True or False, Consumer Reviews Matter

As a business owner, whether you’re just starting out or have been in business for several years, consumer reviews are with us all the way. As it seems, with the perpetual authority of social media marketing, review sites have become more and more ubiquitous. The years have revealed to us some prominent players in the “review’ social media world, Yelp, leading the way and now Google+/Google Local, Yahoo Local, Foursquare following suite as a close second, third and fourth. There is nothing more disturbing or bothersome than receiving a negative Yelp review and to our dismay, the one neurotic mania we all fall victim to as business owners, is that one ghastly review. Not only does this affect your social media metrics, it also affects your psyche as well. By cultivating our social media prowess, we can alleviate that superfluous stress. How do we resolve the great conflict?  There are a couple of things we can do as business owners, but first of all, you have to psychologically eradicate this pessimistic perception that this is the end all be all of your business and really look at this for what it is, a learning curve in this vast world of the ever changing, ever present social media mecca. Here are some helpful suggestions.

You have no jurisdiction over the reviewer, so…

Let it be and control the things you can! The best thing you can do as a business owner is tactfully respond to any negative review; what is an even greater practice is to reply to any positive reviews as well. Not only does it show that you authentically care about your consumer’s opinion, but you are also prepared to reach out to them personally and say, “Thanks” or “I’m Sorry”! Whether you like it or not, good review or bad, that consumer took the time out of their demanding schedule to give you a shout out or a shout down! The best advice I can give anyone, is, respond! Believe it or not, the validation people experience when their words are heard and/or appreciated is invaluable. Don’t blow it off; a thank you or humble reaction is permanently valued. In some cases, it is viable to persuade the reviewer from removing their review from the site all-together. By offering a value add, say 20% /$10 off their next purchase or visit for example; you can generate trust and instill good will and in some cases bring them back as consumer or client. Believe it or not, people will respond to this optimistically and trust me, they will tell their friends and family members. The worst thing you can do is nothing at all…get involved with your consumer base that is reviewing you and reach out to them, this is your chance to reach out to their friends, family, co-workers as well, trust me, it is vital and will be appreciated!

To bury or not to bury?

Another incurable error businesses make is by not understanding the idea of burying a review with solicited positive reviews. This practice doesn’t always work, specifically, with Yelp. Yelp has a propensity to catch those positive reviews in their Yelp net and/or filter. If you haven’t ever already noticed, at the bottom of your review page in very, very fine print there is something glaring called “filtered reviews”. Have you ever wondered where that that solicited review you asked your brother to write went? It’s not that it’s non-existent, it’s discarded into the abyss of “filtered reviews”.  Make Note: Unless the people you are asking to write the review are legitimate Yelpers, their review will be filtered. Don’t learn this lesson the hard way because once that review goes into the filtered net, the likelihood of it coming out, is pretty slim to none and contacting that Yelp sales consultant to help you out, will do you no good, even if you advertise with them. Do not get caught in that tender trap! You can out-do Yelp by soliciting  those satisfied customers that are Yelpers by asking them first if they Yelp and then ask for their review.

Besides Yelp there are a couple of other review sites that everyone needs to check out or use. Angie’s List is a pretty good resource and they are decent at making sure that the reviews on their site are indeed legitimate. However, that doesn’t mean they won’t filter something they feel was illicit.  They will contact the business owner if they feel as if something has been compromised and they take their reviews very serious as their consumers are paying members. Like Yelp, Angie’s List will go so far as to ping IP addresses to make sure that you are not writing your own reviews in house but they will usually contact the business before removing any reviews, usually. Side Note: Advertising with Angie’s List is pretty minimal and has some advantages in my opinion because a paid review site vs. a free one is sometimes more genuine. Google+/Google Local, is beefing up their reviews options and they encourage anyone with a Google account to write a review, anyone. They encourage it so much, they could care less about how you are getting your reviews, whether you are buying them or not, they want that traffic on their site. You have to have at least 3 reviews before they post, but Google does a pretty good job of getting and keeping your information on their site visible at all times and once you sign up and own your business page you have that control as well. Google is now partnering up with the ever popular and well known,  Zagat which creates even more traffic to their site and yours!

Claim/create your review sites

If you haven’t already done so, set up a business account with Yelp, it’s free. Before that, do a search for your business to see if someone has reviewed your business, once you have done this and if your business is indeed listed, at the bottom of the page you can claim it. From there they will have you set up a business site/login and prove to Yelp that you are the business owner, this usually is just a phone call verification process.  Now you have jurisdiction over the information on your site, from pictures and logo, to hours and description, to meet the owner content etc… you have control over pretty much everything other than the reviews themselves.

Google+/Local which used to be Google Places, is a free member only site also.  Which means, there is no charge to use this site as business page or local listing,  but you have to have a Google account, specifically, Google+ to claim and/or maintain the site. It is fairly probable someone might have already reviewed your business and put in the information they deemed correct. You can create a Google+ account and log onto Google local and perform a local search for your business.  If the information is there, you can claim this as your business and also control the content on this page this will also require a phone verification process.

