It used to be that gatekeepers—publicists, brands, advertising agencies—told us everything we needed to know about what movies to watch, the best way to lose weight and how to make our mouths minty and fresh.
But online reviews, social media and celebrities on Twitter brought the curtain crashing down. Now, if you want to buy, eat or watch something, there is a great chance someone online will tell you what they think of it.
There’s big money to lose or gain. A 2014 study by the social analytics firm ShareThis and the Paley Center for Media found out in real numbers what people were willing to shell out for various products based on reviews they discovered from friends (in person) and online.
“Recommendations have more of an impact than brand or price,” ShareThis CEO Kurt Abrahamson told The Atlantic. “We found that highly positive online shares can generate an almost 10 percent increase in purchase intent, and negative reviews can also have a correspondingly negative impact, [reducing purchase intent by] 11 percent.”
The ShareThis/Paley study surveyed 6,000 people and analyzed the types of reviews participants encountered. Would a recommendation from a stranger or a friend (online or in person) equal a desire to pay more or less for objects such as iPads?
According to the study, after seeing online social shares, posts or tweets, participants said they would part with $22.26 more based on a positive “online share” by a stranger and $27.42 more based on a positive online share from a good friend or family member. Survey respondents weighted professional opinions the most heavily. After considering professional print and online reviews of electronics, survey participants would open their wallets up by $31.13.
Better online reviews mean big revenue to restaurants as well. Two Berkeley economists found in 2011 that a humble half-star improvement in Yelp’s 5-star rating platform made it 30-49 percent more likely that a restaurant’s evening seating would sell out. To some restaurants, this may seem unfair. After all, a business rated a total of 3.74 will be awarded a 3.5 star rating by Yelp; and a business with a total rating of 3.76 will be given 4 stars. In reality, the two businesses are very similar but only one will reap the greater benefits of the 4-star review.
In the face of an online world where those digital stars can impact your bottom line, there are steps you can take to improve your reviews.
1. Download our 5-Star Guide to Responding to Online Reviews. It’s free and we think you’ll find some tips that can help your enterprise or local business get a great handle on reviews.
2. Respond to the reviews you already have, both positive (say, “thank you!”) and negative (check out our blog post for multi-location brand review responses).
3. Take action before the review. You can’t ask for positive reviews (or pay for them!), but you can tell your customers that you are on Yelp and Google+ (or whatever platform you choose). If a new Yelp reviewer gives you a review, their review may be caught in Yelp’s filter. Make sure to follow them on Yelp, and even encourage the reviewer to complete their Yelp profile, if they haven’t done so already.
4. Showcase great reviews. You probably have great reviews scattered around the web already. Use the Connectivity platform to find them all or get your cut-and-paste fingers going. Flaunt these great pieces of affirmation (the fancy word is User-Generated Content) on your website, Facebook page, Instagram feed and more. (See this blog post for more on UGC.
Olga is a Senior Manager in Marketing and Sales Operations at Connectivity.