The Power of Social Belonging… and Why Your Brand Should be Leveraging Online Reviews

As humans, we love feeling like we’re part of a community. Whether that means interacting with our real-life friends on social media or making comments on a forum thread about a shared movie interest, the more we engage other people, the more integrated we feel.

And with the advent of the internet age, the ability to connect with others has never been easier. Studies have shown that the stronger a person feels the need to belong, the more apt they are to share their opinions, either in an effort to persuade others or to hear their own voice in a larger community.

Taking it a step further, the Journal of Consumer Behavior focused in on this trait in one of their issues to point out the connection to the business world: “[The need to belong]…fostered the desire to talk to others about their preferred brand.”

One of the best ways customers can “talk to others about their preferred brand” is by leaving reviews, and if your business isn’t encouraging people to do precisely that, you’re missing out on a ton of opportunities.

Why are reviews such a big deal?

Reviews Give People a Voice

Online reviews give people an opportunity to voice their opinion about their experiences with your business, whether positive or negative; the more extreme their opinions are, the more of a psychological kick they get in telling other people about their experience. A person that received an exceptionally poor episode will feel a sense of vindication in telling other people about it, while those who had an amazing time will want to include others in their joy.

But reviews do more than just give the person delivering them a feeling of satisfaction, they also play a huge role in determining whether or not other people will want to visit your business as well. The statistics backing up this point are nearly endless, but according to one study, over 90% of people look up reviews before visiting a business, and 72% make that decision with fewer than six reviews. What’s more is 69% of people feel like reviews older than three months are not really relevant to the current situation.

Reviews Are Better Than Any Other Type of Advertising

Let’s face it: People trust their friends more than they trust any kind of advertisement they may see. For starters, the person leaving their opinion isn’t getting paid by the company to put forth any kind of image, so what a person sees in a review is a raw, unfiltered look at a real-world experience.

It also allows the person reading the review to shape their own experience about what they’re reading. Traditional advertisements shape the narrative of what the user is seeing, whether that’s a story, promotion, or something else entirely. Reviews are usually written by people with no particular end goal in mind, and since there are potentially hundreds to look at, the user is able to formulate his or her own impression of what the business is actually like. Siphoning through the reviews, they make up their own mind as to what’s appropriate and what’s not.

Reviews Promote Transparency

Normally, the goal for every business is to have every customer receive a perfect experience and share it on social media or review sites after they leave. A string of 5-star scores across the table will only enhance the company image, right?

Wrong.

Call it skepticism or jadedness, but customers are starting to look at a company that looks flawless online with a sideways eye, believing that either the company has paid for positive reviews or is encouraging their employees to do so. It’s not unheard of for a business to do either of those, so having a few negative experiences sprinkled in gives your business a sense of authenticity that it needs to validate the positive reviews.

Look at these negative experiences as a way for your business to improve. How you respond to the bad reviews says a lot more about your business than the fact that you received them in the first place.

Are you defensive?

Do you make personal attacks or accusations in response?

Do you ignore them completely?

Respond in such a way that shows you care about what people think, and future customers will respond in kind.

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