Angie’s List is almost the same except you have to have a paid Angie’s List membership. Yahoo Local has a review site as well which draws from other sites such as city search, YP, etc… Make sure to set up a FREE account with Yahoo Local as well. Foursquare also gives you the option to claim your business if someone has created a check in.

Keep up with the content on your review sites daily 

The information on your review sites is exceptionally imperative to your business. Not only does this help in your Google ratings/analytics but it also gives you more exposure. In addition to this, if there is a piece of information that is inaccurate or a negative review that has been sitting there for a couple of days without a response, this could negatively frown on your business. It is important keep the content current so make sure to check your review sites daily. Update your logo, information, hours of operation, pictures of staff or business where needed and as often as needed. Most of the review sites give you the option to post new happenings or specials as well. Foursquare isn’t necessarily a review site, but it is definitely a legitimate social media site for people to check into businesses and leave tips or suggestions about their experience about that business, so don’t leave that out either! Stay connected, live up to your customers’ expectations and exceed them,  and always, continuously, diplomatically respond to reviews, positive or negative!

 Food for thought: “products with more than ten reviews saw “drastically” higher conversion rater both for the products actually reviewed and for the other products from the same brand.”

Review sites to consider claiming:


Google+/Google Local

Yahoo Local


Angie’s List (paid site)

NYC Marathon Cancelled After Too Much Deliberation

The NYC Marathon is one of the largest, most popular pre-imminent long distance running events in the world; followed closely by the Boston and Chicago marathons in popularity. Last year alone, the NYC Marathon had a record breaking 46,795 finishes with around 2 million spectators. People travel from all over the world to compete in this popular annual event and take pride in paying the $250 entry fee to have the opportunity to run through the 5 Burroughs of NYC and finish in the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Since 1970 the NYC Marathon has never skipped a beat, until last week when NYC/NJ were punched by one of the largest and strongest hurricanes in the history of those two states. The devastation left millions without power, access to public transportation, homes, cars, food, water, clothes and in some cases family members, friends and loved ones. The devastation that struck the largest city in our country and the financial capital of the world brought everything to a halt, even Wall Street. All the while, Mayor Bloomberg debated for days before ultimately canceling the marathon all together. Why?

It only took a day to initially assess the enormity of the hurricane and after two days, that appraisal exceeded beyond everyone’s expectations all the while Bloomberg toiled with the idea of keeping the marathon as planned. Bloomberg could learn a thing or two from other elected officials who took a foot forward together to work collectively to facilitate a resolve and ease the devastation from Sandy. Both Governor Chris Christy and President Obama whom are political polar opposites, reached across the isle, political agendas aside and worked together for the best resolve for the people of NJ and worked together quite swiftly.  I think there is a greater implicit point here, in the wake of Sandy, for the first time in years, countless years, we saw political leaders come together as a unit to help each other and their fellow Americans, as Bloomberg waited.

I have to wonder as I am sure why everyone else was “what the hell was he waiting for?” Seriously, there clearly was no miracle that was going to magically appear to clear the path of obliteration for this 40 year event to take place. The marathon starts in Staten Island, which was one of the hardest hits areas of the city, 19 dead so far. Over half of the people living on Staten Island didn’t and still do not have power, cell phone use, are missing family members, community members and their lives slashed apart, yet Bloomberg waited. I still don’t understand this; it is quite feasible there is some inexplicable rationale as to why he waited 5 days after the hurricane to decide to rescind the race. 5 days is a long time and I’m sure the people of New York felt like it was an eternity!

So what exactly was Bloomberg’s plan I’m wondering, when these 46k people penetrate NYC for the Marathon how was he planning on getting them to the starting point in Staten Island? Were they going to just side step fallen trees, debris, clothes, destroyed homes, cars, power lines? And what about water, residents of NYC were struggling to get basic necessities, I wonder how Bloomberg was planning on keeping 46k runners hydrated, when the people of his own city were wondering how they were going to rebuild their lives let along find fresh water and food. And as they glide through the 5 Burroughs of NYC, how would this boost the morale of the people who are trying to figure out how they are going piece their lives back together.

Finally after much deliberation, Bloomberg pulled the plug 2 days before the race. Finally! What the hell took so damn long and why put these poor New Yorkers through any more visceral agony of televising the devastation as runners prance through their broken neighborhoods and shattered lives. New Yorkers are a durable breed, a resilient kind that are stalwart and stand jointly through the face of adversity because they are a community that understands impossible tragedy and disaster and in the end they say, “we got this”.  Let’s face it, the NYC Marathon does not characterize the residents of this amazing city, the diversity of this extraordinary city and the people who reside there are what make New York City, New York City. But then again, New Yorkers have always been defined by who they are as individuals and quite frankly there is no one quite like them anywhere else on the planet.