Online review management strategy guides businesses harnessing the power of online review channels, enabling them to monitor, respond and gain insights efficiently. Monitoring these reviews and knowing how to respond to them is an important piece of your overall marketing strategy.
This guide will walk you through why online review management is so important, along with the fundamentals of implementing a review management strategy for your brand.
Table of contents:
Why review management is important
According to Bright Local’s Consumer Review Survey 2023, 98% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses. Reviews have only become more accessible with the proliferation of mobile apps and the addition of readily visible ratings in search results. It’s easier than ever for customers to search your brand on the go and make a quick decision about where they want to take their business.
The abundance of online reviews isn’t just positive for consumers—they provide several benefits for your business beyond being a valuable source of feedback. Here are four reasons why online review management is so important.
Trust and credibility
Reviews help build trust and credibility online because consumers are seeking honest, authentic feedback about brands. Bright Local’s survey found that 46% of consumers feel that online business reviews are as trustworthy as personal recommendations from friends and family. And when they find positive reviews, people react with their wallets. The more positive reviews a brand receives, the stronger their online reputation. Even negative reviews that are rectified can build social proof for businesses. Responding to reviews on review platforms and social sites helps cement your brand identity while creating connections with your customers.
Monitoring reviews offers the opportunity to identify flaws in your business or operations. Both positive and negative reviews can help you understand where to improve or what customers love about your brand. This constant feedback loop can inform your brand messaging, marketing strategies and product development.
Build engagement around positive reviews
Since online review management provides a feedback loop, you can leverage positive reviews and testimonials to amplify your brand’s reputation. Consider reposting social media reviews as user-generated content, which can influence buying decisions. According to The Sprout Social Index™ 2022, customer testimonials/real customer demos are ranked as the second type of content consumers like to see from brands they follow on social media.
Incorporating reviews into your marketing assets like your website or paid ads can further help brand awareness and increase conversions.
Resolve customer grievances
Online review management allows you to monitor and address customer complaints. You may even uncover a common problem that you can rectify with a long-term solution. When other customers see that your brand is active and addresses customer complaints, they take note of your efforts, because it shows that you’re listening and acting on their feedback.
How to develop an online review management strategy
The benefits above will eventually lead to a larger loyal customer base, a positive brand reputation and higher conversion rates. But to enjoy those benefits, a solid online review management strategy is necessary:
1. Identify the review networks
You’re already looking out for brand mentions and feedback on social media, but there’s a difference between a review posted on Facebook versus a discussion about a restaurant on Twitter. Sites with formal star ratings like Facebook and Google get tallied up and averaged for all your future customers to see. This factors into your overall online presence since these ratings can show up in search results for your brand and increase your visibility in search.
However, reviews on social media websites are just as valuable even though they aren’t ranked, because these can uncover wider conversations or sentiments consumers have about your brand.
2. Respond to the reviews
No matter what the tone or content of a review is, it’s a best practice to always respond. Plan for common review situations and develop a response protocol so your team is always prepared and remains true to your brand’s voice.
Complete an audit of your current reviews and draw up a document of items frequently mentioned in reviews, such as common questions or concerns, along with appropriate responses. Use your audit as the base, but not the limiting factor.
For example, common topics for retailers might include staff demeanor and customer service, product selection and stock, ambiance and checkout wait times. Within each category type, you’ll identify what reviews might typically mention, even if they didn’t come up in the audit. Even if you have very few negative mentions about customer service, you should be ready to react to a situation when a customer is dissatisfied with your service.
Preparation for these scenarios is key so your team can react quickly while staying true to your brand’s voice and values, especially when a crisis arises.
3. Select the right online review management tool for your brand
When you have reviews flowing in from various social media channels and sites like Yelp, you’ll need an online review management software to stay organized and improve your strategy.
We’ll take a deep dive in the next section about choosing the right online review management platform for your business.
4. Promote your reviews
Fuel your feedback loop and improve your brand reputation by promoting your reviews. Along with showcasing your stellar reviews, you should also request reviews from your customers. Asking for reviews shows your customers that you’re open to listening to their praises and concerns.
