Online Reviews and Your Business: An Introduction

In the past ten years, online review sites have become essential tools that consumers use to make decisions about how and where to spend their money. 

They've also become some of the most critical public-facing representations of a businesses reputation. As you can imagine, this is a recipe for some serious success stories, but also a recipe for some major PR nightmares. 

In this post, I am going to introduce you to some of the most common forms of online reviews encountered by businesses. 

Let's start with the big dogs, Yelp

One of the oldest of the online review sites, Yelp has been both the bane and the boon of food and beverage companies for years. 

Yelp has it’s own standards, algorithms, and sales pipeline that dictates how your businesses page will be seen and interacted with. Furthermore, you can find anything from hours of operation, contact information, menus, and more on each business page. 

For many in the Food & Bev industry, most of your reviews will come from Yelp, so it’s natural that most of your time will be spent learning this system and it’s nuances.

Google is old school and has a tendency to roll out services quietly. Business pages are one of those things. 

I didn’t even know that the coffee house and restaurant I run even HAD a Google Business Page until a customer pointed it out. 

Google Business Pages are an increasingly popular source of business information and reviews owing to the search engine's expanding catalog of services and information available (busy times, restaurant photos, phone numbers and the ability to call straight from the business page, online menus, etc…). 

Google Business Pages review system works very similarly to the standard bearer, Yelp. It’s a fairly easy system to use with a growing audience.

Facebook entered the Business Page market several years ago and has been an important source of information for both consumers and business owners. 

Much of Facebook’s Business Page system is a mash up of Yelp and Google’s services. 

There are menu, phone call, tip, and normal review options as well as messaging within the Facebook messenger service available directly to the business.

With Social Media, in general, we’re getting into voodoo territory. 

With most review websites and services, it’s easy to find your business and manage your reputation and customer interactions. 

With social media like Instagram, Twitter, etc…it can be much harder to locate comments and post related to your business. 

To begin, you should almost certainly have a business profile on each of these services. This will allow people to interact with your business directly. 

But there will still be folks that make comments about your business, both positive and negative, without tagging or geolocating you. 

The solution is to employ one of many quality services that tracks mentions, hashtag, geotags, and general phrases to scour the social media internet for mentions of your business. I currently love Iconosquare for metrics and Sprout Social for tracking comments and posts regarding my business on Instagram.

Last, but not least, let's talk about proprietary online review collection services.

Many POS systems are beginning to copy the Square model of offering their own proprietary system for collecting customer feedback. 

Square is by far my favorite as it’s super easy to set up an automatic prompt to leave feedback any time a customer requests an emailed or digital receipt. 

In the coffee house and restaurant I run, we use this system to great effect by collecting tons of (thankfully) positive, constructive feedback while being able to address negative feedback quickly, efficiently, and without the customer ever having to go online to a public review site to air their grievances. 

Super cool. Highly recommended.

That was a super quick run down of some of the most popular online review services, but I hope it was informative and will set the stage for the next post where we'll cover some useful ways that businesses can use these services to their advantage. 

Thanks for reading and, as always, comment with your thoughts and shoot me an email if you'd like to talk more about your company and how it can make the best use of these online resources.