck, and don’t put this off. Chances are there are already comments on these pages – for good or ill – that you haven’t responded to…yet!