The Internet has changed the economy forever, and one of the ways it has done so is with the advent of review sites. Now, reviewing businesses is nothing new. Word-of-mouth has been around forever. In fact, over 90% of people would trust the recommendation of a friend or family member over any other input. And never before has it been so easy to aggregate the opinions of so many people in one place in a searchable format.
And since those options exist, it’s a great way for you to highlight the businesses in your town that are doing a great job. If you do, those highly-rated businesses will stand out to people in your town, folks from neighboring areas, and even tourists who come into town. They’ll see where they should stay, eat and shop, and your local businesses will prosper as a result.
Here are some places you can visit to talk up your local businesses:
Google Local (formerly Places) – plus.google.com/local – Google’s local section includes in some cases reviews from the venerable Zagat’s guide, and reviews here have the dual benefit of showing up in Google’s search results.
Yelp – yelp.com – With over 41 million monthly visitors, Yelp has a great impact on what people decide to do with their money. But if you’re in a small town or out-of-the-way neighborhood, chances are there are fewer reviews for your businesses. So you can have a greater impact with your Yelp review.
TripAdvisor – tripadvisor.com – Travel site TripAdvisor also exceeds the 40 million user mark, and if you’re in a tourist area, you can bet some people are using the site to check your businesses out. TripAdvisor is also a potential area of opportunity for underserved locations, where your efforts can pay off extra for your business community.
Facebook Recommendations – facebook.com – Facebook’s new Timeline for Pages layout brings back the Recommendations box, where you can leave a recommendation for a business you enjoy directly on their Facebook page. While this isn’t an aggregated rating system like TripAdvisor or Yelp, it does use Facebook’s Social Graph to show you which of your friends has recommended a certain business, tapping into the same word-of-mouth stream that is in such high demand.
A note to businesses. It’s important that you monitor the review sites as part of your online strategy. Capture and manage your Google Local page. Review Yelp and TripAdvisor periodically to make sure you’re getting the feedback that’s left there, and respond with positive intent should someone have an unpleasant experience with your business. You simply can’t ignore these sites and hope they’ll go away.
So, here’s an idea. If you’re a leader in your community, and you care about the locally owned, independent businesses that help give your town its character, organize a town- or neighborhood-wide “Review Day,” where people commit to giving solid feedback and reviews to your neighborhood businesses. (There’s no reason to give five-star, glowing reports to every business. Be honest, but with positive intent.) If you’re successful, maybe the next time someone goes online looking for a place to eat, they’ll end up at the local sandwich shop instead of a chain restaurant. More of that money will stay in your community, and you can say you made a difference.
Without ever leaving your couch.