— March 12, 2018
How much people put trust into different types of social proof has changed a lot in the last 10 years. It has changed even more since carrying around a phone became the norm. Now, business review sites play one of the most important roles in social proof.
Customer reviews from business review sites are more verifiable and therefore more trustworthy than any previous type of social proof.
There’s always been a problem with how trustworthy social proof is. Does anyone really believe a commercial with a happy customer giving their testimonial? How much does it actually affect the buying decision?
I doubt many trust it and the effects of it on buying decision I’m sure are debatable. It’s so easy to cherry pick the best customer experiences and promote the heck out of it. That’s not to say business review sites can’t be gamed either though. They are as a whole a lot more trustworthy than any other type of social proof.
Social proof plays an important part in building trust and winning new customer’s business.
Take, for instance, this Google search for a locksmith.
The first thing you see are ads for different locksmiths. People don’t generally trust ads as much as organic search rankings.
That means the next thing most searchers see is the Google Maps 3-pack (the big map with 3 businesses listed). Which one of the results would you trust the most?
I think most people would say Alpha Lock & Security. Not many would pass up calling Bursky Locksmith also though. the last option might get overlooked as people may prefer to tap on the more places link if they’re doing a bit more research. If they’re in a hurry though, only two of the businesses listed are going to have a good chance.
That sets things up to make it a bit easier for me to define what social proof is. You probably already know or have a good idea but I just want to be sure we’re on the same page.
What Is Social Proof?
People like to do what other people do.
No matter how unique we try to be and how different from everyone else we think we are, instincts overpower that all. Humans do and trust what others also do and trust. That’s what social proof is.
That means other people can impact our decision a lot. In fact, social behavior from others is the single biggest factor in deciding to buy something.
We like to do what others do and we can’t help it.
Social proof is when people mimic the actions of others to try to display correct behavior. That means the more it seems that everyone else is choosing the right business, others also want to do the same.
There’s a lot of details about social proof on Wikipedia. It’s a whole study in itself.
How people decide to do something is largely a symptom of others doing it too. For business, social proof can happen in a number of different ways.
Types of Social Proof
Social proof has changed significantly over the years. It used to be that a business would ask a regular customer if they could write a testimonial for the business.
Some of the more shady businesses and marketing agencies would actually write a testimonial for a client and have the client sign it. That’s a bit too much for me though. Authentic and straight from the client is always better.
This isn’t about ethics though. I’ll leave that for another blog post.
Here’s an incomplete list of some of the ways social proof is shown:
- Video testimonials
- Written testimonials
- Review website star rating
- Review website review
- Product review
- An always crowded business (ooh I want to see what all the fuss is! Yes I’ve done that and I’ve also regretted it.)
- Social media shares from an influencer
Not all these methods are regularly used today. You won’t find as many written testimonials for instance. Video testimonials are done in a much different way today. Video used to only happen on commercials but now it’s popular to embed a YouTube video on your website.
There are hundreds of different ways to promote social proof and try to tell your customers you’re the best one to choose because everyone else chooses you too.
Not all methods of influencing with social proof carries the same weight.
Why Business Review Sites Matter
Every website that sells something allows you to rate a product. At least ones that are trustworthy.
Sometimes it’s necessary to build trust for a business itself rather than individual products. That is unless you’re Amazon.
That’s where business review sites come in. They’re the most trusted way to learn if a business is good or not.
They’re the most trusted type of social proof we have today because they’re an independent source of information. Most review sites you can’t buy your way to the top of organic listings. Although many think you can, you often can’t. Even with Yelp, they have integrity with their organic listings and reviews.
You can buy better exposure with ads but business review sites make sure it’s obvious which listings are ads. They don’t want to lose trust with their users.
People trust business review sites. According to a BrightLocal survey, 85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
That’s a pretty powerful and telling number. There’s a good chance that your reviews are influencing your potential customer’s decision.
If you have an average star rating of 3.5 with only 3 reviews and you’re next to a competitor with 4.5 stars and 20 reviews, who do you think they’re going to choose?
Back to the locksmith example from earlier. Which company do you think customers are going to choose?
