10 Rules of Marketing on User Review Sites

We talk a whole lot about Blogger Relations, and that’s a valuable conversation that will continue to be relevant for a long time to come. 

Yelp logoBut, blogs are only one part of the Social Media scene.  We hardly ever talk about the opportunity for companies to perform well in user forums, e.g., Amazon.com, Angie’s List, TripAdvisor, Epinions and Yelp(Disclosure: Yelp is a former SHIFT client.)

While it’s true that “only” B2C companies have a play in such forums — well, that’s a whole lotta companies — especially if you think about the deep-dive’s worth of local content on sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor and Angie’s List. 

The growing ubiquity (and popularity) of User Review sites will make this an increasingly important issue for B2C marketers at companies of all sizes and types.

Here are 10 rules for participation in Online User Review sites:

#1.  Read & understand each site’s Terms Of Use (TOS), especially how they pertain to businesses that might be reviewed (and don’t break those rules).

#2.  Track the sites daily, to see what people are saying about your company.  Most Social Media Monitoring firms are working on ways to automate this process, if they haven’t figured it out already.

Amazon-logo#3.  Join the conversation (where TOS allow you to), responding to both good and bad reviews.  Remember that your “audience” is not just the commenters, but also the infinitely larger number of “lurkers” who will read these reviews and responses.  Remember that Google will likely catalog all of this content, as well.

#4.  You should thank people for saying nice things about your company/product.

#5.  When someone posts a negative review, don’t get defensive. 

Tripadvisor_logo_large#6.  When you post responses to negative reviews, make it clear in your response that you are present, you are listening and you are there to help fix any issues.  Even if you don’t agree with the issue, remember that perception is reality, and most readers will assume that there is a “nugget of truth” in every rant.

#7.  If possible, communicate directly with the person who posted the review, in a transparent and non-defensive way, to see if you can rectify the situation.  DON’T pretend to be someone you’re not, i.e., “just another user” with a made-up name.

#8.  If someone posts something that is clearly batshitcrazy, reply promptly and courteously but don’t engage in a lot of back-and-forth.  Just leave it alone – you can’t fix it.  Most readers will see that you are doing your level best to be nice and responsive to everybody, including Mr. Batshitcrazy.  They’ll understand if you don’t engage an obvious hater.

Angies_list#9.  You think that that negative and false review is harming your business?  Don’t sue the hosting company (Yelp, Angie’s List, etc.) to take it down.  This just makes you look guilty to consumers.  You must simply do what you can to knock the socks off of future customers, so that they post more positive stuff.  While this process takes more time than you’d like, it is the best way to make it obvious to everyone reading the reviews that your brand’s haters are clueless loons.  Surround the brand haters with authentic brand evangelists.

#10.  Make it obvious and easy for your good customers to post reviews: make sure they know that you appreciate it when they post on these relevant review sites.  Add the appropriate links to your business cards and e-mail signatures. 

This is a high-level look at the best practices in user review site marketing.  It may seem simple but I’ve seen companies of all sizes screw this up pretty regularly.

Do you have more tips or experiences to share?



Posted on: February 25, 2009 at 8:58 am By Todd Defren
44 Responses to “10 Rules of Marketing on User Review Sites”

 

Comments
  • Paul Sevensky says:

    Great advice that should be heeded; on #9, I don’t agree fully if the review is obviously or patently false. Although defamation law is slowly catching up to online media, you should look at options for removing a review with patently false statements (P.S. I’m not a lawyer.)

  • Bill Rowland says:

    Todd,

    I found this post really useful. Thanks.

    Just to give you a heads up, the link to Epinions listed above is pointed to the wrong site. Epinions can be found here: http://www.epinions.com/

    Cheers.

    Bill

  • Julie says:

    Good info, very informative. Check the link to “Epinions” in the second paragraph; it’s incorrect.

  • Nidhi Mathson says:

    Hi Todd,

    Just started checking out your blog and I’m finding it extremely informative for a brand new PR professional as myself. Excellent post about blogger relations. Seems to me that the most important one is #5. It’s easy to forget this one as most people tend to jump in and get defensive without realizing the extent to which it could damage the brand.

  • Twitter Comment

    10 Best Practices for Brand Engagement with User-Review Sites: [link to post] by @tdefren

    – Posted using Chat Catcher

  • Twitter Comment

    RT @hcdelp: 10 Rules of Marketing on User Review Sites – PR Squared – [link to post]

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  • Todd-
    I’ve just gotten to this in my reader and am loving it! I’ve been working for a while on how to make better local connections and user review sites were a huge area that I hadn’t quite figured out the proper approach to yet. If you put something together on working with Google Local/Yahoo! Local, etc. we’ll be 2 for 2! lol

    Thanks so much, this is great stuff that doesn’t get nearly enough attention.

  • Valencio says:

    Excellent article, Todd.. User opinions are critical to product success. I have used epinions in the past and one cannot stress the power of user reviews on eBay and Amazon.