However, beware that you will have to follow the platform’s policies. Each platform defines different rules for promotion and some welcome asking for reviews more than others. For example, since Yelp is a recommendation software designed to highlight genuine reviews, it’s important to be aware of their policies. While Yelp discourages asking for reviews, Google encourages it.
Highlight positive reviews and testimonials on your website, social media and other marketing materials to boost your reputation.
Identify online review management networks to monitor
To start implementing a review management strategy, you need to identify the key review networks for our brand. The fastest way to do this is to perform an audit of each review network you can think of and explore how many reviews are there for your brand or industry niche.
Review sites vary between industries, so narrow down your options by considering which best aligns with your brand and audience. For example, TripAdvisor is geared more toward hospitality, travel and the international audience, while Google My Business is important for brick-and-mortar businesses.
It doesn’t matter if your brand is actively managing your presence on these review networks or not. People will leave reviews regardless. The trick is to identify which ones matter the most. Some of the top networks in terms of volume and reach include Google, Facebook Pages, TripAdvisor, Yelp, Glassdoor and the app stores (Google Play and Apple App Store).
Google Business profile
Google My Business encompasses your business’ presence on Google. This includes a short summary that displays in the Knowledge Panel on the right-hand side of search results. It also includes the same details when searching on Google Maps.
On Facebook, Recommendations and reviews need to be turned on from the Page settings to enable customers to rate your business. In 2018, Facebook turned reviews into Recommendations only. However, previous star ratings still exist on some Pages.
In Sprout, you’ll see your Facebook, Google My Business, TripAdvisor and other online reviews all in one platform, enabling you to easily manage replies. You can also filter these incoming reviews and assign tasks just like the rest of your social media workflow in Sprout.
To find the most opportune networks for your reviews, it may be best to set up a social media listening strategy that will bring up online chatter about your business. If you start seeing more reviews from one network, maybe it’s time to join it. Plus, with listening you’ll be able to find other sources of valuable feedback about your business across social networks.
TripAdvisor reviews are popular with audiences planning their next trip. To get started with this platform, be sure to claim the listing for your business. Since TripAdvisor is geared toward the hospitality industry, they’re a great reference for how to respond to reviews in a professional manner, which we’ll discuss in more detail.
Founded in 2004, Yelp is one of the leading review sites featuring many industries from home and auto services to retail and real estate.
Although Yelp’s policy advises against asking for reviews, it’s important for businesses on the platform to respond to customers, whether it’s by comment, direct message or both. It’s a good practice to respond to questions on the platform, like in the example below:
As a review site for current and former employees, monitoring Glassdoor is key for your online review management strategy, especially if you want to maintain a positive employer brand.
Interacting with employer reviews can help attract top talent and strengthen your brand perception.
With Sprout’s Glassdoor integration, you can manage review responses and create Saved Replies to use as on-brand templates for responding to feedback on Glassdoor. There are also several other features, like the ability to email reviews directly to your human resources team, to make your online review management process even smoother.
If you have a mobile app, it’s a good practice to engage with app store reviews to monitor brand health and enhance public perception. Similar to other review sites, monitoring and replying to positive reviews can build customer relationships while negative feedback can help the product team address application flaws.
Sprout has an integration for Google Play Store and Apple App Store reviews in our Smart Inbox along with other review sites (Yelp, Google My Business, Facebook, etc.) so you can manage at scale and delegate across the customer service team.
Tips for responding to online reviews
Here’s three best practices to follow when responding to online reviews.
1. Respond to positive and negative reviews
View responding to reviews, whether positive or negative, as an opportunity to build trust with your audience.
Responding well to negative feedback can open the door to connection—79% of people would be “likely” or “highly likely” to leave a positive online review if the business had turned an initially negative experience into a positive one, according to Bright Local’s survey.
