Last week we discussed the state of small business marketing. Two of the top five channels for small businesses were social media and listings management. These make sense, given that you are measuring and monitoring what’s going on in these channels. As we concluded last week, if you are relying on your gut and conventional wisdom to manage these channels, you’re likely making some incorrect assumptions.
For example, let’s look at the “shelf life” of customer reviews on different channels. This article focuses on how responsive you should be to people who leave you feedback or comment about your brand on different sites. Are you aware of the following metrics?
The shelf life of a tweet is about 18 minutes, and 75% of the engagement on a Facebook post happens in the first 5 hours.
Somebody that tweets an issue to your brand is looking for a fairly immediate response. While most small businesses don’t have to worry as much about this channel today, savvy small business owners realize that it’s a pretty effective way to get to more technically oriented and younger customers. Twitter will not help people “find” you, but it’s a great way to have a somewhat “real time” online conversation. Do you offer this to customers today?
Most small businesses live on Facebook, and I’m surprised at the number of small business owners that think this is the best place to be to reach their existing customers and fans. Sadly, the conventional wisdom here is woefully inaccurate. The organic reach on Facebook is extremely low now (less than 5%) and headed to 0% – Facebook themselves says this. And there is now so much content on Facebook that the majority of your fans will not see your posts unless (a) they check their feed very shortly after you have posted an update, or (b) your post gets a lot of Likes/Shares, in which case it will get “boosted” in related peoples feeds for a short time.
People aren’t “searching” on Facebook, they are scanning. So, anything that you post that doesn’t show up in a feed becomes for the most part invisible. Search engines will never find that content since Facebook is a walled garden. This does indicate that many of your posts on Facebook are similar to a tree falling in the woods – if nobody is there to hear it, does it make a sound?
This is where listings management comes into play. Many SEO experts suggest claiming your page on several directory sites to clean up Name/Address/Phone (NAP) inconsistencies. This is important, but overblown – you likely only need to fix your NAP on the 4 major aggregators (Infogroup/Acxiom/Localeze/Factual) and the top sites for your area or vertical. However, a key area that listings management can help with is customer feedback and reviews.
Feedback and reviews have a much longer shelf life (69% of people think reviews of 3 months or less are still relevant) and this content is public, so it’s searchable via search engines. Also, customers that leave feedback on review sites don’t expect immediate responses, the majority want an answer within a week. Responding to reviews and feedback gives people a window into your customer service – this is the #1 reason that people return to a business and recommend it.
Are you showing any of your feedback or reviews on your own website? As we have discussed before, your website is the only property that you own vs. rent. All of the social media sites can (and do) change their terms of service at any time, regardless of how it impacts you.
When somebody says something great about you on Facebook or tweets a compliment, why not do a screen grab and have a “wall” on your own site that shows those? Some review sites will let you “stream” their feedback onto your own website. You’ll get much fewer visits to your website than to social media, but those visitors are highly engaged. Ask them to sign up for your email newsletter. Offer them something (a promotion, a how-to guide, a blog post) that gives them value.
Final tip – whatever you would do in “real life”, do online. The best advice I have seen about how to “win” online is to be yourself. Don’t try to game the search engines, and certainly don’t buy into the “We can get you to #1 on Google” sales pitches! They cannot deliver on their promises.
I hear business owners all the time talk about how nervous they are about getting negative reviews online, and yet I watch them handle in person issues in their store with grace and understanding. If you do the things online that you do in person, that’s all it takes. You would never ignore a customer who complained in person. You always thank the people that give you compliments (and sometimes ask for it in writing so you can post it on your wall).
Here’s the real reason you should respond to customer reviews – people are talking about you. They are talking about you online and offline. People are complaining about you, raving about you, wishing you would do something new or different. You want to hear what these people are saying, and you want to encourage them to continue. Otherwise, why are you in business?