    Valencio
    http://www.EmailCharger.com

  • Twitter Comment

    10 Rules of Marketing on User Review Sites [link to post]

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  • Twitter Comment

    Great article at PRSquared “10 Rules of Marketing on User Review Sites” Holds true for consumer & business sites. [link to post]

    – Posted using Chat Catcher

  • Scott Manley says:

    Hey Todd,

    Great rules of the road for companies to follow. As user reviews are normally one of the top factors in buyer decision making next to referrals from a friend, they will definitely be around to stay. The nice thing is that companies that focus on delivering quality will have nothing but good come from this for the most part.

    Scott

  • Twitter Comment

    Sensible advice for consumer marketers dealing with user review sites from @TDefren : [link to post]

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  • Great points! In my industry (independent schools) I share many of these rules already. May I add one? If dozens of customers are saying the same thing, they are right and you are wrong. These sites can be free focus groups so take the time to drill on each and collect the responses so that you can improve what needs work.

  • Twitter Comment

    Caught up on blogs, incl @TDefren’s post on mktg w/ online communities. Good stuff! [link to post]

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  • Twitter Comment

    10 rules of marketing on user review sites [link to post] Great advice from @TDefren

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  • amymengel says:

    Should companies invite their customers to post on these review sites? What about incentivizing them to do so? I’ve gotten lots of emails in the past after my order shipped from companies who want me to review the product or service on their own site.

    But what about asking customers to do this on other sites? Has anyone heard of this happening? A company offering a discount or coupon to a customer if they put a review on Yelp, Amazon, TripAdvisor, etc.? That seems like a tightrope to me – even if you offer it to all reviewers and not only the positive ones. But then again, I’m not sure it’s too different from asking customers to post reviews to your own site.

  • Twitter Comment

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  • Twitter Comment

    10 Rules of Marketing on top User Review Sites: [link to post]

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  • Twitter Comment

    RT @kasrael 10 Rules of Marketing on User Review sites [link to post]

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  • Twitter Comment

    10 Rules of Marketing on User Review Sites – [link to post]

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  • Twitter Comment

    RT @TDefren: Big, bad-ass new blog post up: 10 Rules of Marketing on User Review Sites. [link to post]

    – Posted using Chat Catcher

  • Chris Thilk says:

    Great points, Todd. This is an area of online media that too often is ignored until some sort of extreme problem or controversy crops up.

    I’m going to disagree with Carter’s comment about leveraging the positive reviews, but only slightly. I think there’s a way to do it, possibly in the form of linking to all reviews from the company’s website, but breaking out those that are positive, but I think there’s a point where that can go too far. Those responding to or otherwise engaging with online reviews should be careful not to make customers submitting positive reviews feel like they’re being unwillingly co-opted into the marketing plan. As always it’s a fine line to tread but one that marketers need to be careful of.

  • Twitter Comment

    Latest @TDefren post about responding/handling negative comments about your biz [link to post]

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  • Twitter Comment

    RT @websuccessdiva 10 Rules for marketing on user review sites, great stuff for B2C marketers… [link to post]

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  • Twitter Comment

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  • Twitter Comment

    Let’s not forget about User Forums (PR-Squared)
    [link to post]

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  • Twitter Comment

    Interesting blog post on User Review Site marketing by @TDefren 10 Rules of Marketing on User Review Sites [link to post]

    – Posted using Chat Catcher

  • Ryan Miller says:

    Besides reacting to reviews, authentically listening and taking suggestions from users (particularly if you can demonstrate how a user comment led to action or a change in policy) would go a long way.

    Companies that admit mistakes and show a human side get a lot of points with me. Great suggestions, a good primer that B2C firms should take note of.

    @ryancmiller

  • Carter says:

    Great points, bossman, especially number three. Two things I’d add…

    First, keep it short. If your response goes over two paragraphs, you’re probably getting defensive.

    Secondly, leverage the commentary. These are responses from actual customers. Encourage them to contact you directly and solicit feedback, preview new features or secure references for media opportunities. Why pay for a focus group when you can get it straight from the source?

  • Twitter Comment

    If you work in PR, reading this post from [link to post] will make you feel good about the future of the discipline

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  • Daniel says:

    Todd,

    I was the communications director for a company that owned its own forum. Not only was it great to get instant feedback from our customers, but it helped us directly answer their questions and concerns.

    As in most forums, there’s always a few key players who are more vocal than anyone else. Our challenge was to balance what they were saying with what other people wanted to say. The worst, however, was when the users would gang up when something didn’t go right.

    Now I’m agency side, and there’s an ongoing (possibly never ending) debate about this topic. Do we engage directly on behalf of clients? Do we post something in forums as though we are the client? Do we post something and reveal that we’re the client’s representative?

    The hybrid idea that you tweeted is a great idea (thanks for the quick response!). And you just responded to my above q’s before this response was finished! so..double thanks!

  • Twitter Comment

    10 marketing rules for user review sites (Ryanair should have read before last week) from @TDefren: [link to post]

    – Posted using Chat Catcher

  • Todd,

    As someone who typically doesn’t reach into user review communities, I found this post extremely informative…and hilarious (see #8).

    #4 and #5 really hit a home run for me. Thank those who like you, but don’t jump on the backs of those who feel otherwise. A simple gesture, but incredibly powerful advice.

    Thanks,

    Brandon



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