Regardless of feedback sentiment, each one deserves a response because you can win back customers even after a negative social post or review. A survey released by Ipsos MORI in partnership with TripAdvisor revealed that when a property owner leaves personalized review responses, over 77% of travelers said they are more likely to book as a result. The research also found that 67% of travelers agree they find it helpful when they can view context to negative reviews and apologies to guests from management.
2. Keep responses professional and sincere
Keep responses professional when crafting a public apology by maintaining an understanding, remorseful tone. When writing a response, personalize it with the reviewer’s name, acknowledge what was written and add remarks if steps will be taken to resolve the issue. Sign off with your name and position if that’s not readily apparent.
In this example, the Stinking Rose restaurant responded to both positive and negative reviews. Notice that in the negative review response, the restaurant mentioned the actions that would be taken.
3. Respond to reviews quickly
But customers don’t just expect a response, they want quick responses as well. A ReviewTrackers’ report revealed 53% of customers expect businesses to respond to negative reviews within a week. The report noted that one benefit to quick response is receiving higher overall ratings, as the top 10% of brands across all sampled industries responded faster and more consistently.
This is why you need to have a review response plan in place as part of your overall strategy. If you’re proactive, you’ll be able to respond faster, plus you’ll save time spent on responding to reviews. In crafting a response, keep in mind that while a response may be directed to a customer, your future customers will be reading it also. They’ll take note of your efforts to respond and the changes you implement in your business practices.
As you can see, managing reviews has a lot in common with what you may already have in place as a social customer care strategy. Being receptive to your audiences’ feedback and willing to respond in an authentic, personalized and constructive way can help you connect with your customers, whether you’re dealing with online reviews or comments on social platforms.
What to look for in online review management software
Customers have plenty of options when it comes to sharing reviews, so it’s essential to have a tool that centralizes your brand’s reviews in one place. The most important features of an online review management platform will depend on the needs of your brand, but here’s some of our favorite features:
Artificial intelligence and automation
A good online review management software will prompt customers via email to provide reviews on the platforms of your choice. Some softwares can even pre-screen customers by sentiment before offering them the option to leave a review. If they click, “I had a bad experience,” a feedback form is sent to them to help investigate further.
Reporting and analysis
This one is a no-brainer—you’ll need reporting and social media analytics tools to identify trends and develop data stories so you can optimize your online review management strategy.
Centralized, collaborative workspace
When you have reviews from multiple channels and locations, it takes a team to adequately address them. Plus the insights from reviews can inform teams across your organization. A centralized workspace that’s designed for collaboration, like Sprout, will enable your team to work cross-functionally from one source of truth.
Security and privacy
Since reviews involve a wide range of data, companies need online review management software with adequate security and privacy protections and features. For example, the ability to designate access by role and responsibility aids in avoiding a data breach.
Integration with other CRMs
Customer relationship management (CRM) software helps manage and store information about your company’s prospects and current customers, which means it goes hand-in-hand with your online review management platform.
Merging your online review management system with your existing CRM will improve your customer care. Sprout has several integrations with Zendesk, HubSpot, Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics 365. These integrations provide essential business intelligence to improve efficiency and gain an holistic view of customers to inform how to create lasting relationships with your target audience.
If you’re an international company with customers and employees across the globe, selecting an online review management software that is multilingual is an inclusive best practice.
Sprout supports multiple languages (English, Spanish, French, Italian and Brazilian Portuguese) for publishing and inbound messages.
Sprout also integrates with Google Translate so users can translate inbound messages within the Smart Inbox. Messages from any language will be brought into the application and you can translate them into your preferred language(s).
A multilingual online review management software will also help you build a global presence and manage your reputation across cultures because language isn’t a barrier to providing support.
Build a better review management strategy
When it comes to writing online reviews, customers have a lot of power. But with the right tools, preparation and knowledge, businesses also have the power to change brand perception in a positive way.
Acknowledging and responding to online reviews strengthen your brand’s online image and social media engagement. Social customer care and online review management go hand in hand. Master these two and you’ll have an excellent customer care strategy across platforms.
To help you build a better online reputation with reviews, we teamed up with Google to create a guide to walk you through it.