Consumer generated content and word of mouth marketing is the holy grail of content marketers working in a B2C brand. If you don’t understand why people write reviews you may be setting your organization up for negative comments, that should otherwise fall onto your customer service teams, opposed to Twitter, Yelp or Trip Advisor.

Reviews are rarely based purely on product performance — review writers are more likely to write about how a product or experience makes them feel. Before looking at how to incite more positive product reviews let’s look at what motivates people to write a review in the first place.

What motivates people to write reviews?

A meta-analysis of 11 studies on consumer reviews, published by the University of Twente, found that there are six main motivators that drive people to review a product or service.

1. Self enhancement

Reviewing a product or service makes some people feel good about the purchasing decision they made or there is an element of self-promotion that the review writer benefits from.

2. Social benefits

Reviewers enjoy engaging with like-minded people and enjoy communicating with others through reviews. A review site can act like a social network for people who enjoy a specific niche such eating at restaurants, resort travel and automobiles. If someone has made a habit to write a review about an experience it is difficult to stop them.

3. Advice seeking

These commenters are looking for help in the decision they intend to make or optimize the experience they’ve already purchased. If they can’t find the answers they’re looking for they’ll reach out to a community for help. This is a great opportunity for your brand to ad value.

bluetooth4. Concern for other consumers

  • Positive: helping other consumers

When some customers share reviews that provide advice to others it can be out-of-love for an experience. People will share their tips on how to best enjoy a product or service their goal is to help people make the best choices based on their own experiences. Here is an example of a helpful comment posted about a water-proof Bluetooth speaker:

After owning the Boom Swimmer for a little over two weeks now, I still, couldn’t be happier with it. The suction cup attachment works extremely well, so well in fact that the silicone which surrounded the screw used to attach it to the device got a bit of a tear in it and was essentially useless. I went to the BOOM website, sent them an email regarding the issue -and in less then 3 days had a brand new, even higher quality suction cup, mailed to me and waiting on my doorstep.
When you combine a versatile, quality product -with outstanding, prompt customer service; you earn customers for life.

  • Negative: warning other consumers

Conversely others will look to steer people away from purchases that they’ve had negative experiences around. The goal is to persuade people not to engage with an experience or a product.

As an example the same Bluetooth speaker allegedly has battery issues:

… battery life is no where near as advertised. At first I thought it was just the result of putting it at full blast and while that was part of the problem I tried it a few clicks above silent and it doesn’t last more than 4 hours. (Full blast lasted less than 3 hours). So just something to consider, maybe it was just a defect in mine, but that’s been my experience. Pretty bummed that I have to make another purchase (solar charger) just to have this thing last for a whole float down the river.

5. Venting negative feelings

When something has gone wrong some people find it therapeutic to share their opinions on an issue —whether it is a valid criticism or not.  These people can also be looking to specifically harm a company with their review.

6. Helping the company

In other cases people love a brand so much that when they have a subpar or negative experience the aim the review will be to provide feedback to see that experiences continue to be great.

Improving reviews is less about improving products as it is about managing people’s emotions. If you can direct people’s anger or frustration to less public places you will improve public brand perception.

3 ways to improve your brand’s reviews:

1. Display empathy and listen

For many consumers customer reviews are a social experience. If the experience of providing feedback to your brand is personally engaging commenters may choose an owned channel to engage through opposed to a third party review site. That’s why so many people turn to channels like Facebook and Twitter they know someone will respond.

If a customer cannot vent directly to someone they will turn their rage toward the Internet. Think about when a server at a restaurant will direct a complaint to a manager for resolution. Provide a resolution to a negative experience that displays that the brand has learned something and that your team has listened.

2. Engage and respond with your commenters

When you do get a complaint on a third-party review site respond just like you would on Twitter or Facebook. Doing so gives you an opportunity to provide fair comment and solve issues as each arises.

The same goes for positive comments.  A positive review is a great starting point for a more in-depth case study that you can use on your website and in future marketing materials.

Sites like Yelp, and Trip Advisor work directly with hoteliers are restaurants to help manage brand and reviewer relationships. Yelp for instance has Yelp Business pages that enable a brand to respond publically to complaints or reviews and also take the conversation into direct messages between reviewer and brand.

A statement on Yelp Business’ FAQ outlines the benefit of these actions poignantly.

In our experience, reviewers usually like to hear from well-intentioned businesses who are legitimately interested in listening to customer concerns.

3. Work with moderators and review sites

Trip Advisor maintains a team of moderators to filter out nonsensical, fraudulent or automated reviews. This team’s guidelines include filtering reviews which are personally insulting or directly reply to another commenter’s review. Most review sites allow a brand to petition for the removal of biased reviews such as those written by a competitor or paid for by one.

What matters is that a bad review isn’t the end of the conversation it is the beginning of one. Start winning back customers by opening a dialogue and be ready to provide an avenue for recourse in cases where your brand has done wrong.

About James Rubec

James Rubec is a data geek, a former public relations lead and journalist with a love of content and advocacy. Ask him anything @JamesRRubec and be sure to follow @Cision_Canada

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