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As a marketer or a franchise, you know the value of getting customers to leave reviews on your franchise’s Google, Facebook, or Yelp page…only you may not be entirely sure how to do it.


You may have heard rumors that it is illegal to ask for reviews…is that true? How can you get customers to review your business if you can’t even ask them to do so? We’ve compiled a list of tips & tricks for your franchise to garner those reviews, without breaking the rules of each platform.


Setting Things Straight on Reviews


First of all, it isn’t illegal to ask for reviews. Each site that publishes user-generated reviews has varying degrees of what it encourages and frowns upon regarding how you get reviews.


Yelp is the strictest in how much it dissuades businesses asking for reviews in any form, while Google comes in at a close second. Google recently updated their review policy, which is designed to crack down on solicitation of reviews and opts instead for personal asks, which ultimately result in more honest and authentic feedback. Facebook dislikes mass soliciting for reviews in general (i.e., sending a mass email to all your followers asking for a review). Other review sites’ policies vary, and you should always check each site’s review guidelines before reaching out to customers for reviews.


Despite each review site’s guidelines, there is a massive difference between the term “solicit” and “ask” when it comes to a review.


When you solicit a review, you might be requesting a customer to leave a positive review in exchange for something like a discount or freebie. You can understand how this is unfair because it skews your reviews to be positive when they might not otherwise be.


When you merely suggest that a customer leave a review if he/she enjoyed her experience with your brand, you’re leaving the opportunity open. You’re not controlling the outcome.


Now let’s look at some right and wrong ways to ask for reviews.


Wrong Way: Sending a Mass Email


We’ve already discussed how this is the wrong approach, but consider this: 74 percent of marketers have seen increased customer engagement when they send personalized emails versus mass emails. Not only will you see fewer people actually leave a review if you send everyone the same request, but you might also turn your customers off and persuade them to unsubscribe from your emails altogether since no one likes feeling like just a number. Additionally, review sites frown upon this approach, and could negatively impact your presence on the platform if you mass solicit for reviews via email.


Right Way: Sending a Personalized Email After a Purchase or Other Customer Engagement


The key to getting reviews the right way is dealing with them individually rather than as a whole. Instead of sending everyone on your email list a request to review their purchase, send a personalized note. Even if you use an email marketing software, you can still customize fields so that you address the person by name and mention the product or service he/she recently purchased from your brand.


For example, after you shop at most beauty franchises, you will receive a personalized email linking to the exact products you purchased, and the franchise will encourage you to leave reviews of your products to help other customers in their buying decisions.


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Wrong Way: Encouraging In-Authentic Reviews


When you offer a discount or something free, customers feel obliged to leave a review (it’s that Pavlovian response; do something and be rewarded), and that review might not be genuine. The incentive unevenly tips the scale towards more positive reviews. Also, realize that Yelp is cracking down on solicited reviews, and filters any that seem not to be authentic, so even if customers do leave reviews, they might never appear on your page.


Another review solicitation method that is frowned upon is review-gating, which is the process of filtering reviewers. If the customer had a positive experience, they will immediately be filtered to the review sites, and if the customer had a negative experience, it filters them to a customer service contact in an attempt to remedy the situation before it becomes a negative review. This process reduces the authenticity of all reviews and is discouraged by both Google and Yelp.


Right Way: Thanking People Who Have Left Reviews


Rather than incentivizing customers to leave reviews, try showing appreciation for those who have already left reviews. Sending a short, hand-written thank you note or even offering a discount after the fact can solidify your relationship with existing customers, who then may refer others to you via word of mouth.


Wrong Way: Making People Dig to Find Your Review Link


Asking a customer in your store to go home, search for your local brand page online, and then leave a review is asking a lot. Understand that most customers will forget your request as soon as they walk out the door.


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Right Way: Making It Easy to Review


On the other hand, having links to all your review channels easily accessible will increase the number of reviews people leave you. Include easy-to-find icons at the top of your website. Link to them on social media. Include them in the footer of all emails. Depending on the platform, you can send emails to your customers including direct links to your review sites, or a bulleted list of directions without the direct link.


There are offline tactics to increase your review base, too. For instance, having sign-ups at the register asking customers to leave a review, printing your review sites’ information on receipts or creating handouts to place in customers’ bags or boxes to promote your review sites.


Online reviews are the lifeblood of any business, particularly a franchise that needs to stand out from other franchise locations. Make sure you’re using the right techniques to garner reviews so that they help you grow your business.


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