Despite the fact that Facebook’s last year was rocky (to say the least), the social media giant has made great efforts to regain consumer trust and prove transparency. One of Facebook’s updates included a change in the way that they collect and display recommendations for local businesses.
While paid advertisements have always been part of a marketer’s Facebook strategies, entrepreneurs and business owners are missing out if they neglect reviews. Their current recommendations process can help your business to increase reach, gather more meaningful feedback, cultivate a brand story and report fraudulent activity.
Since 2016, Facebook has allowed users to request recommendations from their friends. Someone would create a post “asking for recommendations” and Facebook would automatically format it to include a map where users could pin their recommended businesses.
However, this positive word of mouth was disconnected from business owners, even if they had established a Facebook Business Page.
Now, when Facebook friends have conversations about recommended companies, they are directly tied back to those locations and business pages. If a friend name drops your company, their recommendation will be pulled to your Facebook page, contributing to your overall review score.
Not only does this help you to be more aware of what real customers are saying to their friends about you, this helps to increase the reach and efficiency of your business pages. Comments made in Newsfeeds will include a link to your business page and prominently displaying your star rating.
Additionally, when users click the link to your business page, the first recommendations and reviews they see will be those provided by their closest friends. This helps to empower purchase decisions and bring greater trust to first time buyers.
The conversations that consumers are having online will directly influence your business’ reach.
While Facebook’s previous review format relied on a five-star system, now, recommendations take the binary approach. Rather than leaving consumers to stew over where your business fits on the five-star scale, reviewers now simply choose to “recommend” your business or to “not recommend.”
As a note: while the new process has eliminated the star rating, Facebook business pages will still display an overall rating from 0-5 that combines scores from the old review format and new recommendations.
While some may think that a new “yes-or-no” system makes the review process more simplistic, Facebook has taken measures to achieve more meaningful recommendations.
Once reviewers select “yes” or “no,” they are prompted to provide an answer, at least 25 characters in length to either “what they recommend about the business” or “how the business can improve.” Customers are encouraged to provide thoughtful, specific feedback, including rich elements like photos and tags.
This improves the customer experience by providing more detailed information about the businesses they are searching. This also helps businesses—rather than receiving a context-less single-star, businesses can now read through shared customer frustrations or points of weakness. The opposite is also true: more in-depth positive comments help companies to know what they are doing well so they can continue to excel in those areas.
There is a possibility that the absence of gray area will dissuade medium reviewers from leaving any feedback. However, the goal is that the easier process will allow businesses to accumulate more reviews, not less.
Build brand story
New rich endorsements allow users to add images and tags that are relevant to their business experience. This is one of the biggest differences from Facebook’s old review format and it is a great way for companies to build their brand story.
The more structured, guided process of leaving a recommendation includes a list of relevant tags that users can select to apply to their feedback. As more business patrons select these tags, they will build up a consumer-generated brand story. Additionally, these tags will make it easier for prospective customers to understand what your business is known for. And, they’ll even help Facebook to categorize your business for related searches.
The option for customers to upload photos also helps to increase your brand story online, especially if you are a brick-and-mortar company. Customers who see images of your business will get a firsthand glimpse of what your company has to offer and what other customers have experienced. This is a great benefit to businesses—rather than presenting a perfectly photoshopped promotional image of your product, users will be able to see a real life, authentic representation of your brand.
Each of the changes to Facebook’s recommendations shows that they are making an effort to provide a richer experience to both businesses and customers. However, they are also trying to move past previous criticisms of inauthenticity.
New “authentic recommendations” make it easier to flag fake reviews and to moderate fraudulent feedback. Businesses just select the relevant tag (e.g. “harassment,” “spam,” “hate speech,” etc.) to send their report.
Facebook is trying to take a step forward in user advocacy. In order for their review platform to be useful to potential customers, it needs to be transparent and authentic.
Your business should also be focusing on transparency in review collection. Prospective customers can easily spot fake recommendations—so don’t try to buy reviews! Encourage actual customers to share their experiences on Facebook and report anything that is fake—even if it seems positive.
While this overhaul is a big change for typical review formats, the updates should benefit your business. According to Facebook, 2 in 3 users visit local business pages at least once a week and 1 in 3 people use Facebook to look for recommendations and reviews.
Just keep being the very best at what you do and your Facebook recommendations will become the growth catalyst you’ve been looking for.
Jaren Nichols is Chief Operating Officer at ZipBooks, free accounting software for small businesses. Jaren was previously a Product Manager at Google and holds an MBA from Harvard Business School.