Socially Stephanie: Negative Online Reviews

Stephanie Frasco VP, Social Media, Convert With Content

Posted on August 31st 2013

Socially Stephanie: Negative Online Reviews

social media advice column

Dear Socially Stephanie, 

I am so annoyed. I am a personal trainer and have had great results with many of my clients, and they praise me online for it. Of course, they themselves need to put in an effort to see results! One of my past clients didn't see any change in her body and decided to bash me on the Internet. Now, when you search my name, you can see a few of her bad reviews. The one that really bothers me is on Yelp, and it comes up on the first page of Google. How do I put out the fire? 

Annoyed in Anchorage

reputation management 

Dear Annoyed in Anchorage,

negative online reviewsWelcome! You've officially been initiated into the social crisis club. It happens to every business. But relax, because it isn't really a crisis and there are ways to turn the negative attention into a positive situation.  It's time for you to flex your social media muscles. 

There's good news and there's bad news. Which do you want first? Good? Yeah, I thought you'd say that. Basically, the good news is that you have customers who love you, and they share that love online. The good reviews, in many cases, will outweigh the bad.

Now for the bad. (Don't worry. You can swallow it.) Here it is: new and potential customers are going to see that negative review when they search your name on Yelp or Google. According to research, a one-star difference in ratings can result in a 9% difference in revenue.  

But wait, did I forget to mention there's more good news?  (I feel like the tooth fairy right now - you know, delivering presents after a little bit of pain.) You have power to respond on Yelp, showing that you care about A) your reputation, and B) changing the mind of your ex-client. And let me tell you, it works!

Let's talk, for a minute, about how you're going to respond. It's called operating in rebuttal mode. And I want you to think like a lawyer—but a professional one, not a bite-your-head-off type. Think about how you want to appear. Mean? Defensive? Probably not the best idea. Encouraging? Pacifying? Yeah, that's a better approach. Because this message of yours will be permanent, it should show you off in the best light possible. Even if, in fact, you had been the responsible party to blame, owning up to your mistake would go along way. At the very least, it will signify that you're only human.

You should also address specific issues raised by your arch-nemesis - *ahem*, I mean ex-client. Since you're already logged in there for one response, go ahead and take a few moments to write back to your good reviewers too. The more engaged you are as a business owner, the more engaged your customers will be. Everyone likes a "thank you," so get in there and shower your clients with some reviewer love. 

Now you have a mission, a duty, and a responsibility to get as many new reviews as possible. And here's why. The more new reviews you get, the further the bad one will push down the line. So how are you going to do that?

First, execute Step 1: Email marketing campaign. The benefit of your line of work is that you're super close to your clients. In fact, you might even have a personal relationship with them. Like a hair stylist's customers, your clients may often spill their deepest woes, triumphs and gossip to you in order to make that grueling workout time go faster. Use a non-salesy, relatively personal tone in your email, gently appealing to their natural gratitude for how you've helped them. And sure, a blast would be okay, but a personal email (if scalable) to your "best" clients who haven't reviewed you yet would be best. Ask them to review you on Yelp, and for those who have seen great results, ask them to post their before and after photos. Photos on review sites take your ratings to the next level.

Now for Step 2: Create some content. Training videos, blog posts on how to eat healthy while training, and maybe an Infographic on the history of working out. If your content is really engaging, it'll get top billing in search results - and so will the name attached: yours. Now when someone Googles you, you not only have great reviews, but you have the educational content to back it up. Plus, creating great content gives you something to share socially, as well as stuff for others to share, which means you'll have others spreading the word for you. BINGO!

It's time for your reputation overhaul. You can do it! Good luck. 


Do you have a question for Socially Stephanie?

Please email and let Stephanie help you solve your social quandaries, queries, and boondoggles. (Questions may be edited for length and clarity.)

Illustration by Jesse Wells


Stephanie Frasco

VP, Social Media, Convert With Content

Stephanie Frasco is a leading social media consultant and author. Over the past 7 years, she's worked closely with clients from all over the world to help them get more results from social media and blogging. Through experience, Stephanie has mastered some of the most powerful social media websites. Download her engagement report.

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Posted on August 30th 2013 at 6:34PM

Great article Stephanie, also love the "Socially Stephanie" tagline, very catchy.  I wrote an article a while back called "The Wrong Way to Respond to Negative Online Reviews" that covered this topic in a similar way.  Seems to be a hot topic that people are honestly terrified of.

Posted on August 30th 2013 at 10:23PM

Some great ideas and input. The only thing I would caution against is directly asking your clients for reviews. It's specifically against Yelp's policy to solicit reviews directly, so be careful how you present that. Also, I'd recommend spacing out any outreach so you don't get a bunch of reviews all at the same time. This could set off a red flag in Yelp's filtering system and possibly get all your hard work hidden on the filtered page!

Total Social Solutions
Posted on September 6th 2013 at 7:13PM

We give our clients a lot of assistance with Yelp to help them manage negative reviews.  Honestly, starting with a response publicly on Yelp is not something we recommend.  It is, however, a last resort.  We prefer to see our clients reach out to their reviewers by phone as a first step to try and make it right.

Posted on September 9th 2013 at 4:09AM

Hi Stephanie - appreciate your point of view. At ReadyPulse we've found if companies put their customers at the front and center of their marketing, and make it easy for customers to express themselves about the product or service, then the amount of positive reviews, in forms or photos, videos, and testimonials, usually signicantly increases providing a balanced perspective to any negative comments across social media. 

Posted on September 11th 2013 at 11:45PM

Hi Dennis, 
I think you are absolutely right! People want to be heard.  When you make that easy for them the odds of them expressing gratitude increase.