Oct 17

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Guidelines for Online Reviews Used With Social Media

Photo Credit | M2545 | Wikimedia Commons

Guidelines for Online Reviews & Social Media – Best Practices for Users Who Posting Good and Bad Reviews

I found myself looking at reviews for a company I work with, and in the process, I also had a chance to think about some of the reviews I post online and what their impact really is. If you like to post reviews (good or bad), here are some of my own thoughts on them and why reviews are important today. If anything I hope that by you reading this today you’ll start posting your own reviews of local companies and talk to people about their products and services. The idea here is to give users a guideline for how to make the most of their reviews, and how & when is best to post them.

To begin, I’ve always tried to follow a simple mantra, which is to think globally – act locally. This is an ever-important thing when you are living in an area where you can and should support commerce in your town. So I’ll adjust my mantra here and say “think globally, shop locally!”

So getting back to the whole conversation about consumer reviews (and then later about how social media comes into play).

Posting reviews – what’s in it for me? What’s in it for you? The answer is really the same for both, as reviews are important for everyone out there, even for the business itself! When you take a few seconds (or even a few minutes) to write a quick review about a business (A restaurant, a pub, a clothing store, a hair salon, whatever), you are doing a good thing. Even if it’s a poor review, that actually helps a business just as much as it helps a consumer thinking about doing business with them. How?

If you are a customer and you have a good experience with a company, do that business a favor and write a review! Where? If you’ve searched for a business on Google today, you will probably find their business listing in the Google format. On that page (or the maps page) you can read the reviews and add your own too. We all owe it to ourselves to make comments on things that we find reduce the value in something (a poor review), and we owe the small businesses of the world a helping hand if they do a good job. If you experience something poor on a repeated basis, then this is a direct feedback avenue to the company, as you can bet the management is reading them too. Aside from Google reviews, there’s Yelp.com, Angie’s List, and hundreds of other sites waiting for you to review away.

About Good Reviews:

The whole purpose here is to let others know about your good or positive experience. People want to know because they are looking to see if you liked this place, if the service was good, and if you’d recommend this to another person. BE SPECIFIC! Talk in detail (briefly ok? You know we have the attention span of a goldfish, so you have about 15 seconds before I lose interest here), wait! – What were you saying?! Just kidding! But the point is, be brief and concise! Don’t write a book when a paragraph will do fine. Give ‘em what they want.

My personal views on the reviews…I know that people say that bad news travels fast, and good news just travels (well, not so fast)… so I’m the kind of person that goes out of my way to stop by and tell a restaurant manager (on the way out) that my server was awesome, and that they took really good care of me. When I’ve gotten really good service from an auto repair shop, I will tell the owner of the shop I did and I’ll post a good review on Google for them. I go out of my way to post good reviews in general because I think it’s too easy for people to complain and put down a company if they didn’t understand the value of what that company did for them, and because I know that negative comments and reviews are passed around like bad jokes at a party. I go that extra mile because people that do good work deserve that much more credit. It’s easy to do a poor job these days, and those who do a good job deserve some recognition for it. If you know someone or a business that stands by their products and services, you should go out of your way to make your positive reviews known. Spread some good words!

About Bad Reviews:

Some things to think about BEFORE you post your stark-mad rant!

Ok, we all have bad days, and you know that’s true. I’m not saying not to post a “poor” review, but let’s think about it for a moment, these are important notes that a lot of people are going to read. After all, this IS the internet we’re talking about. Don’t do this while you’re mad! Chances are if you just left a restaurant and your whole experience was poor, ok! But you would probably be more level-headed and objective the next day at work, rather than going home and sitting down immediately to post reviews about how “that place sucks, never go there!”

Why? Well it’s simple. Ok so the food was cold and the service was lousy, I get it – I’ve been there too! But if you went there with your friends (and let’s say YOU personally recommended that the gang should meet there), and the service sucked that night. Now you feel or think you look like the town idiot. But that doesn’t mean that this business is deserving of your full-blown rant on why they are an evil business and people should avoid this place like the plague. Instead, maybe write the review in a text document, and send it to yourself in email. Let it cool for a day and go back and see how it reads the next day. Chances are some of that venom will have worn off (along with all the vodka you drank), and you’ll be able to be more objective in your review.

