Review Solicitation: To Do or Not to Do…
Most consumers have passed up a business due to their local ratings and reviews. Additionally, seventy-seven percent of consumers either “always’ or “regularly” read online reviews when searching for a local business. Review solicitation can help you earn these important reviews, but only if done correctly.
As a multi-location marketer, the value of generating reviews on your local business’s Google, Facebook, or Yelp profiles is quite evident. However, you may not be entirely sure how to do it.
Is it illegal to solicit reviews? 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 and tricks you can use to garner those reviews without breaking the rules of each platform.
Setting The Record Straight on Reviews
First, asking for or encouraging customers to leave reviews isn’t illegal. Each site that publishes user-generated reviews has varying degrees of what it encourages and frowns upon regarding how your business gets reviews.
Yelp is the strictest platform when it comes to requesting reviews. It dissuades businesses from asking or soliciting reviews in any way.
Google comes in at a close second. Google recently updated its review policy, which is designed to crack down on solicitation of reviews and opts instead for personal asks.
Moreover, Google added language around review gating. Review gating is when you display a bias towards the public with your reviews. For example, only publishing positive reviews or only requesting reviews from customers who you believe had a good experience. Both updates ultimately result in more honest and authentic feedback.
Facebook dislikes mass soliciting for reviews in general, like sending a mass email to all your followers asking for a review. Turn on “show reviews” in your Facebook settings to ensure your corporate and local social media pages’ ratings and reviews are on. 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 significant difference between the terms “solicit” and “ask” when referring to reviews.
When you solicit a review in a quid pro quo manner, you might request a customer to leave a positive review in exchange for 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 ask for a review, you’re merely suggesting that a customer leave a review if they enjoyed their experience with your brand; you’re leaving the opportunity open. You’re not controlling the outcome.
If you’re unsure about general review solicitation, reference the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) guidance on soliciting and paying for online reviews.
The Do’s and Don’ts of Soliciting Reviews
Now, let’s look at some right and wrong ways to ask for reviews.
Don’t: Send Mass Emails
We’ve already discussed how sending mass emails is the wrong approach, but consider this statistic: Seventy-four percent of marketers have seen increased customer engagement when they send personalized emails versus mass emails. Not only will you see fewer people leave a review if you send everyone the same request, but you also risk turning your customers off which may cause them to unsubscribe from your emails altogether. Remember, no one likes feeling like just a number.
Additionally, review sites frown upon this approach and it could negatively impact your presence on the platform if you mass solicit for reviews via email.
Do: Send 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 to address the person by name and mention the product or service they recently purchased from your brand. This tactic will improve your customer advocacy program as well.
For instance, after a customer shops at your local store or website, consider sending a personalized email linking to the exact products purchased, and encourage the customer to leave reviews of your products to help other customers in their buying decisions.
Don’t: Encourage 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. Unfortunately, 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 out any that seem unauthentic, 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. 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.
Reviewing-gating reduces the authenticity of all reviews and is discouraged by both Google and Yelp.
Do: Thank 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 or personalized online thank you note can solidify your relationship with existing customers. Replying directly to the review is a great way to save time, while also increasing the visibility of your response.
These satisfied customers are more likely to refer others to your business as well.
Don’t: Make 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.
You want to automate the review process and make it as easy as possible for consumers to leave reviews.
Do: Make It Easy to Leave a Rating and Review
On the other hand, having links to all your review channels easily accessible will increase the number of reviews people leave you. Here are some tactics you can implement:
- Include easy-to-find icons at the top of your website
- Link to review channels on social media
- Incorporate links to your review sites in the footer of all emails.
There are offline tactics to increase your review base, too. For instance, having sign-ups at the register asking customers to leave a review, including a QR code to your review sites on receipts, or creating handouts to place in customers’ bags or boxes to promote your review sites.
Managing Online Reviews With the Best-In-Class Software
As you can see, online reviews are essential to any successful business, particularly multi-location businesses that need to stand out from other local competitors.
While this blog covers the basics when it comes to reviews, it’s important to level-up your reputation management efforts as a whole. To ensure you’re using the proper techniques to garner reviews and strategically grow your business, download The Multi-Location Marketer’s Guide to Online Reputation Management.
As a multi-location business, you need help managing your reviews across 100s or 1,000s of locations. SOCi is built for multi-location businesses.
Our reputation management software, SOCi Reviews, can help you monitor, manage, and respond to ratings and reviews on all major social media platforms and reputation networks.
SOCi Reviews also has sentiment analysis capabilities, allowing you to identify and get ahead of emerging trends or issues with your business and competitors. For more information on SOCi Reviews and our other multi-location marketing products, request a demo today!