My guess would be one of the two I’ve outlined above. The first option has fewer reviews but still a lot. Another deciding factor for the first one might be the fact that they’re open 24 hours. That’s very helpful for a locksmith because.
What does this matter for a business though?
Reviews help you get more customers
You’re in business to make money. You can’t make money unless you get customers. The more customers you get the more money you make.
How does a business review site help you get more customers though?
When people need to find a service or product, they search. I did an experiment a few months ago on how my wife would find a new hair salon. Surprise! She started her search on Google which quickly led her to business reviews.
The more reviews a business has the more people will trust that business. That means you need to have close to or more reviews than your competitor. Those reviews have to be close to or above your competitor’s average star rating also.
That means you need to focus on business review sites in order to have a successful online reputation and get more business. Not only that, you have to build your online reputation in the right places.
But reviews can be gamed
Yes, business review sites can be gamed. That doesn’t mean anything though. Anything can be gamed but that doesn’t mean you throw everything out.
The likelihood of a review from a business review site being fake is significantly lower than a written or video testimonial on a business website being fake.
Reviews that are from a third party (hopefully) and get filtered for authenticity by business review sites is more likely to be trustworthy.
According to a study, 79% of consumers have read a fake review in the last year. That’s ok though, probably 99% of consumers have read a fake review on a business website (I made the 99% number up).
Yes, business review sites can be gamed. They can be gamed a lot less than a video testimonial or one on a business website though.
There’s a lot of review sites out there. Not all of them should matter to you equally though. At least, not as far as focusing on getting reviews there. Some are OK just to be listed on.
Some Review Sites Should Matter More To You
If you’re a local business then you have to be listed and have reviews. If you’re not a local business but there’s a review site in your industry, you have to be listed and have reviews.
Not all reviews sites matter to you though. There are too many out there to get reviews on them all unless you see hundreds of customers a day and can spread them out a bit.
You have to focus but perhaps not on just one business review site.
That could mean you have to split up your review efforts among a few. Google My Business and Yelp are a great option for many local businesses but sometimes other review sites might work even better.
Do a search like your customer would do and see what the results are. For me, the top result is an industry-specific directory website called UpCity. I want to be listed there and I want to funnel as many reviews there as possible while still not forgetting about Yelp and Google.
I split up my efforts among two major review sites and one niche business review website.
You may notice that Yelp, Angie’s List, or even Thumbtack have a top 10 businesses in the top spot for a Google search in your industry. If that’s the case, make sure you get reviews on that directory so you can have a place on that top 10 list.
It’s true some business review sites matter more than others for reviews. Being listed on them all is still very helpful both for local presence and citation building. There are some ways to easily manage your business on these directory sites but a fully managed local business directory solution is by far the easiest.
More Uses For Reviews
You can typically use reviews from review websites on more than just the business directory site.
It’s not necessary to leave your reviews out there on third party websites and not take advantage of them for yourself. Use your reviews in proposals, invoices, printed banners in store, and your website too. If you link back to the original review then they provide a trustworthy source of social proof.
Make sure you read business review sites terms of service though because some do not allow this. It’s also recommended that you do not markup reviews you display on your website with schema because they are already marked up on other websites.
Google doesn’t like duplicate schema markups.
Take Every Opportunity To Get More Reviews
It’s pretty common for some reviews sites to want you to sit back and wait for reviews to come in. Yelp is the biggest offender for this.
Unless you’re a coffee shop in midtown Manhattan then it’s not reasonable to expect any reviews to come through on their own. Most businesses have much lower volume and therefore accumulate reviews much too slowly on their own.
In most cases the language of these support articles is vague. So vague in fact that in the case of Yelp they leave things open to a more passive suggestion. You can theoretically get away with telling customers that you’re on Yelp and would appreciate if they tell others how their honest experience was.
You’re not asking for reviews!
You’re also not being deceptive in any way which is what sites like Yelp are trying to prevent.
Sometimes you just have to take the initiative and get more reviews. Not all of us have the luxury of sitting around and waiting for things to happen. I sure know Yelp isn’t sitting around waiting for their advertising to sell itself based off of rave reviews.
