It hasn't exactly been easy for social media marketers and managers looking to maximize campaign performance on Facebook. Organic reach is in decline - you may have to pay for ads to drive reach and results. And the shelf life of those carefully crafted posts on your Page can best be described as woefully short.
Of course, there's still plenty of reasons for Facebook marketers to remain optimistic. The ability of users to post reviews and ratings on local business Pages, for example, presents exciting opportunities for companies hoping to get the most out of the social network.
Let's examine more closely the impact of Facebook reviews and ratings on both consumers and businesses - and what you can do to adapt your marketing strategy.
1. Facebook reviews are growing 4 times faster than reviews on other sites
Our research team at ReviewTrackers analyzed trends across multiple review sites and feedback channels, including Yelp, Google, TripAdvisor, and Foursquare.
We focused specifically on the review quantity and velocity (the pace at which new reviews were being generated) of 250 restaurants over a 6-month period.
In terms of growth in reviews, Facebook outperformed all the other sites, producing reviews at a pace that's 4 times faster than runner-up TripAdvisor. Google and Yelp ranked third and fourth, respectively.
This means that customers are now more likely to "Facebook" your brand than "Yelp" it - provided, of course, that you have enabled ratings and reviews on Facebook. If you haven't, you'll have to change your Page category to Local Business and add your location information. (Learn more about Facebook reviews here.)
This also means that you should extend your social listening efforts to include Facebook reviews. Respond to reviews as actively as you do to post comments and private messages.
And don't be afraid of what customers might say. Use reviews on Facebook as a tool for testimonial marketing.
Remember: a thousand Page likes or clickbait posts won't necessarily build trust and interest among potential customers, but authentic 5-star ratings and glowing reviews from your happy customers can.
2. Reviews on Facebook play a major role in the path to purchase
If more and more people are posting reviews on Facebook, there's probably an increasing number of people reading them, too.
These reviews, along with other types of content on Facebook, influence consumers throughout the different stages of purchase.
Awareness stage: 54% of consumers consider Facebook - along with retail websites - as the most common place to learn about new brands and products. Facebook is also the social channel that 62% of users go to in order to find out about a local business.
Consideration stage: 80% say they are more likely to purchase if they see positive reviews on the company's Facebook Page. For 41%, the most important factor for engaging with a local business Page is the presence of ratings and reviews.
Post-purchase stage: Approximately 66% of consumers who want to share their customer experiences, thoughts, and opinions are most likely to share on Facebook. Also, after a purchase, one-third will connect with a brand on Facebook, while only 2 in 10 will connect via the brand's website or community.
Success on social media requires the ability to listen; it's not always about who can talk the loudest.
In the same vein, marketers on Facebook should realize that the social network isn't only a platform for driving visibility, engagement, and reach. It's also a valuable source of customer feedback and review data - the kind that you need to gauge brand sentiment and connect with customers on their path to purchase.
3. Facebook has a local search feature, too - and it's based on ratings and reviews
Yelp and Google are typically at the top of local search marketers' priorities, but Facebook may soon join this list. Last year, the social network quietly launched a local search feature called Professional Services, which gives users the ability to find the highest-rated businesses in a given geographical area.
Search results are determined by reviews and rating scores. Like Yelp and Google, Facebook Professional Services lists the top local businesses across an extensive number of categories, from plumbers and beauty salons to insurance agents and wedding planners.
On the search results page, users can apply more filters based on business subcategories and types.
It hasn't yet quite grown into a "Yelp killer" (Professional Services is so far available only on desktop), but Facebook's local search feature means that marketers can actually leverage reviews and ratings in order to drive organic reach.
It also provides you with another reason to regularly update the About information on your Facebook page and improve the search relevance of your brand on the social network. Ranking at the top of Professional Services search results is certainly as valuable a social advertising opportunity as any - and you don't need to pay to play.With a better understanding of how ratings and reviews affect consumer behavior and brand reputation, marketers can manage campaigns and strategies more effectively - and deliver a richer, more engaging experience for audiences on Facebook.