4 Steps in Crafting an Online Review Management Strategy

How often do you check the online reviews for a restaurant you might visit or a website you’re considering buying from? Online reviews are essential social proof for a business’s quality and credibility. So how can your business leverage these reviews?

This guide to online review management will help you refine your strategy and implement essential tools and tactics. Each step will offer detailed sub-steps and suggestions so that whether you run a small side hustle or a growing local business, you can turn both positive and negative reviews into proof of your commitment to customer service. 

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What is online review management?

Online review management has four key elements: 

1) Monitor

2) Respond

3) Analyze

4) Encourage. 

This means online review management is a multi-pronged strategy for handling your online positive and negative reviews so that they benefit rather than damage your business. 

All sorts of businesses handle online reviews. Whether you provide accountancy services or run a small gardening side hustle, no matter the size of your business, you should be managing your online presence, including your reviews.

Let’s break down those four key parts of online review management:

1. Monitor

You need to keep track of reviews posted on all platforms, which might include Google and Yelp as well as social media sites. Regularly checking in on these platforms will help you keep up to date on what customers are saying about your business and help you react quickly if need be. 

2. Respond

Whether a review is positive or negative, you should respond to it. This can be as simple as a “thanks for your review” to a detailed response to criticism that shows you’ve acknowledged their feedback. Make sure your responses are timely and thoughtful and don’t attack reviewers simply for criticizing your service. 

3. Analyze

Consumer reviews aren’t just useful for encouraging potential customers, they offer valuable feedback for you to improve your products or services. An important aspect of online review management is analyzing review data to spot trends and patterns along with any common themes so you can make informed decisions going forward. 

4. Encourage

To reap the benefits of online reviews you need to first acquire them. This means encouraging your customers to provide feedback on your products or services. This could mean sending post-purchase surveys via email, engaging with your customers on social media, or reaching out via your contact center as a service software to speak to them directly.

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How to perfect your online review management strategy in X steps

1. Identify your key review platforms

There are many online review channels out there. You can find business reviews everywhere from third-party review sites like Google Maps to video reviews and social media posts. While a comprehensive understanding of your online reputation is essential, it’s likely that you’ll zero in on a few key platforms for your review monitoring.

Some steps to take to identify your key review platforms are:

  • Know your audience:  What channels and social platforms do your target customers use? Where do they seek out genuine reviews when making purchase decisions? Consider conducting market research if you’re unsure or even survey your existing customers.
  • Use website analytics: Where is your website traffic coming from? Website referrals can be an invaluable source of info when conducting online reputation management, as it’ll quickly point you to which websites or social media channels are the most popular sources. It might even help you spot if you have an international audience, such as customers visiting from a .au or .ae domain
  • Search your own business: A quick way to see where customer reviews are appearing first is to run a search of your own business on Google. What third-party review sites are appearing first?
  • Research popular review platforms: Try to be niche-specific and figure out what the top review platforms are in your industry. For example, TripAdvisor is popular for restaurants and hotels, while Google Maps reviews and Facebook are more likely for local businesses like cleaners or decorators. 

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2. Implement monitoring tools

You don’t need to monitor your current reviews alone with manual monitoring. There’s a wide range of review and social media monitoring tools out there. 

These review monitoring tools can help you with your overall reputation management strategy by allowing you to track positive and negative reviews as well as social media posts and mentions, some even provide a dashboard tracking complaints. You can set up alerts so you can respond quickly and set up performance tracking, as well as monitor and remove fake reviews.

Some review management software you might consider include:

  • Yext Reviews: A comprehensive platform offering real-time monitoring and management of reviews across multiple platforms, including Google and Facebook. Provides useful tools like automated responses and review sentiment analysis.
      • Best for: Businesses of all sizes, particularly those with a presence across multiple online platforms and industries. 
  • Reputation.com: Has many of the essential reputation management software tools like automated feedback across multiple platforms and a mobile app.
      • Best for: Medium to large businesses operating in competitive industries and looking for advanced reputation management features and analytics.
  • ReviewTrackers: Enables businesses to monitor reviews from over 100 review sites and provides customizable dashboards and reporting tools.
      • Best for: Businesses of all sizes, especially those with a large number of online reviews and for multi-location businesses and franchises.
  • NiceJob: Helps businesses collect and showcase customer reviews and manage their online reputation. It also offers integrations with popular CRM and marketing platforms.
      • Best for: Small businesses and freelancers in service-based industries.
  • Podium: Allows businesses to manage reviews and gather feedback as well as engaging with customers through text and social media messaging.
      • Best for: Businesses in service-based industries and those looking to leverage text and social media messaging as a communication channel for customer feedback.
  • Brandwatch: Offers social listening and analytics tools to monitor brand mentions and online conversations across various platforms. It also provides insights such as competitor analysis and industry trends.
    • Best for: Medium to large businesses across industries, particularly those with a strong presence on social media and a need for comprehensive social listening capabilities.

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3. Develop response guidelines

Speed and consistency are key when it comes to responding to online reviews and managing customer relationships effectively. While the monitoring tools above can help you respond faster to reviews, it’s also useful to have guidelines in place for you and any staff you have managing your online presence. 

Some simple steps for creating response guidelines are:

  • Understand your brand voice: Responses should be consistent with your branding. This might mean formal, professional responses or more friendly and humorous responses. Whatever you decide, make it part of your guidelines.
  • Segment responses: You might have typical, automated responses depending on the review. Your approach to review responses should be segmented depending on the sentiment of the review, be that positive or negative (or neutral). 
  • Provide solutions: Negative reviews are an opportunity for you to provide any steps you’re taking to show you’ve taken the review seriously and you’re working to improve. 
  • Be positive and grateful: Regardless of the tone of a review, a professional and positive response that shows gratitude to that customer for taking the time to review is essential. 
  • Take a personalized approach: While copy-paste responses may save time, consider how you can add a personal touch to your responses. From addressing the reviewer by name to acknowledging the specifics of their review, a personalized response can improve customer relationships. 

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4. Incentivize customer reviews

If you want more positive reviews on your Google My Business page or social media presence, you may need to provide some encouragement along the way. 

Let’s say you’re looking for virtual contact center solutions. You search on Google and see one business has two 5 star ratings and another has over a hundred reviews between 3 and 5 stars. While the 5 star rating of business 1 might look good, you might find the number of reviews overall for business 2 more trustworthy, especially since you may be committing to a long subscription to this service. 

To get more reviews, you need to provide excellent customer service, but there are some extra steps you can take:

  • Ask for reviews: Don’t ask, don’t get. Sometimes, simply asking your happy customers to leave a review is enough to encourage them. 
  • Offer discounts: A small discount on a customer’s next purchase will easily encourage them to spend a few minutes leaving a review. 
  • Run giveaways: Another incentive could be entry into a contest or giveaway. Every customer that leaves a review has the chance to win a freebie or giftcard or a significant discount. 
  • Send follow up emails: We’re all forgetful and busy. A simple follow up email after a visit or purchase can give customers a gentle reminder to review your service. 

Conclusion: Make reviews work for you

Reviews help potential customers decide if they want to engage your business. Yet online reviews aren’t just there to help the customer. They can help the business too. 

By following the above steps, from using all-in-one monitoring tools to running a review incentive program, you can not only encourage more reviews but monitor them to improve your business along the way. A new review doesn’t need to be scary, instead, see it as an opportunity for growth and engagement. 

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