THE BLOG
08/28/2013 12:02 pm ET Updated Oct 28, 2013

3 Ways to Encourage Positive Feedback Online

You know about the power of positive thinking. Did you know about the power of positive feedback?

As reported in the New York Times, a recent study found that an initial like, thumbs up or positive comment online inspires more of the same. People find it easier to like something someone else has already liked. That means that getting initial positive feedback is crucial for your company's reputation online.

Consumers are Influenced by Online Reviews

The importance of positive reviews online cannot be overstated. Studies show that two-thirds of people read reviews online before engaging in business, and the majority of them are persuaded to take action by positive reviews they read. Conversely, negative comments and reviews are bad for business. Companies know this, and are shelling out big bucks to bury bad comments and plant fake reviews (a.k.a. "astroturfing").

These tactics are unethical and can harm your reputation if you get caught. So what to do? Get good reviews the old-fashioned way.

How to Encourage Positive Feedback (and What to Do About Negative Feedback)

1) Provide excellent products/services/content. This is so obvious that it's often overlooked. Don't put resources towards managing your reputation when you really need to put them towards making your company better. In the past, customer service was important. Now it's crucial. Internet review sites and social media platforms are omnipresent, and everyone has an opinion. That means an unhappy customer in Montana might squash a potential sale in Vermont. The bottom line: Give your customers your best.

2) Ask customers for feedback, and make it easy. This means all feedback, both positive and negative. Provide links on your website and in email communications with customers to make it easy for them to write a sentence or two on their experience, and don't be afraid to (politely) ask for feedback. Many people will leave it just to be nice. To cut down on negative reviews or comments going online, consider having a dedicated phone number and email address to handle complaints, and make them easy to find. (But don't worry too much about a few bad reviews. They make your company look authentic.)

3) Respond to comments -- good and bad. If they are positive, a simple "thanks" will do. Building a friendly relationship with your customer through dialogue online can make them more likely to post more positive comments and reviews in the future. What if comments or reviews are bad? Don't get defensive! Try to figure out what went wrong, what you can do to make it up to your unhappy customer, and how to prevent it from happening again. When complaints are dealt with promptly and efficiently, customers will give you repeat business.

Just be sure to be genuine. Respond to customers -- particularly those leaving bad feedback -- as a real person, not as a corporate entity. If your best friend were writing the bad comment or review, how would you respond? Use that as a guide.

It's that simple. It all comes down to treating your customers well. Give them great products and services, ask them for feedback, and respond when they do. Before you know it, you'll be getting more likes than ever before.