For small businesses, a positive web presence can be the difference between succeeding or failing, and even the slightest hint at a poor reputation on sites like Yelp has the ability to drive customers away and severely damage an image. Think about it, how often do you go directly to Yelp THEN search for a particular company? Usually you’ll start with Google. Unfortunately, sites like Yelp dominate search engine optimization, so more often than not Yelp will land at the top of your Google search. This is a bad thing, and worse than most people realize.
An example of this is my chiropractor’s office who is currently dealing with the damage Yelp can deliver to a reputation (I should note they have great ratings on all other review sites). With Yelp’s questionable filtering process for small businesses, a bad review can be crippling. Out of the 15 reviews their business has received, you will only find 2 of them present and visible on their page. One is a 5-star review from a previous patient and the other is some bizarre story (and 1-star rating) from a lady who clearly has more issues than just her “bad” experience with this business. If I’m deciding between chiropractors and see this review on Yelp, chances are I’m going to cross them off my list.
SO what happened to the other 13 reviews? Yelp has deemed “not currently recommended” and doesn’t even acknowledge them until the very bottom of the page (they’re linked in small grey text and very well hidden). One of the filtered reviews was mine, which was removed within 12 hours of posting it. Why did this happen? As a current and satisfied patient, am I not a reputable source? With practices like this, even having satisfied customers sometimes isn’t enough for your online reputation.
To have your reviews show back up unfiltered on the main page, all it takes is to “advertise” with Yelp. A rep will be sure to call weekly to indirectly tell you that advertising with them is the solution. It’s a pretty smart tactic, in an evil genius kind of way. Google search “Yelp scam” to find an unnerving number of examples.
Fortunately, there are ways to combat these damaging and somewhat questionable practices sites like Yelp are partaking in, and one way is through a strong web presence. In an age where Google has become a one-stop shop for information, this is an aspect of your business that is an absolute must to compete. Unfortunately, Yelp dominates SEO, so the only way to combat them is to fight fire with fire. When someone searches for your company, you don’t want Yelp to be the first thing they find on Google. You want them to find your website with customer testimonials, an updated blog, and social media platforms that stay current and engaging. Establish yourself as a thought leader in your industry.
Maintaining a company blog seems like a big commitment, but it’s also becoming a necessity, especially from an SEO standpoint. Chances are you’re passionate about your industry and have a great deal of insight to offer, committing an hour or two over the weekend is a great way to bust out content for the week. Start by going back on your website and finding material that can be transferred into blogs. Google Trends is also a great tool to utilize, allowing you to identify keywords people are using when searching for your business and others similar to yours.
Don’t let sites like Yelp control your brand. Disempower what they do best, which is controlling Google search results. Establish your business as industry thought leaders and start busting out content. All of a sudden, the crazy cat lady who wrote your bad review no longer controls your image or your business’ destiny, you do.
This morning I was on the phone with Priceline about rescheduling a flight for my trip to Sochi (more on that later!) and had a particularly unpleasant experience with their customer service representative. At one point, he asked me to stop talking and if it was ok for him to speak yet. After hanging up, I took to twitter and got quite a few responses to my tweet at Priceline voicing my disappointment.
This got me thinking. My one poor experience caused several other people to not want to do business with a company. This shows the extreme importance of customer service, especially when you can post about all service experiences, good or bad and have it be public for everyone to see. People are much more willing to post a negative experience than a positive one, so making the most of every customer interaction is key.
How many of you have tweeted at a brand and received a fun, playful response? (Would love to hear your favorites in the comment section) How about a bad experience? Did that make you more likely to spend your money there again? One brand that does this particularly well is Chipotle. If I tweet that I’m headed there, they’ll say “See you soon!” making you feel welcomed and I’m even more excited to devour that burrito bowl.
I had a negative experience at Boloco a few months ago, tweeted about it and their founder, John, reached out to me directly to ask about it. He offered me a gift card to motivate me to go back to see if I’d have a better experience the next time. Well, it worked! All it took was a tweet. Boloco could have ignored my complaint for any number of reasons, but they chose to see if they could correct it.
Every single tweet has the power to make an impact. What does that mean for a brand? Treat every tweet as you wish to be (re)tweeted. Every tweet is the opportunity to gain, or lose a customer, potentially forever.
Like Jana and Jenna have shared, their positive experiences with a brand have solidified their loyalty to the specific brand. This is a new opportunity, as previously this would only be possible by picking up the phone to give a company feedback. Social Media provides for a much more casual forum for a similar opportunity.
