A business’ reputation is a valuable asset, one that requires an owner’s full attention. In today’s online world, where opinions are a click away, this is even more important. In 2018, a reported 97% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses. 85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations from friends. 60% say negative reviews turn them away and 49% say they only consider businesses with at least a 4-star review. These statistics reinforce the need for online reputation management. Wanting to learn more, I met with Ali Schwartz, an expert from Yelp, at Birch Coffee in Manhattan.
LC: What is your role at Yelp?
AS: I’m the Local Business Partner on the Business Outreach Team. My main focus is to educate local business owners on Yelp’s available tools. I provide trainings for local business organizations, chapters and alliances to share tips and tricks when navigating Yelp as a business owner.
LC: How long have you been doing this?
AS: I started at Yelp 4 years ago, originally part of Yelp’s Local Sales team, consulting businesses about their advertising options. After more than 2 years there, I worked as a Marketing Assistant for a year and then made the transition to our Business Outreach team last year.
LC: What do you enjoy most about your job?
AS: Business owners are each living out their own unique version of the American dream, it’s very inspiring! This role allows me to help a group of people that continuously surprise, delight and inspire me every day.
LC: Please explain “online reputation management.”
AS: It’s having a strategy in place to monitor what people are saying about you and your business on the Internet and then taking the resources provided like metrics, reviews, etc., and making your business better as a result.
LC: Why it is important for businesses to have a strategy to manage their reputations?
AS: Taking the time to engage with customers online is so important. Not only does it show great customer service, but you have the power to monetize from having the right strategy in place. Reviews, social media, e-commerce, it’s all part of the present and certainly part of our future. Think of it this way, if a customer walked into your store and started talking about your product, good or bad, you’d answer them, chat with them, maybe try to get their business. This same mentality should be implemented for your online customers as they are no different than your offline customers.
LC: What steps should a business owner take to start managing their online reputation?
AS: When it comes to Yelp specifically, a great starting point for business owners is to first log into their Yelp for Business Owners account at https://biz.yelp.com/. This is a totally separate platform, just for business purposes. Take 15 minutes to update everything including hours, ‘about the business’ section, photos, etc. Pro tip: businesses can save time by copying and pasting what may already be on their website! Next, have a strategy in place for reviews. It can be as simple as having a hostess, manager or employee respond to reviews as they come in. Having a plan in place is necessary and important.
If you tried to do the above for every single online platform, it’d take forever! It’s easy to get overwhelmed with the online world. I like to tell businesses to pick 2 to 3 platforms where they’re confident people are taking time out of their day to seek out their specific product or service, and then focus only on those, to avoid spreading their time and energy too thin.
LC: I’ve heard of “fake reviews” being a concern. What does Yelp do to minimize this practice?
AS: Yelp is aware that fake reviews exist in the world of online reviews. Yelp is actually ranked the #1 most trusted review site. This is because Yelp has a software that’s checking the authenticity of each review. This allows us to provide reliable content to consumers as well as protect business owners.
LC: What is the most important tip you can share?
AS: My number one tip for business owners is to hug your haters. The book, Hug Your Haters by Jay Baer, is incredible and dives into how to treat every piece of online feedback as an opportunity to get more business. Highly recommended!
LC: Thanks, Ali.
AS: My pleasure, and thanks for the 5-star coffee!
If you would like to learn more about managing your online reputation, be sure to attend Ali’s seminar 5-star State of Mind at Imperial Dade’s Innovations Expo on May 1. Visit www.ImperialDade.com/Expo for more information.