Most digital marketers recognize that online reviews are important—and they are becoming more so all the time. User-generated reviews on sites like Urban Spoon, TripAdvisor and Yelp have already started shaping consumer purchasing habits, for the simple reason that consumers are increasingly coming to seek—and to trust—these persuasive Web-based notices. But what if what's being said about you or your products online isn't exactly good? Effective marketers should know how to defend their clients against online defamation and bad review profiles by harnessing the power of user-generated content. To learn how, read on!
There is no way for any company or any marketing firm to completely avert the threat of negative online reviews. But what you can do is insulate clients against negative reviews by stocking up plenty of positive consumer-generated reviews. This does not have to be a complicated endeavor. In many cases, all it takes is a simple, honest request.
Many healthcare providers and medical officers are becoming experts at doing so; they leave business cards with links to their online review profiles at the front desk, and encourage patients to take them. Other companies can benefit from leaving links to their Yelp.com profiles on receipts and email invoices. Companies can even solicit their best, most faithful clients directly, asking them for their positive feedback.
Another strategy for companies is to use their Facebook page as a sort of consumer forum—a place where clients and customers can weigh in with their feedback, both positive and negative. When consumers leave positive feedback and good reviews, ask permission to post that feedback elsewhere on the corporate website. When the feedback is constructive, the business has a chance to interact with clients and to seek to resolve the problem before nasty words make their way to Yelp.com. Remember, if reviews ever cross the line to bullying, harmful content or profanity, you could delete the post, but this should be saved for inflammatory engagement only.
Unfortunately, the reality is many online reviews of the defamatory variety come not from consumers, but from unhappy employees who need to vent. There is a good way to avoid this: Give them a place to vent. A private, company-wide Facebook page is one option. Better yet, work with your Web design company to come up with an anonymous, internal forum where employees can express their concerns or their questions.
Finally, marketers can lead their clients to implement review moderation programs, specifically using review widget tools. ReputationChanger is one company that offers such programs, and there are others, as well. Review widgets allow consumers to leave their own reviews on a company website; they can post comments and star ratings, but before any of it goes public, the company has a chance to review and approve the content. Most reviews, positive and negative, should be approved. But when outright nasty and defamatory reviews emerge, the company can simply elect to suppress those reviews. The best review widgets are the ones that are SEO-driven, and therefore capable of making an impact on Google search results.
Understanding the power of user-generated comments and reviews is key to success in today's online landscape. The good news is no company is powerless against this user-generated content or unable to harness it for their own purposes.
Mike Zammuto is the President and COO of ReputationChanger.com. The company offers online reputation repair and other reputation management services.
photo credit: Adikos