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Harness the Power of Online Reviews

The Power of Online Reviews for Small Businesses

It’s easy to underestimate the power of an online review. But a positive review can make all the difference for your company’s reputation and growth. And a negative one could be destructive.

Word of mouth or social proof has always been key to business success. Today that means online reviews. A lot of small business owners think that because a portion (maybe all) of their consumer base is localized that what people are saying on the internet isn’t important. While roughly 90% of sales around the world still happen in brick-and-mortar stores, 97% of consumers use the internet to find local businesses. The content on sites like Yelp, Trip Advisor, and, yes, Facebook can mean the difference between success and failure.

Why you need online reviews

We’ve all heard of and probably used Yelp. Since 2004 it’s been a leading force in local business; some 186 million people use it every month, posting upwards of 150 million reviews. Consumer review sites such as Yelp are often the first stop for shoppers who are looking for a small, local business.

Positive reviews = good. Negative reviews = bad. Pretty obvious but actually having NO reviews at all can also potentially impact your business negatively. Smartphone users (77% of Americans) absolutely will Google your business before making a purchase or using your service. If folks can’t find much information about you then either you’re a new business or, even worse, people don’t feel strongly enough about your business to comment. A few positive reviews will reassure potential customers that your’e worth the time and money.

Take control.

The best thing you can do as a small business is maintain a high star-rating on popular review sites. What can you do? Take control of your score on sites such as Yelp, TripAdvisor, FourSquare, and Google. Get verified as the owner of the business account and make sure all profiles are up-to-date with your current hours, location, contact info, etc.

Ask customers to post reviews about their experience. According to BrightLocal, 68% of customers will leave a review if asked. Ask a customer to review your business from the get-go, then remind them at the end of the transaction that you’d appreciate a referral.

Put signs up at your business to remind people that feedback is appreciated. Yes those “People love us on Yelp!” signs are a little, ahem, ugly? But you could make your own ask people to review you on Google (or whichever platform your identify as useful.)

Most platforms won’t let you incentivize reviews but you can offer an incentive to people for checking in to your location on apps. Once they check in you’ve now got some information and can send them a reminder that feedback matters.

Further harness the power of your reviews by printing and displaying them, either in-store or on your website.

But…don’t fake it.

Don’t succumb to the pressure of having positive reviews and buy fake ones. It’s pretty easy to spot fraudulent comments and sites are cracking down on them so don’t even bother. No one like a liar and if it comes out that you’re using fake reviews, your business will suffer greatly.

And if you get a bad review?

If you are receiving negative reviews, face them head on! Negative reviews can be used as a second chance. Respond to the comments on social media or online ratings sites and show that your business is committed to serving your customers better. One third of people will typically either delete the original negative review, update it to commend the business for their customer service, or replace it with a positive review.

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Whether you like it or not, small businesses’ reputation are on display for all to see by virtue of the internet. And with mobile devices, we all have the internet in our pockets, 24/7. If you run a small business and want to attract new customers, then take control of your online reviews on sites like Yelp, Google My Business, and FourSquare. Embrace the review sites and use them to your advantage!

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