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Online Reviews Are The Social Proof Your Small Business Needs More Of

It used to be that people got business recommendations from family and friends. Those days have long past. It’s not that people don’t rely on recommendations anymore though –  it’s how they get recommendations that has become a lot more complex.

The internet now plays a huge part in how businesses are recommended, assisted by plentiful places online for consumers to see what people think of a business. In fact, according to an online review study, 84 percent of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation. That means people will rely on other’s reviews as much as they would a family member.

Even if someone gets a personal recommendation there’s likely a certain degree of research that happens. When someone sets out to research a company, it usually ends up online. So, why is it that people trust online reviews so much?

Why online reviews are trusted

Online reviews are trusted as much or more as a recommendation from family or friends by a lot of consumers. But why?

Review sites are increasingly complex and difficult to game especially when there are 10-50 reviews. It’s possible to fake some reviews, but overall, the power of numbers and the internet will correct that. Each review is put to the test before it gets to stay in the reviews. For instance, Yelp runs reviews through a plethora of different tests to make sure it’s real and valuable.

It’s not easy to get fake reviews if you’ve ever tried to get a review from a real person (even a relative!) because it takes time. You can’t post them yourself either because review sites have a lot of different ways to figure out who you are.

So, that leaves consumers with a reliable source for figuring out who’s good, bad, trustworthy or untrustworthy to do business with. I’m going to trust a 4.5-star rating for a business with 95 reviews more than I would trust a 5-star business with only 1 review. People are smart, and they know this. That means your goal as a business owner is to get as many real reviews as possible from happy customers.

Why you need reviews

Social proof is one of the most powerful tools you have as a business owner to get new customers. They might think, “If 50 other people really liked this Italian restaurant, and I like Italian food, then it must be a great place for me to try.”

That’s why you need reviews. Having a lot of reviews makes you more than just trustworthy. It also makes people want to check out your small business so they’re not missing out on something really great.

People are social creatures, meaning they’ll follow popular behavior so to avoid the fear of missing out. The power of inclusion is strong. If your business is perceived as being wonderful by others, then you’re likely to get more people who want to be in on it. Simply put: The more good reviews you have, the more social proof you have to drive new customers to you.

You don’t have to rely on review sites for people to see your social proof though. There are multiple opportunities for you to use reviews to promote how good and trustworthy your small business is.

How to use reviews in more places than the review site

No matter if a review is directly from your customer or from a review site, it’s an opportunity to promote your business. Don’t hesitate to show off your excellence because not many others are going to do it for you.

Once you get reviews, use them to your benefit anywhere you can. From proposals to ads, there are endless opportunities to use positive reviews to others people love your business.

There’s one more place you may have overlooked though.

Your website

Unfortunately, most businesses don’t put testimonials on the business website. Don’t leave your reviews tucked away on a review site somewhere. While people on that review site will see them, others won’t.

People find your business from all over the internet, so make sure your most central location shows you off a lot. More often than not, that’s your website. Take your online reviews from other websites and show them off there.

Don’t just show one or two reviews off either. Show them all – or as many as you can. Put reviews in relevant areas of your website, such as on a product, portfolio or booking page. It will give your customer that extra push to engage.

Make sure when you put reviews on your website that you link back to the source. Linking back to the source makes those reviews easy to verify and therefore more impactful.

Using a photo with your review will have the most impact, but be sure you get permission first. In fact, if you use more than a first name and last initial then you should get permission to use the review on your website.

How to get reviews

Don’t be shy.

It’s hard getting reviews, but sometimes you have to ask. It’s perfectly fine to ask for a review as long as you do it without pressuring your customer.

How do you ask without pressure? Give them an out, which means you should ask them but make it easy for them to say no if they’re not comfortable with it. If you don’t give them an out then you’ll risk making them uncomfortable and potentially losing the customer.

When you ask, always be sure to ask for an honest review and be mindful of the policies of the review site you’re asking for a review on.

For instance, Yelp is strict on asking for reviews, and they say absolutely don’t do it. Google, on the other hand, is extremely lax and says go for it, ask away!

Your method of asking for reviews will also vary depending on your typical contact with customers.

Email customers.

If you communicate with your customers through email then this is the perfect opportunity for you to ask for a review.

Send a follow-up email to your customer and ask if they wouldn’t mind sharing with others their experience working with you. You can use these simple review request email templates to make your outreach to customers easier. Each email should be crafted with an easy out for your customer though so be sure you’re careful about keeping the pressure extremely low.

Call customers.

Sometimes the phone is the only way you’re in touch with your customers. After you work with your customer, this is a good opportunity to follow up with them and check in.

There’s nothing more caring than a follow-up call to let customers know how much you appreciate their business. Not only that, but if the follow-up call goes well, then you might mention that what review sites your small business is on and you’d love others to hear how it was working with you.

Remember: Don’t ask (unless it’s Google Business), just remind them where they can leave an honest review.

Text customers.

Text is as good of an opportunity to remind customers to leave a review as email. You can be brief and also include a shortened link (be sure you use a URL shortening service!)

Keep your message brief and follow the same structure as a call. Ask if everything went well. If everything did, follow up with a mention that they can let others know how their experience was with a link of where to do that.

People trust online reviews sometimes more than they do their own friends and family. That’s why as a small business you must put as much energy into getting as many reviews as you can. Reviews are what makes small businesses go round. They’re one of the most valuable growth tools a small business has. They’ll help you get to the top of local searches. With these tips and helpful review hacks, your business will have the social proof it needs to increase rankings in Google searches for a local business.

Nick Leffler helps people and small businesses expand their online presence through Exprance with his experience building websites, social media presence and more. Nick has grown his online presence with a small marketing budget by using methods such as blogging, organic social media reach, and email marketing.

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