I found my agent on Yelp. Of course, it’s not like just chose the first local agent with a five-star rating.
My reading of review sites goes much deeper than that (especially for important decisions such as finding a real estate pro). Whether I’m looking for new restaurants or a pair of running shoes, I want to know if the product/place/person will work for my specific purposes. For example, when looking for the perfect shoe, I’ll search for “high arches” or “wide” and see what reviewers who have those concerns say.
Sometimes negative reviews can convince me to try something out; I’m more likely to try a place with reviews that complain about the TVs being too small/nonexistent or the jukebox being overwhelmingly retro. If the ringleader of a bachelorette party is on a Yelp rampage because the bride-to-be got kicked out for passing out on the bar, I at least know the business owners understand the importance of policing riffraff.
I don’t think I’m alone in this tactic, and I’d argue the same thing holds true for real estate. I was looking for an agent who displayed the particular qualities I was looking for, not the one with the most stars. And reading Daniel Lemin’s Manipurated: How Business Owners Can Fight Fraudulent Online Ratings and Reviews (Quill Driver Books, 2015), it was almost as if someone codified my Yelp habits into a guide for business owners. Here are three tips from the author that I found useful:
Commit Real Effort to Reputation Management
Lemin urges business owners to spend time managing their reputation online every day. Check out/respond to what reviewers are posting, ask your clients to post about you, report false reviews (and more; Lemin’s book is chock-full of tasks). Learn from what others say and implement changes where necessary. And don’t take reviews too personally!
Learn to ID and Report Fakers
Remember, review sites don’t want false reports any more than you do because it distorts the product they’re putting out there. So if you see something, say something. Lemin offers a whole list of ways you can identify false reviews (ex: a pattern of using the same language in multiple reviews, not being located in the right place to use a service, wide gaps in review posting dates, reviews that are too short/lacking detail, etc.). On Yelp, you’ll see the report flag at the bottom, next to where you rate the review.
Learn to Distinguish Who’s Posting and Why
Of the non-fakers out there, Lemin outlines four basic posters you’ll see when you start actively managing your business profiles on review sites. Understanding who these people are and how to respond to them will help you use your reputation management time wisely:
The Regulars. Here are the raving fans you know well, and those who are most likely to send you referrals. Send love back!
The Desperate Outcryers. These are some of your best and most loyal customers, but they’re worried your business is going astray. They’re likely to point out ways a transaction could have gone better. It might be painful, but if you read their reviews carefully you’ll learn how to improve.
The Socialites. These guys confuse Yelp for Facebook! They’re looking to attract followers and compliments, and thus write reviews intended to be entertaining above all. But take them seriously; they are often elevated as more important by ratings sites who want to keep their most active users happy.
The Snipers. They are just about impossible to please and will test your promise to not take reviews personally. Be careful not to get drawn into a battle that you can’t win.