Reputation matters: making the most of your online image
Emily Washcovick, a manager of local business outreach at Yelp.com, says that 78% of consumers turn to online review sites when choosing a local business.
LOOK BEYOND THE STARS
According to Washcovick, review sites have evolved dramatically over the past few years from being a place to praise or complain about businesses, to offering real revenue-driving opportunities for businesses.
While local business owners need to pay attention to posted reviews, she says, “It’s also important to make sure information about your business’ site is complete and accurate. And if you haven’t claimed your business on Yelp, you need to do that so you can connect with customers where they are—online.”
Washcovick also suggests that pros take advantage of web site tools such as Yelp’s free request-a-quote tool, which allows for direct messaging between customers and professionals.
“The number of messages being sent to businesses in the professional services category—which includes painters—has increased by 25 times since we launched this feature two years ago,” she says.
She adds that posting photos of your work is a proven way to win attention. “A business with 1 to 5 reviews and 10 photos gets 200% more user views to their listing than others with the same star rating and number of reviews, but with no photos.”
CONTROL YOUR CONTROLLABLES
According to Jiyan Wei, founder of BuildZoom.com, a contractor-customer matchmaking site, “You never know what’s going to set a person off. We regularly get reviews from people who have never met a contractor but want to post how they got cut off in traffic by one of the company’s trucks. That may speak to someone’s inability to drive but it says nothing about their ability to do their job. At BuildZoom, those reviews never make it to the screen. Our goal is to stay focused on feedback relevant to the contractor’s professionalism and quality of work.”
Given that you can’t control what people respond to or how, Wei advises that contractors take control of their ‘controllables.’ “The first thing most people do when looking for a contractor is go to Google,” he says. “The top half of that first page is what really matters. Less than 10% of people ever go to page 2 of a search. So don’t obsess about a bad star rating or a review on page 2. Focus on the impression the first 5 or 6 listings are making.”
Wei advises all contractors to Google themselves and see what impression those top listings make. “If you’re not happy with what you see, fix it. First and foremost, if you haven’t already claimed your business on Google My Business, BuildZoom or Yelp, do it. Today. Next, if you don’t have a presence on Twitter or Facebook, get one. The postings that you create will push other items down, or even off the first page.”
RESPONDING WITH RESPECT
Inevitably, not everybody is going to show you the love online. While it’s tempting (okay, very tempting) to fire off your own zinger about the person posting, that’s not really in your best interest. What you should do is respond on the platform where the comment was made and apologize— not for whatever they say you did or didn’t do, but for how they feel. Avoid being defensive in any way but do request an opportunity to connect privately and try to make things right. Remember: your next potential customer is watching.