Yelp was built around restaurants, the one case in which satisfied customers are likely to leave reviews. Why? To show "to the world" that they have the disposable income and prestige to di ne out. Similar to what you see on Facebook, people like to "showcase" their positive achievements. Look at me! I went to Disneyland, I went out to dinner, I went to this amazing museum, ate at this exclusive restaurant.
Still, even in the entertainment sectors, unhappy customers are very likely to leave reviews.
The takeway here is to realize the following:
If you do nothing, the most likely reviews you will get will be negative reviews.
It gets worse. The official policies of Yelp, Google+, TripAdvisor and the like is that you – as the business owner—are not allowed to solicit reviews in any way shape or fashion. yelp, for example, advises business owners:
Don’t ask your Customers to review your business on Yelp. Over time, solicited reviews create bias in your business listing — a bias that savvy consumers can smell from a mile away
TripAdvisor states as follows:
The following actions may be considered fraudulent: —
Attempts by an owner to boost his/her own property’s reputation by:
- Writing a review for his/her own property
- Asking friends or relatives to write positive reviews
- Submitting a review on behalf of a guest
- Copying comment cards and submitting them as reviews
- Pressuring a TripAdvisor member to remove a negative review
- Offering incentives such as discounts, upgrades, or any special treatment in exchange for reviews
- Hiring an optimization company, third party marketing organization, or anyone to submit false reviews
- Impersonating a competitor or a guest in any way
Attempts by an owner to damage his/her competitors by submitting a negative review.
Bottom line: Any attempt to misle considered ad, influence or impersonate a traveler is fraudulent and will be subject topenalty.
The Review Dilemma
So here’s the review dilemma:
- On the one hand, if you do nothing, you are very likely to receive negative reviews from unhappy customers and not so likely to receive positive reviews from happy customers (true in all cases, except perhaps entertainment-type industries), but
- On the other hand, the official terms of service forbid you from soliciting reviews from customers.
Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
The reality of the Review Revolution is that in most cases and certainly in competitive industries like divorce law, DUI cases, plumbers, roofers, etc., most successful companies are pro-actively soliciting reviews. This does not mean that they are faking or buying reviews; it only means that they are nudging, cajoling, begging, emotionally incentivizing, and otherwise motivating happy customers to go online and take the time to write positive reviews around their business.
- Is this fair? No.
- Is this in accord with the terms of service? No.
- Is it the reality? Yes.
- Is it the public reality? No. Yelp, Google+, TripAdvisor, Amazon, and all the other companies do their best to police reviews, but the reality is that the fact that reviews are heavily manipulated by vendors is an open secret.
- Is life fair? No.
- Was it likely that your plumbing company would have been reviewed in the paper in 1995? No.
- Your small restaurant? No.
- Even though the posted speed limit on the highway, is 6o mph, do most cars do most cars actually go 60? No
- The Review Revolution has given you an enormous, positive opportunity to reach new customers, just like the Interstate Highway System gives you the opportunity to travel cross-country at 65 to 8o mph even though the posted speed limit may by 75 mph (in the West) and 6o mph (in the East).
- Don’t be the fastest car on the road. Don’t be the red Mazda Miata going 95 mph in front of the cop. Just be in the fast car group, just not the fastest, most egregious car.
- For now, just understand that positive reviews are the key to success, that soliciting reviews is technically against the terms of service, and begin to realize that you are going to have to create a strategy to solicit positive reviews, despite the posted terms of service.
Let’s turn, first, to identifying companies to emulate on the various review sites.
INVENTORY COMPANIES ON YELP, GOOGLE+ OR OTHER RELEVANT SITES
- If you are a local business, it will be pretty obvious that reviews matter. Even if you are a national business, you may realize that reviews matter. Your first step therefore is to identify the review sites that matter to your business. Your second step is to then browse similar businesses on those sites and conduct an inventory of what you like and dislike about their listings, realizing that unlike on Facebook, listings on review sites generally occur with or without the permission of the business. Actual control is much more limited.