26 thoughts on “Where Do Consumers Leave Local Reviews? Facebook Now #2”

  1. Looks like Google+ Local Reviews are doing well. One thing I have suggested that I think would really kick it into overdrive is applying the G+ posts comment structure to the reviews…. allowing both business owners and individuals to interact with the OP.

  2. Given that google is moving the whole comment structure to G+ it is logical to assume that reviews would make that move as well.

    I think that there are issues of moderation (spam, hate speech etc) and perhaps rank that have required Google to keep reviews in a separate silo.

  3. Mike,

    Regarding your most recent post “where do consumers leave local reviews”, great job. Very useful and applicable information here. Thank you.

    I am curious though about another perspective, why people leave reviews. Your survey was excellent and left me wondering the motivation behind leaving reviews.

    You asked:

    “…2671 respondents the following with a choice of 5 possible answers:
    After purchasing from a local business, I will take the time to leave an online review for that business (% response in parenthesis):
    -Never (58.2%)
    -Almost never – less than 1 review per year (19.6%)
    -Occasionally – 1 to 5 reviews per year (15.7%)
    -Somewhat frequently – 6 to 11 reviews per year (4.2%)
    -Very frequently – 12 reviews or more a year (2.4%)
    The vast majority of respondents noted they never or almost never leave reviews (77.8%). Is it any wonder that getting reviews is hard?
    The 703 of those respondents (22.2% of the total) that answered occasionally, somewhat or very frequently were then asked a follow up question where they were asked to indicate their preferred site:
    When you leave a review online for a local business which site are you most likely to use?”

    I would LOVE to know why. Regarding the people who DO leave reviews, is it because…

    1. they felt obligated because of a good experience
    2. they felt obligated because of a negative experience
    3. they were asked to leave a review

    That information would show just how much more a person is motivated by a good or bad experience to leave a review. My personal opinion is that if people are NOT asked to leave a review, they are most likely to leave a review due to a negative experience . People expect great service and products and if you are able to deliver that, they don’t go out of their way to tell people about it…because it was expected in the first place.

    As always, thank you for the quality info.

    John

  4. Mike thanks for the survey! John, that would be a great follow up to see what drives them to write positive reviews. There is a way to get a $50 coupon from Google to run your own survey – https://www.google.com/insights/consumersurveys/use_cases?example=general&offer=view_survey_offer

    From our 20 location test run, we have the most difficulty at sourcing FB reviews, probably due to a nature of the business – medical spas. Customers are not as eager to leave publicly identifiable reviews regarding their experience with the “laser hair removal” service.

  5. @John and J

    Great questions and interesting insights on the Facebook side.

    I think that in a broad sense John has identified several reasons that are common.

    But as J pointed out there are use cases where anonymity is an issue like hair removal, DWI, face lifts is an issue.

    On the other side of that coin I am finding that certain acquisitions are more likely to be “reviewable”. I think that there is a certain tribal behavior in proclaiming your newly acquired bauble or car and likewise a resistance to shot from the roof about your recently purchased insurance.

    I have thought about this survey that John mentions but need to give it some thought as to how to best structure it.

  6. Nothing compels folks to write a review more than anger.

    I’ve always assume there are three types of people who review:

    1. Those that always review
    2. Those that want to rant (bad review)
    3. Those that don’t review, but were blown away with such outstanding service (good review)

    Obviously, most reviews are coming from the #1 type of person, followed by #2, and then, unfortunately, #3 makes up the smallest group.

    Reviews will always be unbalanced because of human nature. We love to rant about the bad, but when something good happens…. we often don’t do anything. When browsing reviews, one almost has to “grade on a curve” or increase a business’ average rating by 25% be default.

    I think Google could also improve reviews by expiring reviews at the age of 2 years. Whatever made a review positive or negative is almost always null & void after two years. The fact that an Applebee’s avg rating is factoring in a 1-star review because of bad server from three years ago is unfair to the business today. If anyone knows that the age of a review is taken into consideration, let me know please–I’d like to know if that is the case.

    Mike, you are right that allowing comments on reviews might invite spam, hate speech etc, but the review platform in its current state is not without it anyway. I would hate for that to be the one reason that Google holds back. I’ve often wanted to interact with a review post to get more info (“Did that hotel have an elevator?”, “Was there a parking lot?”) Business could react to pos/neg reviews as well. I think more good than bad could come of this… I think it would give Google an edge.

    The one edge that Yelp has is a list of attributes that reviewers can answer (free wifi?, good for kids?, cash only?, etc.). I think this knowledge is very useful, but Google doesn’t offer a way to share it (unless written out in the review).

