Online Reviews: Embracing the New Social Conversation
Any restaurant that wants to succeed online must leverage the power of online reviews. At one time, businesses owned their brands. Every time a brand was mentioned, the messaging was carefully crafted to maintain a consistent image. That’s no longer possible. Companies no longer control what is said about their brand. Consumers can say anything and brands have little control. But successful brands have evolved to embrace this conversation.
How Do You Embrace this New Social Conversation? You have to start by executing a strategic social media plan. Coca-Cola is one of the largest brands online worldwide. Yet, if you visit their social platforms and comment, you will receive a real response from a live person. It’s an incredible testament to the importance of social media. But just as important as social media, is an effective reputation management strategy.
Reputation Management is the marketing discipline that allows you to command the direction of social conversations. Reviews (and how you deal with them) are an important part of this strategy. The following are three steps that you can take today to create an effective reputation management strategy.
- Get Listed in the Right Places
First, you want to guide where social conversations will exist. For most businesses, you want to setup or claim your business entries on Facebook, Google, Yelp and Twitter. If you are a restaurant, you may want to consider Foursquare just to be safe. Once these are under your control, decide which you want to utilize and let people know where you will be. This will guide your customers to the platforms you are watching and engaging with them on.
For example, we are working with a new restaurant in downtown Chicago, close to the Uber headquarters and even closer to where Google will open their doors. While we have claimed and post to several platforms, we are concentrating on three: Twitter, Instagram and Yelp. Why? Because these are the three platforms that will directly hit our exact target audience – the young tech professional. So we have made sure to feature these three platforms on their website. We are also posting instructions on the other platforms to find out more on Twitter, Instagram or Yelp. This strategy allows us to dominate a specific social platforms and makes it easier to monitor online conversations.
- Respond to ALL Reviews
Five-star or one-star, positive and negative reviews can be of equal importance. Every business will have a customer who is unhappy with some aspect of their experience. Whether it’s quality, service, price, wait time, overall experience, etc., there will be a time when someone will expect better. Often, when those experiences happen, customers will go online and talk about your brand. It is now your job to make it right. Respond and ask them to follow up with you offline with details. Make sure to mention in your response that you are disappointed that service was not to the level they expected. Then follow through with them privately to make the situation better.
It is also polite to say thank you. When someone gives you a great review, thank them publicly. You can even feature their review in a post on one of your social sites. These little engagements make a difference when potential customers are checking you out online.
Finally, if you receive a two- or three-star rating, treat it as if it was a one-star review. This will show people researching your company that you strive for perfection.
- Ask for Reviews but Don’t Incentivize Them
People often go online to review a restaurant when an experience is really good or really bad – more often the latter. So for you to get the best overall ranking, you need to ask for reviews. How do you ask for reviews?
Here are five ways…
》 Politely ask for reviews when presenting the check at the end of the dining experience.
》 Order window decals for the review sites from Yelp, Foursquare or Facebook.
》 Include the logos of review platforms on your menus, business cards and POS signage.
》 Add links to these platforms on to your website.
》 There are services like ReviCards (getrevicards.com) that help you ask or survey your customers and build your online ratings/reviews.
Whatever you do, remember you cannot incentivize reviews. If you get caught, you are in violation of Yelp, Facebook and Google’s terms of service and can be banned from their platforms. That penalty is far too severe to risk.
The future of your restaurant is in the words of your customers. Embrace this. Don’t be scared. Just formulate a strategy and execute it. We would love to hear your thoughts below.
Are you a restaurant owner or marketer? If so, check out Serving Up Social Media (www.servingupsocialmedia.com) or download our free guide to Restaurant Marketing. Boxless Media has created Serving Up Social Media, more than 20 pages of industry-specific, digital marketing tips & tricks for the restaurant owner/marketer. It is made available free of charge for download here.