Marketers know that word-of-mouth campaigns are important to generating clients, with a recent Wharton study showing that referral marketing generates customers who are 16 percent more profitable than buyers acquired through conventional advertising. Still, user reviews can do as much harm as good if a business doesn’t receive consumer acclaim. Now, Google Places is letting entrepreneurs respond to user reviews to supplement the good and counteract the bad word-of-web brand chatter on the site.
Google explains that verified business owners can respond to reviews featured on Google Maps directly on a Place Page. Several other online sites that offer customer reviews, including Yelp, already give entrepreneurs the chance to respond to customers. Nonetheless, this move, combined with the recent release of Google’s mobile search ad format for local businesses, may indicate that Google wants to build relationships with SMBs.
To further help business owners engage consumers and create positive conversations about their brands on Places, Google is even offering a set of tips for responding to reviewers. While the tips may seem like common sense to marketers (be nice to customers, think of all feedback as an opportunity to improve), they are good reminders of appropriate consumer relations.
Marketers should take this as an opportunity to add Google Places to the list of more traditional social forums that facilitate consumer engagement. Users seem to be looking for businesses to participate in brand discussions with them on the web. A recent survey conducted by ROI Research for Performics shows that 31 percent of Facebook users want companies to communicate with them through the site, and a study from 360i suggests consumers are looking for conversational tweets.