User-generated content is so much more than just a buzzword these days. Whether it’s on social media, on dedicated review platforms like Yelp or HelloPeter, or directly on your website, the modern consumer demands a voice. And in the connected age, what they say about you is public knowledge, for good or ill.
Whether you’re ready for them or not, people are going to be talking about your business online. Having a plan for dealing with negative feedback, and encouraging positive engagement with your customers is no longer a nice to have – it’s become an essential part of a good business strategy. Here are some tips on doing it right!
Consumers are all too aware that when you’re trying to get them to buy something, you’re likely to gloss over the negatives and hype up the positives! In the past, they had to be content with taking what you said with a pinch of salt – but no longer.
More and more, your customers rely on what others are saying about you, your products, and your service. In fact, when it comes to local businesses, 97% of users will read through the available reviews before they make a choice. If you’ve only got a handful of reviews, and most of them are negative, what impact do you think that’s having on your business?
Over and above this, websites with lots of positive reviews on a platform like Google Maps are going to rank higher in local search results. If someone’s looking for your service in a hurry, they’re going to pick one of the companies who come out on top. This alone is a good reason to start encouraging happy customers to leave a few kind words for you.
Get into the following habits to take charge of your online reviews:
- Know where you stand: Find out where there are reviews of your company, and make sure you’ve got a way of addressing them. Set up some Google Alerts or other web monitoring tools for your brand name, so matter what platform is used, you’ll be the first to know when someone’s talking about you.
- Have a customer feedback system in place: However you prefer to set it up, make sure you follow up with customers after they’ve had a chance to start using your product. Not only will this help alert you to problems before the customer has a chance to vent their feelings online, it helps you identify satisfied customers who might be amenable to leaving a positive review for you.
- Address any negative online feedback straight away, and publicly: People aren’t stupid – they know that not all negative reviews are justified, especially if the poster seems to be off on a bit of a rant. If this kind of review is immediately followed by a calm, helpful response from you, your brand can actually come up looking pretty darn good!
Enlist the experts
Once your business reaches a certain size, it’s time to get some professional backup. Not only does this free you up to focus on your business, it means you’ve got help should there be a genuine PR crisis! Make sure you partner with a provider in your immediate region, rather than an international firm, so time zone differences aren’t a problem. In a world where scandals can go viral in minutes, time really is of the essence. If you’re based in Cape Town or Johannesburg, for instance, a PR agency in South Africa is going to be of a lot more help than an US firm!
Just as important as your online reviews are what people are saying about your brand on social media. Remember that for many of your younger customers, social media will be their preferred platform for dealing with businesses, rather than traditional routes like phone or email.
And unlike dedicated review platforms, social media allows you to start conversations, post engaging content, and show an interest in your customers’ opinions. Make sure you’re using an appropriate social listening tool to keep an eye out for brand mentions, and following up on queries, comments and complaints straight away.
Finally, your employees need to be aware that online, they’re representing your brand in everything they do. This is even more so when you have dedicated business social accounts like LinkedIn, but applies wherever a person may be tied to their place of work – which is basically everyone with a digital footprint of some kind. Make sure they know you’re trusting them to be good ambassadors for the business.
Image source: pxhere
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