Restaurant Reviews – If you’re writing about a bad meal experience at a restaurant, think about what the important takeaways are. If the meal came out slow or late, that’s the kitchen’s fault and not your server. The server was probably yelling at the cook the whole way through, trying to get the meal out as fast as possible. If the food came out quick but it was cold or tasted like shite, well that’s the kitchen’s fault too. Make sure however your mental expectations are in line with your stomach and your wallet. Don’t want into a local pub and expect to get a Ruth Chris filet for $10, that just aint happening. If you do go into a steakhouse and pay for the 16oz fillet (something you’re going to pay premium for), then rate it as such. Just be realistic and don’t get upset that your taco bell didn’t deliver a fine dining experience! Get real here!

Going hand in hand with realistic expectations, talk about the elements that were bad, don’t just send the whole place to hell if one part was bad. Example – If the food was a bad that night for some reason (cold or tasted crappy) then say so. But at the same time if your server was awesome, say so! If the meal was great and the service was poor that night, then say so.

The only thing to understand here is that like many Americans, many of these restaurants are small businesses, and that there’s an owner running behind the scenes; it’s his or her livelihood here you’re playing with. They’re working 15 hour days (away from the family) to try and put food on your table at the restaurant, AND on their table at home. Don’t be so vicious because of an experience that could have been an isolated incident. However if you’ve been there 5 times and the service always sucks, and the food is consistently crappy, then I invite you to say so too. The purpose of a bad review is to let others know what kind of experience they could have, and if yours is repeatedly bad, others will thank you for saving them the trouble.

About Social Media and Reviews

As a user of social media (yes you over there on Facebook, Twitter, and/or Google+), we have the ability to spread the word very fast! Much faster than the good old days when it took forever to get the word out, today it’s like lightning! This can be good and bad, so I ask that you think before you post! Sometimes it’s better to do your review offline, proofread it, use spellcheck, and still maybe wait a day before blasting out your good or bad review to the world at large.

Why? For any review, you certainly want to make sure that the review makes sense, has good grammar, things are spelled correctly, you are making constructive points, and that your view is objective overall. There is NOTHING like having the best intent in the world, but having your review be passed over (or worse, laughed at) because you write like a 7th grader. You’re an adult, act like one! Common mistakes are easy to see with a spell-checker, and they are more easily found when you proof a document. PRINT OUT YOUR REVIEW and read it over. You can’t read for comprehension from a computer screen, and you might often see glaring errors that you wouldn’t otherwise see. Overall, your point looks better and is likely to be well received if you don’t look like you normally  write in crayon.

Be objective! If you are writing with an obvious bias (you’re friends with the owner of the joint, etc.), then your review will show it. Just be honest about what you say. The bartender or that waitress you want to hook up with isn’t going to give you a free drink because you praised them like a cherub online. Be real – say what’s real and write what makes sense.

Wait a day! Why? People think they are hot shit when they go home to “Fire off a letter to…” yeah yeah yeah. You’re not, but the potential to do real damage to an honest person’s reputation is real. As I already mentioned, we sometimes overreact to things and if it’s a restaurant review (and you’ve been drinking), let’s face it, you might not be in the right here. Taking a day won’t kill you, but it might keep you from making a very public mistake. I know a lot of us go out to eat and something can and typically might go wrong; Sh*t happens man. But 24 hours later you might be able to be more objective about why, and then your review will have more BITE.

Don’t go home mad, write a review, and then flame it out online for the world to see. You’ll wake up and your Facebook friends will ask you… “You have a lot to drink last night? Cause you sure roasted that restaurant pretty well on yelp at 3am. I’d consider deleting that review you posted, because you were only mad because they didn’t let you grab the microphone from the band (while they were playing). The food was actually great, but you didn’t notice because you were throwing down all those shots, dumbass.”

If you’ve got something to say, make sure it looks like you meant it, and then use the right social media channels to spread the word – Good, bad, or indifferent.

By Louis Wing

Connect with Louis Wing professionally on LinkedIn

Permanent link to this article: http://social-media-hype-blog.com/2012/10/17/guidelines-for-online-reviews-used-with-social-media/

1 ping

  1. Amy’s Baking Company Reaction to Yelp Review Is A Social Media Fail » The Social Media Hype Blog

    […] Amy and her foul mouth, is that she didn’t need to react that strongly, if at all! I’ve blogged about Online Reviews before, and one of the important elements (for the business owner) is that this is a direct feedback line! […]

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