Social media has leveled the marketing playing field. By providing budget-friendly advertising options, property owners and operators can use social media to get in front of large portions of their target audience. And yet, one of the most important elements of social media marketing isn’t even advertising at all – it’s the online review.
Marketers have long understood that people make purchase decisions based on feedback from their friends and peers. Before the Internet, we relied on word of mouth to learn which apartment community has the best amenities or which Senior housing community takes the best care of loved ones. But the proliferation of Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, and Google+ have put the power of reviews into the hands of anyone who shares or reads them. This is a critical part of the customer journey, and over 70% of people do it.
Businesses who fail to manage their online reputation by nurturing reviews will fall behind competitors who do. Actively managing online reviews develops rapport with prospects and also improves search presence by creating more content associated with your brand.
Strong positive reviews are shown to impact core business metrics:
- Over 88 percent of B2B and B2C buyers have been influenced by an online customer service review when making a buying decision, according to Zendesk
- Nearly one quarter of consumers will maintain loyalty to vendors for up to two years after a positive customer service experience
- A great experience offline can translate into new business, as 87 percent of good customer service stories are shared with others, either offline or online
- Nearly 40 percent of local consumers have searched online for local businesses at least 1 time per month. Since review sites are becoming primary avenues for consumers to learn about what companies around them deliver the best service or product, maintaining positive reviews on these platforms will be an important key to success
- Local search engines love online reviews because consumers love online reviews. According to Moz’s 2014 Local Search Ranking Factors Survey, review quantity, velocity, diversity, and other elements are believed to make up nearly 10 percent of how Google and other search engines decide to rank search results
So how does a business with multiple locations maintain a great online reputation? A combination of traditional customer service elements combined with new world digital marketing tactics.
Start with great customer service at the front office
- Reputation management starts with taking care of your customers offline. Many reviews, both positive and negative, start with a face-to-face interaction
Tap into your existing network of advocates
- Ask your current customers and fans to share why they love your company. This will help drive positive reviews on Yelp and Facebook
- Send an email to your database, ask residents in the front office, or reach them on the social and review platforms themselves to get them to engage
Monitor platforms for new reviews
- Use monitoring tools like Google Alerts to notify you by email when that phrase is mentioned on the web
- Reputation monitoring dashboards can tell you when a new review shows up on important platforms like Facebook, Yelp, or Google+
Give your future customers a reason to believe you’re great
- Share content that shows what kind of values your company finds important
- Demonstrate your expertise in your industry: Share valuable, relevant content like helpful tips or a research study
When responding to reviews, be human, authentic, and transparent
- Detractors will relate to a human voice and promoters will feel encouraged by a friendly tone, even if it’s simply saying thank you
- Simply answer the question how you would if the asker were standing in your front office
- If the issue the reviewer is having is real, let them know why it occurred and what you’re doing to fix it
- Though it may seem daunting to get started with a full-scale management of your property’s online reputation, it’s best to start small
- Start offline: Put your best foot forward in the front office to delight your customers
- Identify and begin monitoring the two or three primary digital channels your target audience is using to review and research you, like Facebook or Yelp
- Establish a process and set of best practices for managing reviews that work for your organization internally, then start expanding your focus to be more proactive across other channels