When it comes to food, ratings matter: a restaurant loaded with stellar reviews on social media will probably get the lion's share of new customers. Sometimes, though, online ratings aren't what they seem: a new study suggests that by 2014, between 10% and 15% of social media ratings and reviews will be fake and paid for by the businesses themselves. Over the next two years the Federal Trade Commission will crack down on the practice of fake reviews – but in the meantime, what can you do to stop your business from being out-rated by paid advertisers?
Your best bet is to solicit good reviews from real, satisfied customers! Try these four things to ensure your restaurant gets the rating it deserves.
1. Expect customers with smartphones: Prominently display signs directing your customers to your page on Yelp!, TripAdvisor, UrbanSpoon, or other social media network of choice. Try placing these signs in doorways, next to drink menus, or on receipts. As your customers wait for their check, there’s a good chance they’ll reach for their smartphones and fidget – and if they’re impressed by your restaurant, you can put their fidgeting time to good use.
2. Display your favorite positive reviews: Print out some of your best online reviews and post them in easily visible places – on the wall next to the ordering line, or in the corner of the passerby-facing window. Make sure the text is easy to read, and consider placing them in attractive frames. Not only does this encourage customers to review your place, but it also raises their expectations: if they associate your restaurant with previous satisfied customers, they’ll expect the food to be tastier before they even try a bite.
3. Provide links in emails and newsletters: In the footer of emails, include a link to your Yelp! page and a sentence or two encouraging customers to review your restaurant. Do the same thing in your newsletter, if you have one.
4. Use food blogs to increase traffic to your website: Are there are any local food and restaurant bloggers in your area? Spend a little time on these blogs and decide which ones you’d like a visit from. Register as a user (if necessary), and comment on posts. Make sure you provide a link to your website at the end of each comment you leave.
Have you thought of any other great ways to get more reviews for your restaurant? Let us know in the comments!