Time: A Business Owner’s Best Weapon Against Negative Yelp Reviews

By Todd Bacile, Ph.D. | October 14, 2014

Negative Yelp Reviews

Negative Yelp reviews are a concern for business owners. The cause for worry is due to various studies illustrating that negative online reviews can decrease consumers’ purchase intent and can decrease revenue by sizable amounts.Hate us on Yelp

My research on social media complaints and the impact of consumer-generated comments directly relates to Yelp. Negative Yelp reviews came up in a discussion at an industry conference where I was the keynote speaker discussing social media’s impact on business.

“What can we do?,” asked a small business owner, who was concerned that the negative comments would impact her business. Her concern is legitimate.

The Problem of Negative Reviews

Negative reviews generally have a greater impact on a person’s perception of a business versus positive reviews. This negativity-bias can be traced to economics’ and psychology’s theory of loss aversion, where a loss (i.e., something negative) is a more powerful piece of decision-making criteria versus a gain (i.e., something positive).

In the context of online reviews, positive comments are not nearly as memorable or impressionable as negative comments and complaints. Yet, there may be a useful strategy to combat negative reviews that every business owner has access to: time.

Temporal Cues & Negative Reviews

A study recently published in the Journal of Marketing Research highlighted the value of temporal contiguity cues in online reviews. The inclusion of temporal cues, such as a review written on the day of product consumption (e.g., comments including “today” or “we just went to this place”) had a profound effect.

In reviews which included temporal cues, consumers perceived the value of positive reviews to be stronger, while the value of negative reviews became weaker. That’s right, even a negative review with temporal cues did not become more impressionable, meaning the power of a negativity-bias was diminished.

The study, written by Zoey Chen and Nicholas Lurie, analyzed over 65,000 Yelp reviews across numerous experiments to arrive at the final conclusions. Read the full study for the complete details.

Using Time as a Review Strategy

Theoretically speaking, the study is fascinating. In a managerial context, here’s an operational strategy to benefit from the findings of the study: ask for reviews – be it positive or negative – immediately! Create marketing communications or retail signage promoting the importance of posting a review “today”.

If it fits within your business model, provide incentives to consumers, such as offering a freebie item or discount for “posting your positive or negative review and mentioning you came in today.” If you have front-line service workers be sure a quick line is communicated to customers (e.g., “We would love a review – please explicitly say you were in here today!”)

If you’ve exhausted your efforts as to how to get negative reviews removed, the findings from the study and the suggested strategy above may cause your business to not suffer as much from negative Yelp reviews.

This is a unique spin on the old adage, “Time heals all wounds.”

Dr. Todd Bacile (@toddbacile) is a marketing professor at Loyola University New Orleans, a marketing consultant, and a professional keynote speaker who features presentations on social media marketing, search engine marketing, online complaints, online reputation management, and customer service issues at corporate and industry conferences. He holds a Ph.D. in marketing from Florida State University. Social Media Marketing Magazine ranks him as one of the Top 100 Marketing Professors on Twitter. Have a question or comment? Post it here and you will receive a response.


How To Use LinkedIn To Stand Out Among the Crowd: Professional Social Network Hacks That Work

Jessica Rogers, PhD.

According to a recent Mashable article, 37 percent of surveyed job recruiters identify social (professional) networks as one of the most important sources for hiring. Additionally, 90 of the Fortune 100 companies use LinkedIn’s corporate talent solutions to find future hires. Whether you are about to graduate, just started classes, or are somewhere in between: you must seriously consider utilizing LinkedIn as a career tool!

I often have undergrads asking what the difference is between LinkedIn and Facebook, as they see it as ‘just another social network.’ That notion could not be further from the truth. Facebook is more about establishing personal relationships, while LinkedIn is more about conducting business.

Profile Basics

As you enter your profile details, do not think of your LinkedIn profile as an online resume, it goes beyond that. LinkedIn allows you to create a profile that can showcase projects you have worked on that relate…

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Social Media Complaints: An Example of the Tip of the Iceberg Effect

By Todd Bacile, Ph.D. | July 31, 2014

Tip of the Iceberg EffectSocial media complaints are a new challenge to firms. The connected-consumer now has a platform to efficiently disseminate an unfavorable message about a company or its products to the masses.