    Sorry for such a long post…. and too many topics. Just goes to show that “ranting” compels. 😉

  7. I am not saying that spam would go up but that Google would need to implement at least as good of spam control as they currently have with reviews before they could implement. That might be tough expecting Plus to function in that capacity.

    I think there are several other categories of people that are motivated to leave a review:
    -Proud of their new purchase and want to highlight it to the world
    -Asked and want to help the business

    It seems that when combined the above 2 are very motivational.

  8. What a great topic. I’m a review-nerd!

    Mike, I wasn’t even aware that Google applied any type of spam-filter to the reviews, but that makes perfect since…. I’m sure it’s a necessity. I don’t see a lot of f-bombs written in reviews and I’m sure that didn’t happen naturally.

    You mentioned two additional groups:

    -Proud of their new purchase and want to highlight it to the world: That has to be a very small number. I would think that people would just jump straight to their favorite social network to brag away.

    -Asked and want to help the business: I agree with this one. “Wanting to help” is good motivation. If a small nudge is needed, the business “asking” is all it takes.

    Google’s edge is that reviews is integrated with, IMO, the best mapping system in the world. Yelp has an edge as well–it was marketed and geared toward local businesses; and it provided a fun interface that encourage reviews and made it somewhat fun to read. Facebook has an edge, too: lots and lots of members.

  9. @Troy
    Yes their spam filter was implemented in 2010 and has periodically been tweaked to great cries of dismay.

    Your points are all the reason that YP.com, Angies’s list and Citysearch are all facing headwinds in that area.

  10. Troy I think you’re dead on about a few things. I agree with your idea about grading on a curve. I’ve often thought that positive reviews are much harder to come by because people are more motivated to vent than praise…and positive reviews should carry more weight.

    Maybe the review “platform” (Google, Yelp, etc.) should consider the “Good to Bad Review Ratio” of the reviewer. How many people only leave reviews when they are mad or upset? I would argue, most people operate this way. How is this fair to the vendors? If you are willing and motivated to leave bad reviews, then you should be leaving good reviews nearly just as much. If your profile shows that you’ve left 20 reviews and all of them are 1 and 2 star rating, something is wrong…you’re not using reviews as they were intended. Period. Profiles should be monitored for some kind of acceptable ration between good and bad reviews. This also encourages you to give people credit when they do a good job.

    The length of a review is also super important. I think reviews should eventually fall off after 1 year (or 2?). Reviews that are 2, 3 years old are worthless as far as I’m concerned. My business is leaps and bounds better than it was when I stared 4 years ago. When I started, I made a ton of mistakes…things were sloppy and customer service was poor. I’ve learned and built systems and invested in all aspects of my business so much so, that it’s not the same business anymore, yet there are reviews online that people are reading today, that represent my business as it was 3 years ago that don’t accurately represent my business today. How may small businesses are there that are leaps and bounds better than they were 2-3- years ago? Most of them??? Why are reviews good “forever” when they represent the business from long ago, essentially/potentially a different business.

    Lastly, and this may be taking things too far(actually, I’m pretty sure it is), but I had always envisioned a more diligent and accountable review system where a reader could be certain that the review he/she is reading is legit. Maybe I’m a bit too skeptical but I think fake-negative reviews and fake-positive reviews are a problem.

    So my remedy was a system where each vendor has a specific review code. The only way you would have that vendor’s code is if you purchased and item or engaged services with that vendor. How? A “review code” at the bottom of the receipt, in an email, on an invoice, etc.

    The vendor would manage this code on the platform backend, i.e. G+ admin dashboard, Yelp admin area. Just like a username or password.

    The customer could go to any review platform (Google, Yelp, etc), find the business they want to review, BUT BEFORE LEAVING THE REVIEW, they would have to enter the vendor’s special 5-6-7 digit code to verify they engaged with that vendor.

    My apologies as well for such a long post. I’ve though about this for a long time and this was an opportunity to lay it out there.

  11. On the “trusted” review front you are starting to see more verification coming into play. OpenTable for example needs a person to have made the reservation before they can make the review. I have read (but have not tested) that a checkin on Yelp increases the likelihood that the review will actually post.

    And certainly location information via cell will soon be able to close the look on whether a reviewer was actually at the business.

    That all being said the review sites are more about letting everything in and limiting the ones that show as they learn more. So yes there are some bogus reviews but both Yelp and Google do a fairly decent job of curating although not perfect by any stretch.

  12. @J
    You could explain it by the fact that Yelp doesn’t count so many reviews. They are absolutely sure to show a negative one but many of the positive ones are taken off the board.

