What To Do When Reviewers Lie About You

Here is a great article on what local business should do when unreasonable customers leave a unfavorable review.

by Mike Moran

When my friend called me, there was a little panic in his voice. He owned a successful, customer-friendly small business, and was generally an easygoing person. But he didn’t know what to do. A long-time and loyal customer alerted him to a savage review of his business on an Internet Yellow Pages site. And so now he was turning to me to find out what he could do about it.

I asked him for the details and he ruefully related the story. When he read the review, he immediately knew who the unhappy client was, recognizing some details in the story. He told me that this client had been impossible, constantly changing her mind about what she wanted with no notice, and although he did his best to satisfy her, at the end he had to tell her that he had done all he could for what he had been paid.

Image representing Yelp as depicted in CrunchBase

Image via CrunchBase

He would have understood if she had honestly expressed her disappointment in him in the review (even though he felt she was expecting way too much), but what irked him no end was that her review attributed egregious bits of behavior to him that were completely made up from whole cloth. He had objective proof that some of her comments were lies.

This isn’t an isolated case. Although most reviews are factual, and some small businesses have it coming, there’s nothing stopping dissatisfied customers from responding in extreme ways. And the services that post such reviews, such as Yahoo! Yellow Pages and Yelp, don’t want to be in the position of having to discern who’s telling the truth, letting the “wisdom of crowds” sort things out.

So, what’s a small business to do? First, treat your customers well, remembering that they have more power than you think. Encourage your happy customers to post reviews online, so that the wisdom of your crowd is in evidence–that will dilute the power of any one negative review. (Yesterday, I posted some small business social media success stories that you can emulate.) When someone posts a bad review, consider engaging that person online to try to make amends.

Unfortunately, it might require that you develop a thicker skin, because the rudeness of some online reviews might be more than you can bear. One San Francisco bookstore owner was arrested for battery after responding to a Yelp reviewer.

But that’s no reason to accept outright lies. When it clearly goes beyond a difference of opinion, and you can prove you’ve been wronged, go to the review site and plead your case. Show them that it’s a lie and ask them to remove it.

That’s what my friend did, and Yahoo! Yellow Pages, to their credit, did remove the dishonest review. But my friend learned form the situation. Now, he solicits good reviews and he works harder to satisfy even the nut jobs. It’s a different world out there, so make sure you know how to make your way through it.

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Posted via email from Internet Marketing Resource

HOW TO: Make Your Small Business Geolocation-Ready

Fantastic article about how to put your small business on the internet map.

via Mashable! by Leah Betancourt on 2/19/10

This post originally appeared on the American Express OPEN Forum, where Mashable regularly contributes articles about leveraging social media and technology in small business.

Small businesses stand to increase their local audience and further their market reach through geolocation platforms, which attach real-world locations to mobile phones. Here are a few ways companies can become part of the location tagging world of social media.

Late last year, Twitter launched geolocation for tweets. The microblogging service also recently rolled out Local Trends, which makes geolocated tweets trending topics.

Other location services such as BrightKite, Gowalla and Loopt allow users to check in at locations, and the ability to share that activity among a network of friends.

On February 9th , Google announced its new social media platform Buzz that is tied to a user’s Gmail account and has location-tagging options. For example, the Buzz nearby mobile feature serves up a list about places, and users can read Buzz info about those places from others who are both in and outside their networks.

Foursquare allows for check-ins and has a gaming element in which users earn badges and can work their way to become the “mayor” of their favorite locations. MyTown also allows for check-ins and rewards as a gaming element.

Dina Meek, owner of a social media consulting firm for small businesses called Big Buzzness said these types of platforms are essentially cheap or free for small businesses – for the moment, at least.

“It’s absolutely something they can tap into and be ready (for),” she said.

Become Familiar and Aware of Location Tagging Networks

Meek said small businesses should sign up and start using these location-tagged services. She recommended finding a comparable business in a nearby town that is on Foursquare and seeing how it is using the platform.

“For small businesses, if you can put the time in to get the buzz in and get the word out, it doesn’t cost anything,” she said.