Social media complaints produce what I refer to as the Tip of the Iceberg Effect. You may be wondering, ‘What is this effect?’ An example which happened to me this week will nicely illustrate it.

Poor Customer Service

To briefly summarize, I had a bad experience with a car I rented from Enterprise and National Car Rental. Soon after driving away with my rental car I discovered an issue. It reeked. A heavy smoker had used the vehicle. Plus, there was a sticky substance on the steering wheel. It should have been cleaned better. The time was 1 AM and with small children in the car I decided to resolve the issue in the morning.

A summary of the situation the next morning: phone support was great. They said I could swap the vehicle at any location. No need to go back 45 minutes to the airport where I picked it up. I went to a closer Enterprise location, where a rep agreed to swap the vehicle (“we have plenty of cars for you to choose”). However, his computer told him he couldn’t swap vehicles due to a technicality.

I called phone support back, who then contacted the location’s rep five minutes later to make them swap the vehicle. Now another rep at the location insisted they had no vehicles to swap. “All of our vehicles are reserved,” he said proudly. I felt bamboozled.

I referred to Enterprise’s policy to request a car be brought to my location; and was told that would not be possible. Phone support gave me two choices: drive 10 miles to another location to swap my full size car for a compact or drive back to the airport to **try** to get another vehicle. Like I was trying at that moment with no success. Right.

In the end my wife spent three hours cleaning the smelly, sticky vehicle. Hooray, we’re on vacation!

Social Media Complaints

As a consumer who spent a lot of money, only to receive poor service, I was upset and disappointed. In my opinion, the company was not willing to resolve the issue for me in a fair manner. Thus, I had experienced a service failure. Left without another option, I took my complaint to social media to tell others.

A single tweet to my followers, as well as the Twitter handles of the two rental companies I was having an issue with started the ball rolling. At the time I posted my tweet I had about 1,300 followers. That is 1,300 people who may potentially read about my poor service encounter in their timelines.

Would they all read it? No chance. But, some would. And some did.

My single complaint tweet soon produced 21 retweets and/or modified retweets. A quick calculation of the total number of followers of these 21 people: 13,263. That is 13,263 people who potentially would be exposed to my complaint in their Twitter timelines. There were a few other responses or retweets of responses from various people, which added to the overall reach with an additional 4,252 followers exposed to the tweet.

Altogether, 17,515 people were exposed to some of the details associated with my poor service encounter. That’s a lot. What can I say, other than I have a certain degree of “Klout“.

Tip of the Iceberg Effect

A single complaint tweeted and then retweeted by 21 people. In sheer numbers of consumers in a target market, that is a very small number. However, there was an underlying effect of word-of-mouth communication being disseminated. My complaint and the 21 retweets resulted in a possible audience of up to 17,500+ consumers.

This illustration resembles the physical properties of an iceberg, which often has 90% or more of its structure residing underwater. Moreover, when you view an iceberg peeking out of the water, you are only seeing a small portion of it. Less noticeable to plain sight is a larger structure quietly lurking below.

Tip of the Iceberg EffectSocial media complaints also exhibit characteristics of an iceberg. If a company sees a single complaint and a small number of follow-up social actions by others — retweets, shares, likes, comments, or +1’s — what is noticeable in plain sight may seem like a small number of consumers. However, just as the majority of an iceberg is out of plain sight, the number of followers who are exposed to these follow-up social actions may be immense.

This is word-of-mouth 2.0.

Proactive and Reactive Strategies

The best strategy to avoid social media’s tip of the iceberg effect is to proactively resolve a problem. This means correcting a problem when a consumer first voices before wide exposure. How? Perform a service right the first time, make it easy for consumers to complain, and make the recovery a hassle free experience. If a product can’t be replaced, there are other options (e.g., sincere apologies, showing genuine empathy, or offering a future benefit as compensation).

However, not all companies have the resources to proactively correct a service failure. If not, a reactive strategy may be necessary. A resolution can still be completed to satisfy a complainant, but now the world is exposed to poor service details.

In my case, the rental company chose the reactive route. However, by the time it reached out to me via social media — and four days later via a telephone call to my phone — the retweets and the audience exposure was already in motion. The delay in a resolution also gave me time to become more upset.

