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An author once said “The right thing at the wrong time is the wrong thing.” This sentiment holds true for romance and reviews. Getting a review or testimonial at the wrong time can have no effect, or worse, it can have a negative effect on your online reputation campaign.  Deciding when to ask for reviews  to start your your online reputation campaign is all a matter of planning.

Are you starting with a blank reputation slate?

If you are just starting out or are fortunate enough not to have any negative reviews out there yet, then your time is now. You have it easy. Simply create your social pages and/or claim your business listings and start advocating for yourself. Perhaps you put a link to your Yelp, FaceBook, Google+ or other pages on your website or your store window. This lets people
know that you interested in their feedback and also abides by the guidelines most reviews sites suggest. Let all of your customers know that you would like to hear from them through email blasts or on your receipts, packing slips or other company correspondence. Remember that just making your social profiles known is only part of the battle. You need to monitor them closely. No one is flawless and you can’t make everyone happy. You should expect to get some negative feedback. We will address how to handle negative feedback in another post, but don’t despair, it’s not the end of the world.  If you are ready to monitor, respond and repeat then there is no time like the present to begin your PR push.

Are you starting in the online reputation hole?

Chances are if you are reading this you are having problems with online reviews and ratings. So when do you start your digital PR campaign? This one is not so easy. You need to take a measured look at your current online reputation before making the big push.

First, you need to look at the negative comments already out there. Determine which ones are likely fake or flagrant lies and which ones contain legitimate issues that need to be addressed within your business. If there are issues that can be fixed, you need to do that first. Eliminate those issues that may cause additional bad reviews.

Second, look at the dates of the negative reviews. If they have been out there for some time, months or even years, let them be. However, if there are some that are more recent, like within a few days or weeks, you need to decide if you want to respond. We have found that a simple response of

“I am sorry your visit didn’t meet your expectations. Please private message me so that we can work to fix the situation and earn your business back.”

A generic statement that acknowledges the issue, takes responsibility for the problem, requests an action to remedy it and a goal of earning their trust or business is a far better solution than ignoring it. While it’s hard to take the fall, especially for claims you know are false, taking this approach shows other prospective customers that you are proactive and you care about what your clientele has to say. In these situations it is wiser to look at the big picture.

Once the first two actions are completed you can start pushing your customers for feedback. If you have a mailing list or email list you can request recent clients to leave feedback. You can also make your social profiles available to customers at your place of business or your website.

Are you already rocking five stars?

If you are here because you have already received some good feedback but have never really pushed for it, then you are on easy street. Start using that good mojo today to push your other customers to do the same. Acknowledge your stars and Likes by prominently displaying them wherever you can. After all your reputation is yours, you have worked hard to earn it, so why not use it to make money. Remember that not all reviews will always be spectacular. You need to continue to monitor and manage your online reputation frequently.

Most business owners are tempted to just jump right into a digital PR campaign. However, it is very important to understand the timing issues built into most of the online review site algorithms. If you make one huge push to get reviews and a whole bunch of your clients start posting five star reviews on the same day, chances are most of them will get discounted. If you only push once and then wait several months to push again, chances are they will get discounted. If you only ask one or two people, once in a blue moon, chances are those will get discounted too. Timing is just as important in the algorithm as it is to human nature. If you wait for months to ask for reviews, your customers may have already forgotten the details of their experience, or worse, their perceptions may have changed. Your online reputation can literally make or break your business. Be patient, make sure you read all of our posts about handling your digital PR and contact us right away if you have any additional questions.

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