Someone said that online reviews are the best thing that has happened to small businesses. We couldn’t agree more.

In today’s world, people don’t just want to read about companies, they want to step up to a podium, share their experiences and pass on their knowledge about companies. Online review sites give the public a microphone to fill a desire to be heard.

In turn, online review sites provide small businesses the opportunity to have their own voices heard. Responding to online reviews provide a channel to showcase your customer service.

Harnessing review sites like Yelp, Google and Facebook is a key digital marketing strategy and can be done at no cost.

Online Review Sites are Leading to Purchasing Decisions

Not only do people desire to share their experiences and recommendations, but their feedback is affecting the bottom line for businesses.

People are making decisions to purchase products and services from companies based on online reviews. In fact, a study shows that 90 percent of consumers read online reviews before picking up the phone to call a business or walking through the front doors, and that 88 percent of consumers said they trust online reviews as much as recommendations from people they know.

Reviews matter. A one-star increase on Yelp can lead to a 5 to 9 percent increase in a business’ revenue. In turn, one negative review can cost a business 30 customers.

Most Reviews Are Positive

Not all reviews are bad. Yelp reports that two-thirds of all Yelp reviews are four to five stars. This is good news, since 94 percent said they will use a business with at least four stars.

Business Response is Vital

Cory Capoccia, Forbes Technology Council member, wrote, “review sites are at the epi-center of ‘near me’ searches.” This provides a valuable opportunity for small businesses to join the conversations on online review sites.

Don’t let the opportunity to publicly showcase your high level of customer service pass you by. Monitor and respond. Remember that every response you provide will be read by both past and potentially future customers.

In fact, consumers reported that they look for reliability, expertise and professionalism from a business within online reviews. Those three values were the most important reputation traits.

So, what platforms should I be on?

We recommend Google, Facebook and Yelp – the three globally leading review platforms. In fact, we have noticed that Google has recently started picking up on Yelp reviews in search results, even going as far as adding them to business profiles on a search page. Meanwhile, Facebook is the largest social media platform in the world and its reviews are publicly available right from your company’s Facebook page.

However, each community is different. For example, trending technology usage in Miami is very different than in Tulsa. We recommend conducting a Google search of some local businesses to see which online review sites are popular in your own area. For example, Angie’s List or TripAdvisor might be worth your investment of time if you see that members of your community are actively using these sites.

How do I do this?

Life is busy. We get it. As a business owner, you are juggling human resources, accounting and payroll, customer service, ordering stock and so much more. Online reviews are far from your mind. However, online reviews might be making or breaking your business.

Therefore, it is important that you make the time. Every morning, check Google, Facebook and Yelp to see if any new reviews came in the day before. They say that it takes 20 consecutive days to form a habit. Do this for 20 days and, before you know it, this 15-minute task will become a natural way for you to start the workday.

If you simply can’t find time, then consider assigning a responsible staff member to check every morning. Monitoring is the first and most important step. The second step is responding.

Stay tune. In our next blog, we are going to address how to respond to reviews – both positive and negative. Keep in mind that the world is watching, and a transparent high level of customer service is paramount.

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