Why does all of this matter? As Jenna and Stephanie mention, customers want to interact! In a world where we’re all so hyper-connected yet disconnected all at the same time (think of a packed train with everyone on their cell phone and nobody actually talking) people are looking to join these micro-communities online. FitFluential, GirlsGoneSporty and SweatPink are a couple great examples of this, along with all of the twitter chats that exist. People come to these communities looking to learn from others and connect with like-minded people. When approached the right way, it’s a great opportunity for a brand or someone offering a service (nutrition counseling, athletic coaching, etc) to get their name out into the community. Contribute and be a resource (my 3rd tip on how to have a positive social media presence!) and you’ll start to see more people coming your way.
Let’s get back to the main purpose of this post. In today’s world it is extremely important to have terrific customer service.
As shown in the graphic, people are much more likely to share a negative experience with others than a positive experience. It’s often easier to lose a customer than it is to gain one, As Bill tweeted above, one negative experience I had totally turned him off from a specific company in the future.
What are some brands I’ve noticed that do it right? I’ve personally received gifts/coupons/product from a couple brands (Raw Rev & Nature’s Path to name a few) and as a result, have continued to share them with friends and coworkers. Several of these people have become customers of theirs as well. This occurred because they noticed I was saying good things about them, and wanted to thank me. I’m happy to continue to do business with them, and will pass along my positive feedback to others.
What does this all mean? The gap between the brands that have grasped the value of a good social media presence combined with awesome customer service and those that haven’t will continue to grow significantly in 2014. There will be less of an in-between, and those that embrace it will be rewarded with consumer loyalty, positive brand image, and most importantly, sales.
Real Fit AND Social:
If you follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or we’ve had a conversation in the last 6 months, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve heard something about November Project. Yes, I’m an avid participant (even when it feels like -21 below in a snowstorm) but this post isn’t about my participation. Either unknowingly (but probably knowingly) Brogan and Bojan, the co-founders of November Project have themselves the perfect situation to take advantage of the power of social media. They do no paid advertising, yet they are able to tap into the power of social media and word of mouth to get people to #riseandshine and #justshowup at 6:30 (and sometimes, 5:30!) every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, despite whatever conditions Mother Nature presents.
Routinely, hundreds of people show up to get active to start their day. “The Tribe” has grown organically through word of mouth. At the end of most workouts, a group photo is taken, which results in exactly 50 people being tagged on Facebook. The potential for virality this creates on Facebook is tremendous, not to mention the other dozens of photos tagged, Instagrammed and tweeted. Unbeknownst to the user, anytime a photo is taken and posted, it results in many other people who are actually not participants (yet!) seeing how much fun we’re having out there. This means more and more people will learn about what’s going on, and hopefully join in on the fun!
This is organic social media marketing at its finest. Many of the photos contain what November Project calls “Grassroots Gear” (see example below) so if November Project isn’t already tagged, people can at least Google search “November Project” since it’s on the apparel.
Let’s take Mondays for example. Monday is called “Destination Deck” meaning it’s in a different location each week. There’s no mailing list or billboard to see where to go; the only place to find the location is through NP’s blog or other social media channels. All additional important information is posted this way as well.
This past Friday, normally a hill run at Summit Ave in Brookline, Boston was hit with about 14 inches of snow and subzero wind chills. Did that stop NP from its usual workout? Yes! Brogan and Bojan saw the opportunity as the perfect storm to do something even more awesome than just working out. They saw an opportunity to give back to our neighbors on the hill. They took to social media and told everyone that could make it, to bring a shovel. The workout yesterday resulted in half of Summit Ave’s driveways, cars, sidewalks and steps being shoveled out, almost entirely before any of the residents knew what was going on.
What does this mean for social businesses?
Brands can harness the power of social media in a similar way. People are always looking to be a part of a community, in whatever form that may present itself. Brands can organize tweet-ups where a group of people can meet-up for dinner/drinks (picture 50 people walking into a restaurant and spending lots of money) or to perform some sort of community service, by potentially incentivizing people with some sort of offer, brand swag, or giveaway prizes.
Looking for a brand that does this well?
First-Ever runDisney Nighttime Meet-Up to Kickoff Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend at Walt Disney World Resort
runDisney offers the opportunity to run through Disney’s parks during a race, but there are plenty of other great destination races available. A way that they can differentiate themselves even more is by offering these meet-ups, often organized through social media. The running community is HUGE in the USA (somewhere around 40 million), but the running community involved in social media seems so much smaller. These meet-ups give people who may already be connected the once or twice a year opportunity to spend some time with each other in person, which otherwise might not be possible. This is certainly a huge deciding factor when it comes to deciding where you’ll be spending your money on race registration.
The opportunity doesn’t end with just the running community. Sports teams can take advantage of this too. Meet-and-greets with athletes and team-sendoffs to away games can be exclusively promoted through social media channels as well. In a town such as Boston (or any of the other major sports cities) there are multiple teams vying for your dollars as a fan. Differentiate your brand and offer exclusive, engaging opportunities like this and see what happens.
Brands that take advantage of the power to engage with people online, while also creating opportunities OFFLINE will continue to enjoy the rewards of doing so.