Online interactivity has permanently altered the landscape of local business marketing. Local business reviews featured on search engines, internet yellow pages, and business directories impact customer impressions, actions, and word- of-mouth. This reality has not evaded the leadership of Google. In fact, Google reportedly offered $550 million to acquire Yelp and leverage its estimated nine million local business reviews across the U.S., Canada, and the U.K.
From the October TMPDM/comScore Local Search Study: "...the importance of ratings and reviews is growing with 57 percent of responders, who indicated such information is important in the decision-making process; however, only 27 percent of these consumers have actually written reviews. This is the new word-of-mouth marketing, and companies need to learn to manage the process."
What are local business reviews?
Local business reviews are a form of social media -- possibly the most important form of social media for brands with a local business model.
Displayed along with business listing data on search engines and interactive business directories like Yelp, Citysearch, and Yellowpages.com, local business reviews serve as a very public medium for customers to provide feedback.
The social aspect of local business reviews function, to some degree, as a micro-barometer of brand reputation. The impact has ignited a variety of responses from business owners and management, ranging from unbridled apathy to apoplectic delirium. Generally speaking, local business reviews cannot be removed by the owner of a business listing. Transparency is paramount.
As a result, business review management is starting to percolate as an integral part of social media focus for brands with a local business model.
John Moore, marketing strategist with the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA), shared his thoughts with me on local business reviews:
"Every local business should be listening and learning from the online word-of-mouth conversation customers are having about their business. The smartest local businesses are going one step further by responding online to positive and negative reviews from customers."
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