Founder EASTWEST PR and Host of the SPEAK|pr Podcast
Word of mouth marketing is so important. It highlights the power of “reputation management,” how those involved in it and the reputation economy have been impacted by the gathering of social voices, and how businesses now can stand or fall based not on the review of one editor, but on the review of every customer, all because customers now can amplify their experience on a platform like TripAdvisor.
The story of Tripadvisor’s success
Tripadvisor has become the largest of all of the websites where people can leave reviews. Every month, 456 million people visit part of the Tripadvisor infrastructure and ecosystem, and one in every 16 people on earth will look at Tripadvisor and its various subsites to plan a trip, so it’s now surprise that it is now a $7 billion business. It had originally started out in 2000 with the motto, “Get the truth and go.” The initial model was for advertising, but that didn’t go off so well. So, from late 2001, every time a visitor clicked on a link to a given hotel or restaurant, Tripadvisor would charge the business a small fee for a referral. Within months, the company was making $70,000 a month, and quite quickly, they broke even.
One of the founders, Stephen Kaufer, said that their model and business had changed dramatically. By 2004, Tripadvisor had 5 million unique monthly visitors. That same year, Kaufer sold Tripadvisor to InterActive Corp., which is the company that owns Expedia (a travel company), for $210 million. In 2011, it was listed for $4 billion. Undoubtedly, it’s become a huge business and a huge platform on which tens of thousands of posts are posted every day. In fact, more than 200 posts are uploaded every minute to Tripadvisor. However, one problem is that not all of them are genuine. There are review farms, many of which are in Southeast Asia, where fake reviews can be bought and posted, both positive and negative.
In the 2018 World Cup, there were thousands of fake reviews for hotels and restaurants in Russia popping up, so the people on Tripadvisor had the same problem as they do for Facebook, Twitter, Google, and Yahoo, which is maintaining the integrity of a site, which is a lifeline for many businesses. In America, a theme park owner actually sued a man who posted a negative review after a trip to a theme park with his daughter. This has given rise to what they call a SLAPP suit, a strategic lawsuit against public participation. What this means is that if you post a review of a place, it may lead you to get some negative comeback from the people that own that facility, especially if it’s an owner-operated facility like a theme park. To remedy that, business owners should look at individual reviews. People take this seriously, so it’s important to leave a meaningful review that will be of help not only to a potential customer who wants to visit a place but also to the owner of the company or venue or service.
A study referenced on the Tripadvisor site in March 2015 by a group called Medallia found that accommodations that respond to more than 50% of social media reviews grow occupancy rates at more than twice the rate of properties that tend to ignore reviews. In other words, if you want more people to book your venue or service, respond to reviews, whether they are genuine or fake. What’s more is that these responsive properties grew their occupancy rates faster than the industry as a whole. Research also shows that responding to more than 50% of reviews correlates with a 6.8% growth in occupancy rate. Further, properties that responded to feedback in less than a day boasted occupancy rates 12.8% higher than properties that took two days to respond. So, it’s not only enough to respond; one has to respond quickly.
If there are reviews taking place by consumers in what is considered a reputation economy, it’s important to know that these are taking place and to have a mechanism to respond promptly. If your business somehow is the subject of reviews, invited or uninvited, then it’s important to allocate some time, energy, and manpower to address those quickly and pay attention to what people are saying. Likewise, if you’re going to leave a review, be mindful of the impact that it could have. A business could well be depending on a positive review from you. So, if you write a review, be mindful and constructive.
This article is based on a transcript from my Podcast SPEAK|pr, you can listen here.
Cover Photo from Google Play