How To Get More Reviews
You need to get more reviews in order to gain more trust. But how do you go about getting more reviews for your business on business review sites?
There are four different ways you can go about getting more reviews.
- In person
It’s up to you not to forget to use the right one effectively every time you see a new customer. If you have employees then make sure they know exactly what to ask for every time they see a new customer.
I would give them an end of service checklist to make sure they don’t miss this extremely important step. It’s absolutely not to be forgotten under any circumstance.
If you have your customer’s email address then send them a quick follow-up to say thank you. Mention you’re on XYZ review site and ask them if they could share their experience with others.
If you don’t typically have a customer’s email address, ask them if you could send them a follow-up email to check in then use one of the templates.
Sometimes a good follow-up call is all that any customer needs to have an exceptional experience. A follow-up call can make the difference between good service and exceptional service.
When you call to check in briefly mention a the end that you’re on XYZ review site and would appreciate if they could share their experience with others.
Same with text. You have to be extra brief with text though. Don’t go on writing a paragraph and asking too much.
Something as simple as this could be effective:
Hi, thanks for your business. Was everything up to expectations?
I’m on XYZ review site, would you mind telling others about your experience?
You can also include a link to your business profile on your preferred business review site to make it even easier for them to share their experience.
If you’re a coffee shop or a retail shop then you most likely don’t deal with customer contact information. That’s ok. Have a script available for anybody who checks customers out.
Instead of just saying have a nice day, add a bit more onto that. Something like this could go a long way:
Thank you for coming in today. Our business is on XYX and we’d love if you could share your experience there.
Have a great day!
That’s all it takes and you can turn more of your customers into good reviews.
There’s also the option of handing out custom review cards with a simple link for customers to leave a review or better yet, feedback (keep reading…).
You can make these yourself or you can get them printed from our online review management solution.
A Better Way To Get More GOOD Reviews
If you’re telling customers you’re on XYZ directory and urging them to leave an honest review, that might not always go as planned.
Sometimes you may misread a customer and they really weren’t that happy.
That means you should be getting feedback from people BEFORE asking them to share their experience with others. That way you can get valuable feedback for those who had a bad experience. How else would you make your business the best it could be?
You want to gather feedback from your customers. That’s great but it’s hard to ask for feedback AND ask for a review. That’s a lot to ask at one time.
That’s why sending them to a feedback site FIRST is the best idea. You want to hear how your customer’s experience was and then send them to a review site depending on their feedback.
What happens in each scenario with your customer’s feedback?
If your customer says they had a good experience (thumbs up) then they’re asked if they could leave you a review on your preferred review site. You want to probably focus on a specific review website at any given time though. That’s why you might choose to emphasize Google at first to boost your reviews there.
Later you might switch to Nextdoor in order to get more recommendations there.
Not every customer will have a good experience though. Sometimes that’s impossible.
Wouldn’t it be better to get feedback on a bad experience before you get a bad review for everyone to see? I’d imagine so.
If a customer has a bad experience then you should know about it. You will not only be less likely to get a bad review but you’ll be able to correct an experience that you may have otherwise never known about.
This is an opportunity for something good to come from a potential bad review. A bad experience usually comes from miscommunicated expectations. You can learn how to improve communications in order to create more realistic expectations on both sides.
If a bad review does happen any way you’ll just have a do a bit more work to deal with it diplomatically.
Reviews Are Important
Whether you personally like business review sites or not they are now an essential part of any business. Your reputation happens on them no matter what. As a business operating in the modern world, you can’t afford to miss either a review or feedback from every single customer you see.
That’s the reason I work with businesses to automate the process of contacting their customer’s by email, text, or with a printed card to get more reviews. The online review management solution I offer helps my clients get more reviews from customers which directly translates into more customers.
No matter what industry you’re in there’s a good chance you need reviews. I would estimate that only about 5% of businesses have no means of getting reviews from business review sites.
No matter how you go about it for your business, go out there and get more reviews! They’re the most important type of social proof your business can have.