If you were choosing a place to stay, which of these would you prefer?
- Hotel 1 rated 5 stars: “This place is great” :-)
- Hotel 2 rated 0 stars: “This place sucks” :-(
No prizes for guessing the right answer.
A recent survey shows that 95% of travellers trust reviews, and 78% of people make decisions based on them*.
Just as in a medieval duel, where guns beat swords and swords beat fists, when it comes to convincing customers to buy, reviews beat brand websites, and brand websites beat newspaper adverts.
Top tip: If you sell products, you need reviews. If you sell services, you need testimonials. If you sell yourself (as an expert in something), you need recommendations.
Collecting social proof like this for your product or service is good marketing practice, because what other people say about you is more convincing than anything you say yourself.
A page full of five-star reviews drives sales, while a page full of negative reviews drives them away.
But, in order for this to work, review sites need to be credible.
Consumers are not stupid. They see through ‘marketing speak’. They are also suspicious of overly positive reviews – in some cases, rightly so. Peter Hook, Accor’s general manager in Sydney, has admitted posting more than 100 fake reviews on TripAdvisor (as a result, he was ‘stood down’ for breaching his employer’s social media policy). Read the story on SmartCompany.com.
It’s predicted that, by 2014, 10% of travel reviews online will be fake*.
There’s a risk that your business reputation can be sabotaged by unhappy customers, disenchanted employees and unscrupulous competitors.
Some people are even concerned about the review sites themselves. For example, Yelp has been accused of refusing to remove fake reviews unless businesses buy advertising from them – the company denies it and lawsuits against them have been dismissed. You may be interested to read this article (and the comments) on Entrepreneur.com, and/or this one on TheNextWeb.com.
You’d think allowing a right of reply would be an easy way to solve this problem. However, less than one in five review sites allow managers to respond to negative reviews*.
Allowing responses is important. An attendee at a social media course I ran in Brighton tweeted the local Jury’s Inn where she’d stayed the night before, and was thrilled when they replied within minutes. Her impression of their customer responsiveness was enhanced, and her loyalty to the brand soared.
The survey shows 78% of customers believe the hotel cares about them when they get a response to their review, and 84% that seeing an appropriate management response improves their impression of the hotel*.
So what’s the answer? In Singapore, new startup theSmartLocal is a ‘quality not quantity’ review site, with detailed reviews submitted by a group of invited bloggers and experts, rather than star ratings submitted by strangers. Founded by Brian Choo in August 2012, the concept is planned to expand over Asia. Perhaps it will one day reach the UK too. Find out more in this interview on TNooz.com.
*Source: Infographic by Olery