Do you really know what your customers think about your business? In a previous article, I spoke about the growth of social networks like Facebook and Twitter as key venues consumers use to share feedback about your dealership. With over 50 million tweets each day and more than 30 billion pieces of content shared each month through Facebook, you could easily get overwhelmed just trying to sift through the massive amount of content to read what is being said about your dealership. But monitoring your online reputation goes way beyond what’s being shared on Facebook and Twitter.
Customer review web sites generate powerful word-of -mouth marketing
Word-of-mouth marketing is one of the most influential forms of communication. People want to share information about their purchases and consumers want to read, prior to purchasing, what others have written about the products and services they are interested in. In fact, according to Manage Smarter, 83% of online shoppers said they are interested in sharing information about their purchases with people they know, while 74% are influenced by the opinions of others in their decision to buy the product in the first place.
Increasingly, consumers are sharing this feedback on consumer review websites, which are basically local directories that allow users to express their opinions about the various businesses in the directory. These online forums for customer feedback are growing quickly and gaining popularity. In addition to local search directories like Yelp! and City Search, other directories are springing up to serve vertical markets for specific industries, cities and other niche groups. These online forums are here to stay and making their way into the mainstream of search.
Customer review websites are broadening the scope of word- of-mouth marketing. While electronic word-of-mouth marketing is less personal than face-to-face communication, it has more significant reach. First, it’s more credible. In a 2009 study by the Wall Street Journal, 92% of consumers said they have more confidence in information found online than from any other source, including sales clerks. Consumer reviews are significantly more trusted – nearly 12 times more – than descriptions that come from manufacturers, according to a survey of U.S. Internet users. Second, it’s more accessible. Thirty-four percent of consumers have turned to social media to air their feelings about a company according to a Harris Poll. And 84% of consumers said they were more likely to check online for reviews prior to making a purchase according to a Brand Reputation study conducted in 2009. Third, it’s also more influential. The higher the product rating, the more likely a consumer will make the purchase.
So, after you’ve located these reviews, what do you do in response to them, especially the negative ones? The best way to minimize the impact of a negative review is to respond in a positive way to the specific comment and then develop and encourage as much positive content on as many relevant sites as you can. The more relevant content you generate, the more your SEO ranking rises, and since more recent content rises to the top, you can push the negative references further down the list where they will be less likely to be seen. The best way to ensure that you get good reviews is to offer good products, provide good service and do business fairly and honestly. If you are doing all the right things, negative reviews should be few and far between. If you think you are doing things right and the reviews don’t reflect your opinion, you have some digging to do and the reviews tell you where to start.
It’s important to monitor and manage what is being said about you online
It’s a full-time job to manage your brand. You could do it yourself, with the right resources and some training, but if you want to focus on the business of selling cars, you may find that outsourcing elements of this monitoring and management to your online provider is the best option.
How many of you have a financial advisor? Unless you’ve got a knack for statistics, understand global market economy and have a lot of time to devote to staying current with the latest tax code laws and business developments, you probably use a financial advisor to handle your investments. Similarly, managing your online brand is something you may want to seriously consider having your online provider help you with. They have the manpower and expertise to stay on top of the trends. They can turn good results into exceptional results and keep you informed along the way.
Customer reviews play an important role in word- of-mouth marketing online, and it’s becoming more important as niche sites and mobile devices are making it easier for consumers to share their feedback and consumers increasingly rely on reviews as a key step in the buying process. So, how is your online reputation? Are you doing all that you can to ensure you are putting your best foot forward?