Can you really trust social media reviews? Absolutely! Social media reviews on sites such as Facebook, Yelp and Google Reviews are the new word of mouth. But do you know how to use reviews well? Do '5 Star Ratings' really mean anything? Can comments be trusted? Here are a couple pointers to help you use review wisely in your purchasing decisions.
Facebook does an irritating thing from the perspective of the business owner. Negative reviews often come first in the review section. This is because the Facebook algorithm heavily weights post engagement. So, a conscientious, highly rated business owner who engages with customers to solve problems rather than ignore them gets hammered. The couple 'negative' reviews get boosted to the top of their reviews list. To see around this, make sure you organize reviews in chronological order. Why doesn't the business owner do this? They can't control the order in which others see their reviews! Facebook has not addressed this issue as of 10/16/17 despite a ton of feedback from business owners.
Would you rather trust a perfect 5 with no negative comments or a 4.7 with honest comments in either direction and engagement from the business? Many companies now provide services to businesses that collect social media reviews. (We use Broadly for this service.) The problem from the consumer side is that these services often provide an option for the business owner to filter out negative ratings and reviews. The business owner can 'pipeline' a review below a certain score, or a review that indicates they would not refer a company, to private correspondence instead of right to their social media sites. If you are receiving a review request, it may be that your response will be filtered. If you can see the service or product supplier publicly working with complaints it tells you several things. They are confident enough in their product or service. They are humans, working through challenges in community rather than counting on a paid service to artificially inflate their ratings.
Does the consumer have a responsibility in all this? I think so. In the 21st century the power of 1 has been multiplied exponentially. Corporate giants may still remain beyond your influence but even the big ones are taking notice of the power of 1. However, small local companies can live or die based on a few social media posts. You can now seriously help or harm virtually any small business. This means the business AND the consumer have a greater responsibility when it comes to acting with integrity and thoughtfulness. When you have a bad experience with a business you can either A) blast away publicly hoping to sink them, B) offer suggestions publicly for improvement and help build a business that you may one day be happy to work with again. In a way, social media gives you partial ownership of the company you are reviewing. Will you use that opportunity to hurt or to help? I'm not trying to guilt trip you into holding back necessary feedback, good or bad. I am trying raise the bar for everyone to use social media to bring improvement and not just vent emotionally. When typing your input to any social media site, try to engage, not just hurt others with emotional flaming.
Dig deeper in who is reviewing. Try to find out the geographic area reviews are coming from. If it is from outside the contractors service area a couple things may be going on; they are purchasing reviews, asking members of their trade associations to post reviews to their social media in an 'exchange' of positive reviews, or they are asking friends and relatives for reviews.
Does volume of reviews matter? Yes and No. Some savvy new start ups are using nothing more than social media to gain traction in their market. They will amass as many reviews as possible. They may not even have a Web site. They are building a business in a very public space that is inexpensive to access. Savvy, well established business have the same option, but may be actually avoiding engagement in social medial. Why is that? They may not be ready for the necessary internal review that comes with social media feedback. As a business owner, I can tell you that since we have jumped on board with social media, review of our quality control and customer service processes has gone to a whole new level. Some businesses just don't want to look at their belly button that closely. The thought is they have been successful so far without social media; why risk engaging clients in such a transparent way? So, if you see a few to none in Facebook, Yelp and Google reviews on any business ask yourself why that is considering how accessible such platforms have become to all businesses.
In short, social media reviews and comments are the new "SALE!" sign for small business. They get your attention. However have you ever heard someone mention that......"They raised their prices to have a sale." It's the same with social media ratings and reviews. Just like you have to dig a little deeper to find out if a SALE is truly a sale, you have to dig a little deeper to rightly read the social media ratings and reviews.
Feel free to jump in on the conversation with us here or on Facebook .
Eric Nei, the Cleaning Guy, CEO
Clean As Can Be Services, LLC