The takeaway: fix problems as soon as they occur. Proactive strategies will save your business a lot of negative word-of-mouth. If you must use a reactive strategy to resolve a complaint, try to resolve the issue quickly. Use tools such as Radian6 to quickly find complaints and then use real-time engagement to attempt a resolution. However, negative word-of-mouth has already begun: the number of consumers exposed to a complaint — and the size of the proverbial iceberg — is growing. It is still worth your time to try to resolve the issue to minimize the iceberg.

Dr. Todd Bacile (@toddbacile) is a marketing professor at Loyola University New Orleans, a marketing consultant, and a professional speaker with presentations focusing on social media marketing, search engine marketing, online complaints, and online reputation management at corporate and industry conferences. He holds a Ph.D. in marketing from Florida State University. Social Media Marketing Magazine ranks him as one of the Top 100 Marketing Professors on Twitter. Have a question or comment? Post it here and you will receive a response.

Search Marketing and Social Commerce: Location (i.e., Click) is Everything

By Todd Bacile, Ph.D. | July 7, 2014

Present the Purchase Funnel’s End to the Consumer

Twitter Buy Now buttonTwitter’s Buy Now button began appearing recently, serving as yet another vehicle for brands to conduct social commerce. The idea is simple: by adding a ‘buy now’ link embedded into a tweet, it becomes easier for consumers to click for a purchase. Moreover, if marketers decrease the time and effort it takes to find a landing page to complete a purchase, then (hypothetically) consumers will buy more.

Social media and search engine giants have been attempting to move consumers more quickly down the path to make a purchase for years. Facebook stores and f-commerce, despite their flaws, sprung up due to large numbers of consumers engaging with brands via the social site. Consumers were already on Facebook, so why would you want to re-direct people off the social site to a corporate site to make a purchase? It’s more convenient to bring the purchase opportunity closer to the consumer’s location.

Google, Bing, Yahoo et al. approach the notion of ‘ease of purchase’ in a similar manner. Search engine ads are quick vehicles to make a purchase. Case in point: the next time you search for something notice all the calls to action to make a purchase in the sponsored advertisements on the search engine results page. Why have a consumer click-through several links on a web site to add a product to a shopping cart when you can bring the purchase right to the person?

4P’s of Marketing: A Modern Point of View

4Ps of MarketingDecreasing the number of clicks to make a purchase is part of the progression of marketing’s ‘Place’ element within the 4P’s marketing mix framework. The 4P’s requires marketers to consider aspects and characteristics of the Product, Price, Promotion, and Place. Note: for a quick tutorial check out this 4P’s of marketing video, which contains a detailed description of this marketing mix framework.

The ‘Place’ element was originally designed to signify distribution to and through a physical store location, hence the old adage, ‘location is everything.’ Those wise old marketing geniuses circa 1960 professed that you need to put your store in a high-traffic physical place, thereby decreasing the time and effort required of nearby consumer traffic to come into the store and make a purchase. Great location = convenience = ease = sell a lot of stuff.

The evolution of technology requires marketers to expand upon ‘Place’ to consider online ‘Space’ or ‘Distribution’ aspects. No longer do you need the busy physical location. Instead, consider busy online spaces as viable ‘Place’ options to distribute goods, services, and information. Such busy online spaces include Google search results pages, Facebook, and Twitter.

Having a social or search engine presence is not enough, though. If you want consumers to make a purchase, bring the end of the purchase funnel closer to them. One way to do this is to reduce the number of clicks a consumer must execute in an effort to make a purchase. Fewer clicks equates to fast, easy, and convenience for consumers. Think of ‘fewer clicks’ in the era of newer more personal media as the proverbial ‘physical storefront on a busy street corner.’

Dr. Todd Bacile (@toddbacile) is a Marketing Professor at Loyola University New Orleans and is the CEO of Bacile Marketing Research LLC.  He holds a Ph.D. in Marketing from Florida State University. Social Media Marketing Magazine ranks him as one of the Top 100 Marketing Professors on Twitter. Have a question or comment? Post it here and you will receive a response.

Facebook and Business Ethics: Five Questions to Ponder

By Todd Bacile, Ph.D. | January 21, 2014

Five Ethics Questions about the Social Giant

Ethical business practices are imperative for today’s business leaders. So, how does our social media giant, Facebook, fare in the ethics department? Let’s examine these five questions to find out.

#1: What am I agreeing to in Facebook’s user agreement?


