Google announced today that it has given business owners a chance to respond to reviews that are submitted on their Google Places profile pages (formerly Google Local).
The Facts About How To Respond To Reviews
This new feature is available only for businesses with verified accounts. When you’re logged into your Google Account, you can navigate to your Google Place Page, where you’ll be able to see reviews for your business. Notice the option to “Respond publicly as the owner.” You can write a response and publish it to appear indented below the original review. For example:
What This Means For Businesses
This is sure to be exciting news for many doing local search engine optimization who feel falsely incriminated in online reviews without a chance to do anything. There are even cases where customers have tried to strong-arm businesses with threats of negative reviews.
Because of this, more businesses have been concerned about the “pendulum of power” swinging too far in favor of customers. This new response option gives businesses an additional opportunity to prevent “ORM blackmail” and helps improve relations with Google. It alleviates a lot of marketing manager paranoia. It also gives businesses another social channel to communicate with their customers, to show appreciation, find out more about consumer experiences, and improve aspects of the business.
The next consideration will have to be whether businesses choose to respond to all, some, or none of the reviews. Companies have learned through social media monitoring that customer influence and feedback shouldn’t all be weighted equally, and in some cases, it makes the most sense to ignore a fire if it’s likely to go out by itself.
What About Consumers?
Allowing business responses on Google Places certainly helps sincere customers interested in receiving feedback on their reviews (though it doesn’t mean that businesses will be just as anxious to give it). It also means that individuals will think twice before threatening a company or throwing on a one-sided rant review, which is a big positive in a world full of people happy and willing to criticize.
This is likely to fuel more shift by review sites to re-empower businesses. Review websites that haven't already enabled this feature will be monitoring the results of this social media experiment closely to see if it works and will likely jump on board soon if it proves successful. Internet marketing, and social media marketing companies especially, will also be watching intently.