  13. I explain my comment from experience only. I am a small business owner and have had over 50,000 customers since I’ve been in business. I have personally communicated with thousands of customers who are very happy with my product and service who never bother to leave reviews. In addition to my personal communications, a large majority of our business comes from word of mouth referrals and from repeat business. Plus we’re growing at a pretty quick rate. Evidence that I’m doing something right and that the overwhelming majority of customers are happy. I just don’t get a lot of positive reviews unless I actively seek them out and ask for them. At the same time, if I mess up in some fashion and the customer has a bad experience, believe me, they go online and tell everyone about it.

    Note: I’m not saying that just because I have communicated with thousands of happy customers, that there aren’t others who are unhappy. I’m saying that out of the thousands whom I have spoken to, they typically don’t go out and leave a positive review on their own accord.

    I feel confident that most (not all) small business owners would feel the exact same way.

    It is also my opinion that if you were to remove restaurants from Yelp altogether, that number would change drastically. Yelp is specifically known for being a restaurant review site (even though they review everything) and I would say it’s much easier to serve an average, good or great meal than an atrocious one. Restaurant reviews in general are a somewhat of a different animal for a few reasons as compared to most other businesses, but I don’t want to write a book on here. Again just my opinion.

    I would be very curious about Google and Yahoo average review rating. I looked but couldn’t find. I will continue to look and post what I find. I would think they represent a more evened out scope of all types of businesses and the average review may be lower than Yelp’s average.

  14. @John
    I have been doing some analysis of review propensity at scale.

    If your domain is any indication, I would suggest a possibility for the biggest barrier to those reviews is not your service, its is the line of service you provide.

    My current working theory is that those products that folks think reflect well on them they are willing to write about. Those products that don’t reflect well on them or that reflect negatively (think DUI, divorce, etc) on them much less so.

    The second biggest barrier is Google and Yelp themselves. Even if you get users out to those sites, it is hard to leave a review if you have never left one.

    Given that almost 80% of folks in the US are in that state that means most people.

  15. @Mike Blumenthal

    Good point.

    I don’t mind saying I’m in the dumpster rental industry. It’s extremely hard to get people to leave a review about how their dumpster rental went so well…because in all reality they may have just cleaned out their house because they were getting close to being a candidate for the show Hoarders…or because they went out of business or got evicted.

    Most of my customers need dumpsters for “neutral” reasons though. Yard cleanup, roofing projects, shed demo project, small renovation project, etc. Nothing to be embarrassed about by any means but maybe also not something they want to necessarily make known for one reason or another.

    And in all honesty, my business is pretty simple. Not easy, but simple. Meaning, I deliver a big box and then haul it away. A lot of times I find it hard to “blow someone’s socks off”. I just don’t feel like I have the opportunity, besides providing exceptional customer service, which we do.

    I am VERY focused on customer service and my sales reps and customer service reps are true professionals, but when it’s all said and done, even if I do everything right and kill ’em with kindness… it’s just not enough to motivate them to go online and tell their friends, family, peers and the world about their dumpster rental experience. I don’t know.

    I completely see your point though. Maybe my expectations are too high given the line of work I’m in.

  16. Mike,

    I think the question of how best to leverage Facebook reviews is critical to address. If nothing else, an SMB might be able to use that review as an open door to communicate with that customer and encourage them to leave a review elsewhere as well.

    It would surprise me if FB didn’t make some moves to do their own leveraging of these reviews in the future. If they want to be a player in the local search space, they’re going to have to do something different.

  17. I think next year the Better Business Bureau will be on that list! They already handle 918k complaints last year in 2013. By the end of they year all of the BBB’s around the nation will launch a new Verified Online Review where consumers can log in and review a business. Verified Customer Reviews allow customers to post positive, negative or neutral reviews about organizations with which they have done business. Reviews are vetted by BBB team members before they are published online and reviewers, upon request, must be able to provide substantiation of the marketplace interactions.

  18. Just discovered your blog tonight. Love, love love it.

    Here’s something for you.

    Our agency has been manually monitoring FB reviews for our clients (we have 17, specialising in customer service industry) for 5 months now. For every 1-3 star rating, we leave a response “we’re sorry we couldn’t rate higher, how can we improve?”

    I’d say 1/4 of the people we write to respond. HOWEVER, the problem is FB does not send us notification that guest has responded. Took us a month to figure this out. We have to scroll through many reviews 2x a week to see if anyone has responded as sometimes they take weeks or even a month to respond.

    It sucks. And I was at fB fit conference in Chicago recently where they had a “genius bar” set up for FB SMB questions. I asked this, they had no answer, but promised an engineer would be in touch. Sure enough they emailed, I explained, they basically said, “great idea! We don’t do that now, but we’ll pass it on to higher ups”

    Anyway, we’ll see.

    We’re thinking of trying out your 5star service, but if it would monitor this for us, it’d definitely be worth it.

    Thanks again!

  19. It would be interesting to know how many of those people that leave reviews, do so when they have a good experience, as opposed to how many would write a review if the experience was poor?

