Bonus episode | Host Emily Washcovick does a quick deep dive into a topic affecting small businesses, sharing small but mighty changes you can implement in your business.
In episode four of the “Biz Bites” series, we discuss ways to connect with your customers online, and encourage them to share experiences with your business digitally. It starts by creating memorable in-person experiences, then having your customers share that online. When they do, make sure you engage back. Also, collect contact information whenever you can so you can communicate with your customers directly. Lastly, let engagement happen naturally, and don’t ask customers for Yelp reviews.
Hey there. I’m Emily Washcovick, Yelp’s Small Business Expert and the host of this podcast, Behind the Review.
Normally, on Thursdays, we drop episodes in your feed sharing stories with a business owner and someone who wrote one of their Yelp reviews. But now, we’re going to add something new. On Tuesdays, we’re going to drop what we’re calling “Biz Bites” episodes. Biz Bites are 7-10 minute episodes where I dig deeper into a topic affecting small business owners. And I’ll give you some tactical steps that you can use to implement changes in your business that are small, but could maybe have a big impact on future customers.
So let’s dive right in. Biz Bites episode four: encouraging engagement with your customers online.
I once had a business owner tell me, you have to remember that social media is two words. A lot of times business owners focus on the media. Posting about your business. But what they forget is the social. Engaging with people on the platform who are talking about your business. And this episode is all about engaging with your customers online, and getting them to talk about your business after they experience it. And sharing their experience digitally with their network of friends, family, or just followers.
Effectively, what we’re talking about today is amplifying your word of mouth. So instead of the traditional just telling of friends or family members, we want your customers to talk about you and engage with you online and amplify that word of mouth to an even larger audience.
And this all starts with having a great experience in person. So whether you have people to your brick and mortar business, or you go out and serve your customer in person at their home or somewhere else, you have to make that moment memorable and worth sharing for the customer. And sometimes that’s just about a great tasting menu item, but sometimes it’s about great customer service.
And then also encouraging customers to capture the moment of engaging with your business while they’re there. So if you have a brick and mortar, maybe there’s a little corner that’s set up for a fun photo op for your customers. I know you’ve seen these before, right? A really cool art piece at the entrance of a business, or even something like a grass wall with a neon sign that says the business’s name in a nail salon – so the clients can show off their finished product on Instagram before they leave. You might have really cool and camera worthy menu items. So in order to get your customers in the habit of taking photos, and then sharing them, you have to show them what you want them to share.
So sometimes you have to be the one pretending to be the customer, taking photos of your business and the service offerings, and then posting them online – on your social media accounts on your website. And really, it’s all about showing your customers exactly how to share their experience with your business.
There’s a restaurant group in Chicago called Dynamic Restaurant Group and they have tons of different restaurant concepts, but one of them is a place called the Bombo Bar and it’s a dessert only business. It’s got out of this world sundaes and these crazy waffle cones that you can fill with different flavors. And on their Instagram, they have all these awesome images showing off the sundaes. And some of them are in the business. You can see art on the wall behind their menu item.
Some of them are even just showing off how cool the inside of the business is, different light fixtures that they have. And you can see when customers share their experience, it’s very similar to how the business posts about their menu items.
And the key here is when your customers share their experience, you want to engage with them! Repost it, if you want, to your own story. Customers share this stuff because they want to shout you out. And by doing the social part of social media, you have to engage with them back. Thank them for taking the time to come to your business and to share the experience with all of their followers.
You could even come up with a hashtag for a famous menu item or just for your business in general. And let folks know what that hashtag is with little table tents in your business, or a sign at the checkout area. You want to make sure that if you want customers to share your business online, you give them an opportunity to capture and document it and then make it Easy on them to share. And encourage them for doing that! So they want to share about your business more.
You also want to make sure that you capture customer information any chance you get. You don’t own your audience on social media. And let’s say for whatever reason, if any of those social platforms go away, you don’t have a way to connect with your customer.
So you want to make sure that you request their email address or their phone number in any format possible. Maybe you have a form on your website that people can sign up to be on your newsletter. Maybe you even post on social media every once in a while for people to add their contact info to your database. Maybe you get them to do that because you tell them there are specials and offers that only ‘your members’ will get communication about.
And I know a lot of business owners worry about spamming their customers or bothering them. But remember, you’re not trying to send daily or even weekly messages. If anything, maybe it’s a monthly newsletter. But in reality, you’re just gathering that customer information so that you can come up with a plan for how to use it. And, if your customers give you their information, they want to hear from you.
You also want to make sure that you stay engaged with those customers long after they visited your business. So reposting when a customer writes a review for your business, or even just resharing photos and posts that they publish is a great way to keep that engagement going.
Lastly, I have to point out that you don’t want to explicitly ask for Yelp reviews. It goes against our terms of service and content guidelines. But that’s why encouraging engagement digitally is the best thing to do. It allows you to get the customer to think about sharing their experience. And if they’re naturally someone that writes reviews, that’s great! When you follow up with customers, you can always tell them that you’d love to get feedback on their experience and then link to all of the places that you have a digital presence.
But make sure that when you do have that engagement with customers, it’s not just one way. You thank them for sharing their experience and continue to show them ways that they can promote your business and share more, so that you can get customers and connections with their network.
Remember, all of this starts with creating memorable experiences in person and then encouraging your customers to share that online. And engage with them when they do! So go out there today and think of ways that you can show customers how you want to hear about their experience and get them used to capturing their favorite parts of engaging with your business and then publishing that online in a place where you can all share with your audiences and drive more customers to your business.