Readership on social review sites is growing at staggering rates. And, fortunately for you, now you can use this to improve interactions with customers so they’ll give you positive feedback on social media, where current and potential customers can see it.
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.
Even if you weren’t aware of the stats, you know that positive online reviews are critical for attracting new customers. 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 have a great experience – because being the best is always buzz-worthy.
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.
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
A huge part of encouraging more reviews is connecting with the people who post comments about you on social media sites. 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.
By engaging, you’re telling customers that you value you their opinions, and you’re want to make their experience better. Also, apologizing is critical if you want to get your customers to keep posting positive reviews about you. Here are some great tactics for apologizing on social media.
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. Also, remember that customers don’t usually lie, but they do embellish. Find out the details so you can address concerns confidently. Additionally, don’t send a “copy and paste” answer. Rather, customize your reply to each reviewer by keying off the core messages in their review. Finally, any exchange with a guest online should reflect your organization’s brand image and voice. Ensure that everyone who replies to posts understands how to communicate your brand voice and 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. Customer feedback is the best way your customers can pay you back for providing an amazing experience. Take advantage and make it known!
To encourage even more reviews offer customers 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. Furthermore, 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. 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.
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. Businesses can also demonstrate their good listening skills by promoting the best social reviews on their own social media properties. 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, 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.
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.
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.
Whitney Kasle is marketing associate at newBrandAnalytics, a social intelligence company for restaurants, retailers and hoteliers. The company’s approach extracts local insights from volumes of unstructured social media data, pinpointing specific ways companies can improve the customer experience. Its clients include Five Guys, Hyatt, Darden, Chili’s, Dick’s Sporting Goods and more. Follow them on Twitter @nBrandAnalytics.