Your Restaurant’s Online Reputation in the Age of the Internet

Steve O'ConnorCustomer Service, Marketing, Restaurant, Small Business MarketingLeave a Comment

Fraudulent online reviews of restaurants are becoming even more widespread with the growing popularity of social websites. Paying for positive reviews may seem like a good strategy to manage your online reputation, but here’s why you should resist that temptation.

In an era where the Internet rules all, how potential patrons view your business can completely be altered rapidly. What others have to say online about your restaurant has a great impact on overall consumer perception. Lori Randall Stradtman, author of Online Reputation Management for Dummies notes, “I strongly believe in monitoring what people are saying about your brand. You want to be in a position to take control of your reputation so that a few people with sour grapes can’t sully your name.”

Fraudulent online reviews of businesses are becoming even more widespread with the growing popularity of websites such as Yelp. A recent Harvard study found roughly 16 percent of reviews on Yelp to be fraudulent; the Christian Science Monitor found this number to be as high as 30 percent.

Outsourcing Positive Reviews Can Seem Tempting…

Websites such as Freelancer.com, an international website that promotes itself as a place “to outsource anything you can think of,” give companies the possibility to outsource customer reviews. Not only is this practice unethical, it is also illegal. In 2009, the Federal Trade Commission decided that paying for positive reviews without disclosing that the reviewer had been compensated would be labeled as deceptive advertising, making the company responsible liable for prosecution.

In 2012, Yelp implemented a filter to call out companies that purchase positive online reviews and would alert its customers to companies that had purchased fraudulent reviews. Given the widespread use of Yelp, with roughly 138 million unique monthly users, being labeled as partaking in fraudulent activity can truly harm your restaurant’s image. Simply put, forging customer reviews is not worth it.

Take Control of Your Online Reputation: But Do So Ethically

There are two ways for you to create a positive buzz around your brand.

  • 1.Encourage your customers to share their positive experiences.
  • 2.Share positive and interesting information about what’s going on in your restaurant.

Entrepreneur cites that social media referrals lead to 30 percent of business websites’ overall traffic. It’s one of the fastest and cheapest modes of communication with your target audience, but it’s best to do so ethically so you don’t damage your online reputation. Hold contests that encourage sharing positive experiences and pictures, create custom hashtags to promote positive social sharing, or consider sharing some behind the scenes images of staff preparing for service. Entrepreneurprovides some tips on how to continue to boost your business’s overall sales and business flow:

  • Create custom formatted tweets. Using line breaks or a unique font grabs your customers’ attention in what normally would be lost in their timeline
  • Write longer posts
  • Insert embedded calls to action; Econsultancy gives a simple tutorial on how to build these embedded calls to action
  • Market across a variety of social platforms
  • Crowdsource user-generated content (contests, campaigns, events)
  • Be a little weird; if your posts stand out, customers will be more able to remember your restaurant

Reach out to your customers and let them know what your restaurant is doing, what is changing, and where you are heading in order to keep them coming back. When you have an established online reputation, it can be much less tempting to consider purchasing positive reviews or creating them yourself.

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