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The internet is full of review sites which allow people to talk about your business, both positively and negatively. Of course, this can have a huge impact on your success. Reviews can appear in a huge range of  different places; from review sites and online forums to your own social media accounts. Knowing how to manage and respond to this area of your business is an important skill, and one that’s becoming more and more important as time goes on.

Know the Landscape

It is vital to learn about the impact that these reviews can have and to also learn how you can use them to benefit your business. Here’s a quick glance at some of the sites where users (and dastardly competitors!) might post about your business:

● Amazon (209 million users)

● eBay (120 million active users)

● Facebook (1.26 billion users)

● Google+ (343 million active users)

● LinkedIn (238 million users)

● Pinterest (70 million users)

● Twitter (215 million active users)

One major hole that many small businesses can fall into is creating multiple profiles on different sites without really looking into whether they need to be there or not, or whether their customers are there.

Google, with its Maps and Places offerings, holds 89 percent of the market share in the UK. This, obviously, is a massive share and you should definitely be looking to have a presence on this platform. Google Places is free and very quick to set up. While Google is the dominant power, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t bother with other review engines that cater to businesses – Bing, the second most popular engine, may only have six percent of the market share but it’s increasing that share month on month. It also pays to remember that six percent of the UK Internet population is still over three million people! Bing offers a service very similar to Google, called ‘Bing Places’. It offers the same services for free, and is quick and easy.

Looking at this, it is clear why it pays to analyse which sites that you are going to create an official presence on.

Manage Your Profiles (the good, the bad and the downright ugly)

When you know what platforms and sites you are going to be present on, you need to come up with a plan for maintaining your presence. It is great to have profiles set up on Google Places, Bing Places, Yell, etc but it’s quite another to properly manage and respond to the feedback that you receive from your customers.

All too often, businesses set up these accounts and then don’t bother to maintain or even visit them. If it’s only to be a perfunctory act, then there is no point in setting them up!

NEVER ignore feedback, pleas for help or even a friendly hello!

If you are not going to maintain the profile and react to reviews, then you are only leaving yourself open to the negative results of the system, and none of the positive.

The power of positive

Positive reviews are great if they are current. A fallow account with reviews from months or a year ago has little impact. How is a potential customer to know if these reviews still hold true? Worse yet, if there is a negative review that has gone unanswered, consider what image this conveys to customers.

If your Google Places account is full of interactions between you and your customers, both the positive and negative reviews addressed, then it creates the impression on your part of an involved, interested company.

Having a regular schedule for this activity is important and you should try to stick to a specific time in the work week when you do this.

Dealing with negative reviews

Negative reviews, when they come along, can be disheartening, even daunting. This lies in the fact that most people do not like to be criticised.

With the internet being largely anonymous, people may be overly negative or scathing in reviews. Others will leave a well-reasoned statement about why something didn’t conform to their expectations. No matter the tone of the review (unless it is blatantly offensive or troll-ish), you should always aim to handle them in the same way.

A quick response is the first step.

Letting a negative review sit, and possibly becoming more and more annoyed by it, is the worst thing to do. Not only will it play on your mind, but it is a big red flag on your page that you will need to address. Next, even if the reviewer has not done so, keep the language and tone of your response professional and civil. Responding in any other way will only detract from the image of your company…c.f. Amy’s Baking Company! Next, offer to right whatever the wrong was.

If the reviewer has a legitimate complaint then you should address it with the utmost care. It may be that the fault wasn’t actually yours, but it is still your reputation that is on the line.

Customers who have a bad experience righted are more likely to amend those initial reviews with tales of your great customer service.

With this kind of attitude, you can turn a bad review into something positive.

Understand the Other Benefits

Reviews being written about your business can have more of an impact than just the positive reviews themselves.

The more positive reviews you garner on, say, Google Places, the more this will improve your PageRank on the search engine itself. Algorithms that Google use, like the local ranking algorithm, will take this data into account and improve the ranking of your business in your sector.

Positive reviews create more exposure, which will in turn garner you with more business.

Online reviews, positive or negative, can be a big factor in increased sales and revenues for your business.

Making the most of sites such as Yell, Google Places, Bing, TripAdvisor etc can create a whole new platform for your business if they are managed well. As such, your presence on such sites needs to be cohesive, well managed and informed. Every advantage you can muster over rival businesses is important, so don’t neglect this important area.

We hope you’ll have nothing but positive reviews for our accounting software, but we have a free 14 day trial so you can see for yourself!

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