Unlike Web 1.0 which was defined by owner-generated content (basic company websites), Web 2.0 is defined by user-generated content. Consider the popularity of Facebook, eBay, craigslist and YouTube. The commonality between those sites is that they are simply forums that allow the general public a place to publish all types of content.
In a recent Scientific American article, “Critical Mass: How to Maintain the Power of Online Reviews,” David Pogue suggests that citizen review sites may be the most “fascinating tributaries of the Web 2.0 river.” We at Customer Lobby tend to agree, but have a different perspective on the role that reviews play in business.
Poque warns that review sites are a “sobering development” for businesses. That may be true, but reviews are a huge asset for small businesses trying to compete in today’s challenging economic climate. While it is true that the masses have far more influence than the solo expert critic, this is where the opportunity lies for businesses to use reviews as a powerful way to connect with customers and potential customers. Review sites may not be the answer, but managed review systems can be.
Recognizing that reviews can have a significant impact on the success of a business, many companies go to great lengths to author and post reviews under fake customer names and accounts. What they don’t realize is that 1) all reviews, not just positive ones, are a good thing and 2) the process of securing reviews should be managed, not the reviews themselves.
A review management solution (as opposed to a review site) connects the business directly with its customers and prospects. By asking for reviews, your customers automatically become more loyal. Showing them you value their opinion tells them that you care about their experience. Even negative reviews open up a dialogue and demonstrate authenticity so that readers are more likely to trust the positive reviews. Moreover, your customers will be more likely to communicate their opinion directly to you rather than through sites where you have no input.
Smart companies are actively managing their online reputation rather than passively watching review sites drive or crush business. With third-party review management solutions, the wisdom of crowds can be harnessed as a competitive advantage.