Social media has opened up a whole new side to the merchant/consumer relationship; the connection and exchange of ideas. It is a comfortable, informal communication that can be free of promotion and selling. If tuned properly social media can also encourage consumers to voice their thoughts and opinions both through the social media circuit and through customer reviews.
Customer reviews are a great way to both market a product and build more quality content on your site, which in turn makes it rank better in search engines. There is also a strong tie between site trust and consumer reviews. Even negative reviews have their place as most savvy shoppers will not trust a site that never points out the cons.
Here are a few tips on how to encourage your shoppers to contribute free content to your web site through customer reviews.
1) Befriend Your Customers this is the fun part! Keeping an active social media presence for an SMB can give the online business owner or a designated team member a break from the daily grind. Make sure you make funny, engaging posts and not just news and promotions. Making your followers smile will give your brand a positive feeling in their mind and make them more likely to evangelize for you.
2) Encourage Sharing sharing is caring and so long as you don't cross over into solicitation (aka directly asking for reviews), you should be able to invite your friendly following to share their thoughts and experiences with you through customer reviews. Something like... Love it? Hate it? We'd love to hear your thoughts! should work for most needs.
3) Respond Back replying to existing reviews and comments lets your following know that there's a personality behind the machine and that their voices are really being heard. It also encourages new reviewers to post their thoughts. Positive reviews can be shared through your social media markets as they will give props to the writers and remind people to come and voice their opinions. It's not necessary to share negative reviews but it's especially important to respond well them and not edit them all away. This gives your website credibility and let's others see that you will own up to negative experiences instead of trying to hide them under the carpet.
4) Build Opportunities Well placed links and leads that lead to reviews such as shout-outs to individuals on Twitter or FaceBook, check-in offers on sites like Yelp or FourSquare, and QR codes that link to customer review bookmarks. If you have the time, you can go a step further and give shout-outs or thank users for their contributions through Twitter and FaceBook.
Absolutely Do Not
- Solicit Reviews coming outright and asking people to write reviews for you is not an accepted practice and will cause big problems if any of the major review sites (TripAdvisor, Epinions, Yelp, G+, etc) find out about it!
- Offer Perks for Reviews aka bribing. Again, while it may seem like harmless customer appreciation to you, this type of reward system of offering discounts, free items, etc, is not considered ethical marketing practice.
Basically, it's commonly thought that if you provide superior service and goods, you won't need to ask or offer incentive in exchange for a customer review. Don't we all wish it was that easy?!
To sum it up, social media is a powerful tool that, when used properly, can encourage friendly sharing in the form of customer reviews. Use these tips and start gathering more content for your online site today
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