Online Reviews: The Consumer Is In The Drivers Seat

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[tweetmeme source=”rhondahurwitz” only_single=false] When was the last time you made an important purchase decision (or even a minor one) without checking online reviews?

If you don’t think you should be paying attention to your business’s reputation online, consider this example.  Just in the last month:

  • I planned a vacation by interacting with fellow travelers on the Fodors.com discussion boards.  Tripadvisor.com and blogger reviews weighed heavily on all hotel and restaurant decisions.
  • I asked my friends on Facebook for their trip suggestions.  Recommendations rolled in, for everything from guidebooks to tour companies.
  • My 16 year old son, who was tasked with planning our final meal in Paris,  consulted Chowhounds and Yelp. (he also reads online customer reviews on everything from metronomes to pillows … go figure).
  • I made a lunch date with a colleague by doing a quick search online.
  • I developed a list of colleges using College Confidential … this despite the boatloads of money spent by colleges to mail pretty brochures to my house!

Consumers trust user generated content more than ever before … so … are they hearing about your brand online?  Word of mouth marketing is not a new concept – but if you need to tune up your online reputation, here are a few steps you can take:

Start by doing an audit of what is being said about your business.  Then, ask yourself:

1)  Is my product and/or customer service excellent?  This may seem obvious, but reputation management starts here.  After all, if someone has a great experience, they tell people.  Ditto, poor customer service!

2) Do I have a systematic way to ask satisfied customers for feedback?  In addition to asking permission to post customer comments on your website, ask extremely satisfied customers to add their feedback to online review sites such as Facebook places customer reviews, Yelp, etc.

3) Is my business set up on local listing sites that are relevant to my category? A presence on Yelp, City Search, and others should be part of your local SEO plan, anyway.

4) Am I tracking new comments about my business using Google Alerts, Social Mention, Board Reader, etc.?  Respond to any problems right away.

I came across an amazing Online Reputation Management Guide from the folks at Outspoken Media.  Online reputation is a much broader topic than I have touched on here, and their guide is worth checking out if you want to take a more proactive stance to building and managing your business’s online reputation.

Does your business have a strategy to actively manage your online reputation?   If you know of a business that is doing a great job facilitating customer feedback and online reviews, please share these examples in the comments!

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About Rhonda Hurwitz

Rhonda Hurwitz is a content strategist and marketing consultant who helps mid-sized businesses develop more effective online strategies. @rhondahurwitz on Twitter, and on Forbes.com: http://blogs.forbes.com/people/rhondahurwitz/
This entry was posted in customer service, online reputation, word of mouth and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Online Reviews: The Consumer Is In The Drivers Seat

  1. Pingback: Online Marketing: It Doesn’t Have to Be So Damn Hard | she means business

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