In 2012, the review site Yelp garnered more than 78 million page views compared to 41 million views in 2010.
Recent research shows that 81 percent of travelers find user reviews important (some people visit up to 11 review sites before booking hotel rooms), and 49 percent of travelers won’t even book a property that doesn’t have online reviews.
In fact, the average online review is read by anywhere from 150 to 25,000 people – and – with the surge of smartphone usage, people of all ages and social economic persuasions are using the information out there to decide about their next purchase.
But you probably knew that already.
Even if you weren’t aware of the stats, you know that positive online reviews are critical for attracting new customers.
Of course, realizing it is the easy part – now you need to know how you can get your customers to post more reviews on social media and review sites and draw prospective guests in the door.
Here are four easy ways you can build a deeper connection with your online customer network through positive social engagement.
Tip #1: Give them something to talk about
People are already inclined to share outstanding experiences with their friends, especially when it comes to social media.
So your number one job as a business owner is to ensure your customers actually have a great experience – because being the best is always buzz-worthy.
And when you can, ensure they have an extra-ordinary experience by doing something they remember.
When you receive customer feedback online, don’t keep it to yourself. Pass the information on to the people who can make a difference in your business – like the regional and general managers and their leadership teams – and empower them to fix the issues quickly.
Then, encourage general managers to use the information in pre-shift meetings for long term improvement. Reward staff whose efforts yield amazing customer service with monetary gifts and team-wide recognition. Consider creating a Social Media Hall of Fame or provide incentives for staff mentions: gift cards, shift priorities, time off, priority parking – whatever works best for your business!
Tip #2: Listen and respond thoughtfully
Did you know that…?
- 85% of customers were “very happy” when businesses respond to their public comments in online forums and social media venues;
- 27% were “delighted” with a public response to their social feedback; and
- 34% deleted their original negative review after being engaged.
A huge part of encouraging more reviews is connecting with the people who post comments about you on social media sites.
By doing so, you’re telling these guests that you value you their opinions, and you’re looking for ways to make their experience better – which is all most folks are looking for.
Contrary to popular belief, these people are not just teenagers or random people with an axe to grind, they are your customers, and the success of your business depends on establishing a meaningful connection with them.
1. Stay Calm
If you receive a negative review, keep calm and think practically. Avoid knee jerk reactions; give yourself a time-out before replying, if you need to, and do your research before you respond.
2. Get The Facts
Remember, customers don’t usually lie, but they do embellish. Find out the details so you can address concerns confidently.
3. Give A Real Reply
And don’t send a “copy and paste” answer. Rather, customize your reply to each reviewer by keying off the core messages in their review.
4. Keep The Brand Voice
Remember, any exchange with a guest online should reflect your organization’s brand image and voice. Ensure that everyone that is authorized to reply to posts, whether it’s a dedicated social media manager or a GM at one of your local locations, understands how to communicate your brand voice and be sure to update the team as that voice evolves.
Tip #3: Ask customers to share, and re-share
The best way to get more reviews is simply to ask for them – two-thirds of solicited reviews will be positive, so you have nothing to lose.
1. Give Incentives
To encourage even more reviews you could knock them a small incentive for taking it to the web. At the fast casual chain Nando’s Peri-Peri, guests are entered into a drawing for a free meal and a bottle of wine for completing a short survey on their smartphone.
2. Make It Easy
Make it convenient for reviewers to share compliments with social media communities as soon as possible. Every day that passes after their experience means the customer remembers fewer details.
3. Emphasize Your Selling Points
Encouraging reminders before or soon after purchase guarantee they’ll include more descriptive terms in their review, which will catch the eye of potential guests.
4. Tell Them Where You Are Online
Some people have preferences as to which social media or review sites they use – encourage customers to connect with you by making sure they are aware of all your social channels.
Don’t keep your Twitter handle a secret and be sure to plug your social pages on your receipts, on your website and in your shop window.
5. Share Through Your Own Social Channels
Businesses can also demonstrate their good listening skills by promoting the best social reviews on their own social media properties.
Some tools will even allow you to share your favorite customer reviews on corporate Facebook, Twitter or Google+ pages right from their monitoring and tracking platform, which makes it even easier to show your appreciation for your guests’ positive feedback.
In other words, share the love!
Tip #4: Make engagement fun
Smartphones equipped with cameras are already glued to your customers’ hands, so why not stage hot visuals that beg to be snapped and shared?
Take a hint from Smashburger, the super-successful fast casual burger joint, and run holiday photo contests on sites like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, or various themed promotions (who doesn’t love getting $5 off your meal for dressing up as a pirate?).
Be sure your online incentives complement your corporate branding, because authenticity rules online.
Use Whatever Star Power You Have
And, keep an eye out for celebs and influencers that can supercharge your social media connections with real star power.
Playful engagement with personalities after an unprompted Twitter message or Facebook post about your brand will play better in online communities than if you paid them. And non-celebrities can be more influential than you think too – we notice some people with 25,000 followers writing about brands as well.
Many social intelligence tools break down the influence of authors based on the number of followers they have, making these VIPs easier to find. For example, reality show star Snooki often sends Twitter messages from her local Smashburger for all her 6,458,762 followers (and counting) to see.
Bonus tip #5: Measure your progress.
Real success in social media isn’t just about volume; it’s about creating an engaged online community that supports your business and your brand.
In addition to tracking the number of reviews you receive, keep track of your customer interactions — including who replied, the date, and the actual reply content – which can be valuable for auditing and training purposes.
And, set targets for engagement defined as numbers or percentage of total reviews. For example:
- Percentage of reviews engaged (a good baseline goal is 50 percent, including Twitter messages)
- Percentage of engaged customers who reply to you
- Percentage of engaged customers who return (can be tracked using your loyalty program and customer relationship management (CRM) platform)
- Percentage of guests who reevaluate and repost a review (Give yourself bonus points for reviewers who change online reviews due to your efforts!)
Still not sure that spending the time to engage with customers is worth it?
How about this: newBrandAnalytics research shows that little as one percent increase in connection with online reviewers can result in anywhere from 11 percent to 25 percent increase in your overall sentiment.
Encouraging more social reviews is critical for putting your business on the map and getting guests in the door.
Determine which tactics work best for inspiring your customers, and then don’t wait: reach out, engage and act. Your bottom line will see the difference.