Six Geese a’ Layin: Reviews & Community Development

December 15, 2011
By Danika Atkins in Online Marketing

Back in October, I talked about using the power of online reviews to build trust in your product or service. The truth is I’ve been a fan of reviews long before my life as an internet marketer. A few years ago, I dove head-first into Yelp because it fulfilled most of my heirarchy of internet needs and gave me access to a community of local food lovers.

Today, the link between online reviews and community is more evident than it was when I first joined Yelp. Building a community around your product or service can increase engagement, keep you top of mind, and create an army of super fans eager to lay eggs of positivity (reviews) that will hatch into your next wave of customers.

Time to get those geese a’ layin.

Keep in Touch

There’s no better way to sabotage your community development than by being an absentee community manager. Users can smell neglect from a mile away. While automated tools can prevent your social accounts from appearing stale, relying on them can sometimes produce undesirable consequences.

It may not be feasible for you to hire a full time community manager, but just a half hour a day of TLC can make all the difference. Step in to post to your Twitter or Facebook accounts to personally respond to tweets and give your brand a more personal touch. Active online engagement conveys a belief in your own brand, and will establish trust between you and your users. Rather than outright soliciting reviews, ask the community for their feedback (pointing them to sites such as Yelp, Yahoo Local, and your Google Places page). What fan doesn’t want to feel as though their opinion is valued?

Give Back

There’s more to giving back to your community than sending out free chotchkies. Giving back means enriching the user’s experience so they leave your site with more than just a better understanding of your product or service. Use your expertise in your field to educate others by offering guides, how-tos, or other educational resources.

Etsy does a great job of giving back by offering online labs and events that help artists improve their storefronts and develop new skills that can be applied to their crafts. The community fostered between Etsy and their vendors trickles down to the vendor-customer relationship, which leads to increased reviews for the artists and the site itself.

Bridge Online and Offline Events

Offline casual gathering or networking events can be a great opportunity to showcase your product or service and allow other fans to get to know each other in a relaxed environment. Launching a new product? Invite your super fans to an exclusive test drive. Fans love to meet the face behind the brand, so make members of your team available to mingle, answer questions, and encourage attendees to leave their feedback online. Yelp demonstrates faith in their own platform by allowing users to review Elite events.

If you don’t have the resources to plan and execute an offline event, consider empowering your fans to do some of the heavy lifting for you. Personally reach out to a customer who has been vocal about your brand and ask if they’d be willing to help host a local event. Cover costs for food and other necessities, and work with your volunteer to plan details and coordinate outreach. In some cases, users may be more responsive to an invite from a peer than from your brand.

How have you used community development as a way to foster online reviews?

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