  20. Sorry to bump an old topic (you can blame Andrew Shotland for bringing it up ), but I have a couple questions about the methodology of the survey.

    1. Did the survey define what it means to leave a review, or could ranting or raving about a business on your Facebook wall possibly count as a review?

    2. Was there any attempt to control, or correlate, the tech-savviness of the respondents? Or could there be less tech-savvy people using “the Google” to leave reviews for a business… on Yelp? (I see that kind of crap all the time.)

    3. Did the respondents believe that the the survey was affiliated with Google? I’m curious if anyone could have been responding with “what you wanted to hear.”

    Point being, I just don’t see a lot of businesses that have more Google reviews than Yelp reviews yet, so I’m a little skeptical of the results.

  21. 1-The survey was a two part survey.
    Question 1 asked After purchasing from a local business, I will take the time to leave an online review for that business (% response in parenthesis) and those that answered more than once a year were asked When you leave a review online for a local business which site are you most likely to use?.
    2-The survey tool attempts to create a cohort that is representative of US adults between the ages of 18 and whatever in all of their glory that uses the internet.
    3-The respondents had no idea who was doing the survey or why. The micro questions are asked by Google on participating news and lifestyle sites.

    You live in California. Your view is very tainted by that reality. I also reported out regional behaviors in CONSUMER MINDSHARE AND YELP where you can see that Yelp is very much a bicoastal and mostly younger phenom. But once you hit the Buffalo’s and Clevelands of the world Google & Facebook is where it for reviews.

    When it comes to the hinterlands nobody much uses Yelp outside of restaurants.

  22. Alright. So it sounds like there are a few little variables that could skew things (like which sites hosted the survey, how many Millennials are willing to sit still for an unpaid survey, and how many kids under 18 would have dragged results back towards Yelp,) but that makes things a lot clearer.

    It makes sense that Yelp should have a much weaker market share in a lot of the US, where the population is more permanent and personal recommendations should play a bigger role. But doesn’t that also mean there’s less need for a review site in the first place, because there aren’t a hundred different providers for every service, a new restaurant opening every week, and it’s not weird to ask your neighbor for a recommendation on a plumber?

    Again, it’s just a hunch, but I bet that the 2.4% who said they leave reviews very frequently also skew younger, most coastal, and more Yelp-y. The same would probably go for the people who rely on local business reviews to make purchasing decisions.

    I know that my views on Yelp are tainted by a dozen different factors – like age, location, and the fact that I work with more plumbers than restaurants – but that’s why I try to dig into this kind of data to get a better feel for my own biases and blind spots. So in any case, thanks for bringing some data to the chaos.

  23. @Joe
    If you are going to explore potential issues with the survey then I think it more likely that the way I asked the question is at fault than any demographic deficiencies in the methodology. I think Google does an excellent job knowing and identifying a representative cohort. I may have skewed the answers though by providing a list from which to pick rather than accepting free form answers. The list (which was in random order) may have predisposed answers due to familiarity.

    To test that theory I would need to run the survey again allowing free form answers. Which isn’t a bad idea.

    My sense is that Yelp, outside of restaurants, is used little to none even in the bigger cities of the hinterlands.

    The age of the most frequent posters did skew younger. But the sample size is too small to say with any confidence that they were yelpers. Here is some more demographic analysis unfortunately it doesn’t cover the 18-25 cohort which skewed heavily towards Yelp (tha’s what the client wanted).

    I don’t think you can make many assumptions about Yelp in markets outside of California and outside of its prime industries. I think any business just needs to survey their clients and see where they are looking to be sure.

    That being said outside of vertical review sites, most review plans should include Google, Facebook and Yelp.

  24. @Mike

    Fair enough on all counts, and thanks for sharing the most frequent posters breakdown.

    Just for the heck of it, I did some searches to see which platform had the most reviewed plumbing company in a few different markets. Facebook won by a mile in Buffalo and Savanna GA, Google and Homeadvisor took 1st and 2nd in Littleton CO, Homeadvisor took the gold in Chattanooga, and Yelp has the lead in Austin and Miami. So Yelp does appear to skew urban, but overall it’s a pretty big crapshoot.

    In any case, I totally agree that most businesses should get every review they can (even a review on Manta is better than nothing), but industries that have longer purchase cycles or get fewer reviews (like roofers) are better off picking one platform and dominating it, even if it’s not the winning platform in their market. I know a company within driving distance of Yelp HQ who has one star on Yelp, but they’re killing it so hard on their HomeAdvisor reviews that they can barely keep up with the business. I hope to get them on GetFiveStars in the long term, since that Yelp listing is definitely hurting their branded searches, but that’s a battle for another day.

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