Product and business reviews are by no means a new phenomenon, but in today’s social media culture they are game-changers for businesses. In some cases, reviews can be an untamed beast that companies struggle to contain. Forget expensive marketing plans; success often lies in the balance of one to five little yellow stars. Reviews have changed the business world in seven ways.
1. Word-of-mouth is now global.
One truth about business will never change: Word of mouth is the best advertising money can’t buy. There seems little doubt that online reviews make this maxim more important than ever.
2. New channels create new opportunities.
Perhaps even more impactful than original reviews are the “secondary reviews” delivered through social sharing. In Online Revolution: How the Internet has Changed the World, Daniel Zeevi writes that 13 percent of all Internet users are on Instagram and 15 percent are using Pinterest. If your product or business moves with customers to any networking site, it’s a real coup.
3. Accountability is everywhere.
No business or product is flawless. But in the broad sense, accountability has risen a million-fold. If your business intent is good, it will be recognized. If it’s anything else, it’ll be called out.
4. Ethics are scrutinized.
As a result of the increased accountability, there’s a de-escalation of many unethical practices at the basic consumer level. Have a business deal that went bad? If you didn’t “Google it” first, then, why are we even talking about it?
5. Social Media increases response time.
Information travels at lightning speed, so businesses should respond quickly to valid complaints. If your online reviews tanked and you’re reading about it next week, then you’re toast.
6. Filing a complaint is a two-way street.
Businesses do a voice in online reviews. Customers can throw any type of junk on the wall to see if it sticks. At times, it might be appropriate to respond. And when done correctly, it can be an effective tool to reestablish credibility after a bad spell.
7. Online reviews create built-in focus groups.
Customer feedback is so accessible it almost hurts. Immediate tweaks and changes in business plans are simply easier. This is a no-brainer for companies, especially those that lack the resources for large focus groups or market research. For some companies, timely online reviews have completely changed how they do business.
The machine is constantly churning. Just when you figure out one interface, it’s time for a new one. Word-of-mouth advertising and face-to-face interaction are still important, just in a new way: through social media. Use the new culture to your advantage, and talk to your customers. They will certainly be talking to you.