When Google Plays God, Better Have a Backup Plan
Automotive News’ David Barkholz recently penned a piece that brought to light a troubling fact: it seems Google can trashcan customer reviews at will – and apparently does so without a clear set of guidelines on what’s considered spam and what’s not. The article laid out the saga of an automotive dealership that saw 400 or so of its customer reviews (most positive, a few negative) taken down without any explanation. Following a lengthy and torturous appeal and communications trail, some of the reviews reappeared – again, without rhyme, reason or rational explanation by Google.
While Google apparently can pretty much operate according to its own secret algorithms, the situation did get me thinking about alternatives. By now, everyone should be well aware that there is plenty of proven correlation between customer reviews and sales lift. So, should the Google Gods deem yours unworthy, what should you do? Here are a few additional elements that should already be part of your multi-pronged marketing plan:
Build Social Conversation. Do you know who’s talking about you to their followers or group? Have you thanked the person who’s tweeted positively about you? Are you creating a monthly social snapshot that tracks the sources of these conversations? Members of your social fan base may never write and post traditional reviews, but they’re spreading the word about you all the same.
Build Communities. Do you know why people like to do business with you? Are they drawn by the employee who is multi-lingual or the sales woman who’s also a weekend SCCA autocrosser? Is it a philanthropic initiative or a particular experience you offer for customers? Why not build an online community, via a microsite or landing page, that has the power to attract like-minded consumers and expose them to your existing brand advocates? Check out www.lavespavita.com (full disclosure: Vespa is our client and we had a hand in this project), where fans post their favorite photos interpreting the brand’s unique style.
Build Word-of-Mouth. I’ll be attending the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) Summit Nov. 12-14 in Las Vegas, so I’ll have plenty of observations to add. For now, though, think about the last time you really gave your customers a reason to talk about you offline. For example, I regularly recommend Bond No. 9 perfumes to friends – for no other reason than the fact that the company surprises me with a cool snail-mail package of sample scents after each purchase. What can you do to delight a customer – and get them talking?