What if your town is small, or isn’t as savvy on geolocation services as Silicon Valley? Then be one of the first to start building that location-tagging presence in that area. Meek suggested talking to the local chamber of commerce to see what kinds of incentives they might offer to attract consumers who are on geolocation networks. Figure out how to draw people in from nearby cities and think about banding together with other local businesses to do cross-promotion that might benefit your area.

Make Sure Your Business is Already Discoverable on Geolocation Apps

First, check to see if your business is there and if it isn’t, add it or contact that site to find out how to get your business added, said Rob Reed, who authors the blog MaxGladwell.com and is the vice president of marketing at the paperless postal system Zumbox.com.

He pointed out that businesses are going to have to be search engine optimized, social media optimized, and geographically optimized.

There’s a big distinction between the kinds of interaction going on and content being generated in these location-based app spaces. Reed said businesses can say they’re already on GPS services such as Garmin or TomTom, but all that content is static. He said the difference is that social geolocation content is in real-time. “It’s more about the conversation,” he said.

Get Your Customers to Use Geolocation Tagging on Twitter and Geotagging Apps

Meek suggested businesses post a link to their Foursquare page on their website and Facebook page, and post signage in the establishment itself telling patrons to find them on the location-tagged sites.

“You have the means to create the incentive to bring customers in,” Meek said. “It’s a very low-cost way to do it.”

She recommended small businesses host a meetup just for Foursquare customers on a day that business tends to be slower. That could work to build awareness about the location-tagged network, and hopefully, get people using it.

“One of the biggest hurdles is getting people to opt-in to geolocation,” Reed said.

Reed said business owners need to tell their customers to geotag tweets from their place of business so it will leave a trail of content from that business.

Get in Now to Hook the Early Adopters

Reed said that Foursquare is dominated right now by social media influencers – people who tend to be highly networked with the ability to spread a business’s message. He said there is significant advantage and value for being at the right place at the right time.

So if small businesses have a presence on these applications while the space is largely being used by social media influencers, those businesses have a better chance of quickly gaining word-of-mouth traction.

Build Loyalty Programs Into Your Presence

Once small businesses get well versed in the apps, they can reach out to customers there. Businesses have started customer loyalty programs around the gaming and social networking aspects of location tagging apps. For instance, with a certain amount of Foursquare user check-ins or even a mayorship at that business, customers could be eligible for deals.

Foursquare has a directory of businesses that lists mayorship deals for Foursquare users. Businesses can also add their own mayorship specials to the directory.

Foursquare has “paid services” in the works for three types of businesses – small, privately owned businesses, brands with retail chains and multinational companies, Advertising Age reported.

Foursquare is also working on an analytics dashboard so businesses can track foot traffic into their establishments, according to Advertising Age.

Low-fat frozen dessert retailer Tasti D-Lite announced in January a frequent customer program that rewards social media users.

TastiRewards members register their TreatCards online and earn points for purchases made at Tasti D-Lite, according to a company news release. Members get extra points if they opt-in to have messages automatically sent from their Twitter and Foursquare accounts whenever they earn or redeem points, the release said.

Customers earn one loyalty point per pre-tax dollar spent and they are eligible for a free medium-sized Tasti treat when they earn 50 points, the release said. It’s the first type of customer loyalty program by a restaurant that rewards people for spreading the word via their social media networks, according to the company’s statement.

Reed points out that when a customer gets a punch on an actual frequent buyer card for a free smoothie as a walk-in, there’s no ripple effect. But with geolocation and the ability to share your check-ins and actions with friends, consumers are magnifying the punch card effect.

“(It) almost replaces the frequency punch card, in a way,” Reed said.

More business resources from Mashable:

5 Ways to Avoid Sabotaging Your Personal Brand Online
4 Elements of a Successful Business Web Presence
HOW TO: Implement a Social Media Business Strategy
HOW TO: Choose a News Reader for Keeping Tabs on Your Industry
HOW TO: Measure Social Media ROI
HOW TO: Use Social Media to Connect with Other Entrepreneurs

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, janrysavy

Reviews: Brightkite, Facebook, Foursquare, Gmail, Google, Gowalla, Twitter, iStockphoto

Tags: brightkite, business, foursquare, geolocation, gowalla, location-based, loopt, MARKETING, Mobile 2.0, small business, social media, social networks, twitter

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