Recommendations from people we know ranks #1, not surprisingly, as the most trusted form of advertising, according to the ‘Under the Influence: Consumer Trust in Advertising‘ report by Nielsen. In other words, word-of-mouth advertising!
Word-of-mouth advertising has taken on a whole new meaning in our online world. It’s no longer me telling you and a handful of others I know about a good or bad experience I’ve had with a business.
Today, word-of-mouth advertising might begin as an online comment on Facebook, Twitter or Yelp, but that comment has the potential to go much farther than my family, friends and others that I know. It has the potential to spread to hundreds and even thousands of others. It might not, but it can.
Many businesses worry about customers posting negative reviews online and the impact those negative reviews may have on their business. While this is a legitimate concern, a bad review is far more powerful when there are no good reviews online to out weigh the bad.
Positive customer testimonials and reviews posted online can significantly outweigh a few bad reviews and show that the majority of our customers are happy customers, hopefully very happy customers.
Most of us are not surprised with a business having an occasional negative review – sometimes it can even make the more positive reviews seem more credible. But this only holds up if negative reviews are far outweighed by reviews from happy customers.
Where negative reviews are a serious problem is when the bad reviews are running anywhere near to neck-and-neck with the positive reviews. This tells people “this company is bad news, don’t even think about doing business with them.” Or when the only reviews available are bad reviews.
Unfortunately, the latter is often caused (bad reviews only) by one of two things:
In the #2 scenario, rather than inviting happy customers to provide them with testimonials and share their positive thoughts online, they leave their online reputation in the hands of the Internet. Not good!
Today, business owners who want to have a say in how their business is reported online MUST be proactive in managing what is being said about them online. In a world where most of us, at least in North America and Europe, go online regularly to find out about products, services, brands, etc., we need to be actively harvesting feedback from happy customers and sharing this ‘proof’ of who we are online.
Here are four (4) simple ways to manage and influence what is being said about you online, to help you begin to actively harvest testimonials and reviews from happy customers:
There is much more to managing your online reputation than posting positive reviews to your website. In truth, this will only work if your customers overall are actually happy with the products, services and customer service you provide. If they’re not, there are plenty of places online where they can (and will) share BAD reviews that you have absolutely no control over. And, this is as it should be. Customers should be able to get the word out about businesses that aren’t delivering on their promises.
That said, to simply abdicate responsibility for your online reputation to fate is (forgive me) insane! Happy customers rarely send you a testimonial ready to use, unless you ask for it. It’s usually people who are unhappy with a product or service who are the first to share this information online as a warning to others. And, again, this is a good thing.
But unfortunately, among those who are completely justified in their complaint and are helping the general public by sharing said complaint online, there are also those who are simply:
If you decide to let fate have its way, and not manage your own online reputation, you’re letting down those customers that count on you and do, or could, benefit from the services you offer. Seriously!
If you’re good at what you do, you under promise and over deliver and if you really care about your customers then you owe it to them, and to yourself, to ask for their feedback so you can share the positive results with others. This isn’t about being perfect. Every business messes up from time to time. We’re all human and mistakes happen - but mistakes well handled can, believe it or not, leave to even more loyal customers. Mistakes or problems are usually not the issue, how they’re handled is!
Unhappy customers, legitimate or not, have many avenues for telling their story. Business owners have a few. It’s up to each of us to make the most of the opportunities given to us, including making sure we harvest the feedback from happy customers that can help us grow our business.
This 2012 article in Inc. titled “How Online Reviews Make (or Break) Your Business” will provide you with some additional reasons to make sure you are taking responsibility for your own online reputation.