For the users of Facebook’s mobile app you should know the following. First, Facebook can monitor you by microphone at any time. Second, Facebook has the right to take videos and pictures using the phone’s camera at any time without permission. Third, Facebook has the right to read your phone’s call log and capture data about your contacts, such as the frequency you have called, emailed or communicated with each.

Mobile aside, the Facebook user agreement at one time or another has stated things such as Facebook does not guarantee that its site is safe or secure; Facebook owns a worldwide licensing right to any content you share; and Facebook may use your name or images in ads.

#2: Will Facebook use my likeness in advertisements without my explicit permission?

Starbucks Sponsored Story ExampleBuilding on that last point, Sponsored Stories was one of several types of Facebook’s advertising models. The engagement rate with these types of ads outperformed competing models. Why? Because your friends and family members were depicted in an ad-like format as if they were promoting certain products.

By the way: your friends and family members often had no idea Facebook was using their name and / or image in association with product promotion. Of course this led to lawsuits against Facebook. Legal pressure “persuaded” Facebook to discontinue Sponsored Stories. Yet, one must wonder if these types of ads will resurface at a later date.

#3: Have we seen the last of our deceased friends and relatives used in Facebook’s advertisements?

Facebook and Deceased UsersI’ve written before about Facebook “accidentally” using deceased persons in ads such as Sponsored Stories. How could this happen you may ask? Well, a friend/family member with a Facebook profile dies. It is not uncommon for people to post positive messages and tag the deceased in posts/pictures for peace of mind and a type of memorial. Facebook’s algorithms would notice increased engagement surrounding the deceased’s user account.

And like any advertiser, if someone is influential, popular, or being talked about then an effort must be made to promote products associated with that person. Sure enough, Facebook would serve up Sponsored Stories featuring the deceased to friends and families. Facebook claims it did not serve up these ads on purpose; and it has since tweaked its algorithms to prevent this from recurring.

#4: How private are my “private” messages sent to other Facebook users?

Facebook’s algorithms read your private messages that you send to other Facebook users. Facebook claims it does so to detect criminal behavior. Oddly enough, though, if you send a private message which includes a hyperlink, Facebook may automatically assign a “Like” for the hyperlinked page! It makes you wonder what else is happening to your so-called “private” messages.

#5: Will Facebook crack down on fake “Likes”?

Facebook LikesItem #4 points to another problem: “Like” Fraud. There are two distinct fraud activities happening on Facebook. The first is “Like” scams. This occurs when a page posts provocative images or offers prizes in an effort to gain a lot of likes. The owner of the page then attempts to sell the page to a third-party.

Why? It takes time and effort to build a social following. Some unscrupulous companies want to avoid the work and simply buy a page with a “following”. In fact, there are online markets to facilitate such sales. At the time of this writing, it appears the asking price of a Facebook page with 42,000 likes is $50!

The second type of like fraud is when a page decides to purchase likes in bulk. The practice of buying a large following has been popular on Twitter for years. Well, it is also happening on Facebook. One reason is that a like count is a vanity metric. It looks nice to have a larger following, but there is a debate as to what likes actually mean.

To its credit, Facebook has claimed it is cracking down on all fraudulent “Like” activities.

Ethical Social Media?

These five questions and answers raise serious concerns about ethical business practices used at Facebook. Many consumers are skeptical that their information and privacy are safe within Facebook’s servers. Facebook is the king of social media at the moment, but this may change as social technologies progress and consumers are presented with other social networking options.

Dr. Todd Bacile (@toddbacile) is a Marketing Professor at Loyola University New Orleans and holds a Ph.D. in Marketing from Florida State University. Social Media Marketing Magazine ranks him as one of the Top 100 Marketing Professors on Twitter. Have a question or comment? Post it here and you will receive a response.

Hashtag Analytics: which college football team out-hashed the competition?

By Dr. Todd Bacile | December 10, 2013

Social Media Analytics

Twitter HashtagsA winner can be determined between the hash marks — and the hashtags.  This past weekend marked several high-profile NCAA football conference championship games. Your team may have won or lost on the field, but how did it fair in its social media fan engagement? Using the analytic tools at Topsy, I conducted a high-level analysis to assess hashtag frequency on game day: 12/7/2013. I wanted to answer one question: how much did the different fan bases Tweet about their teams?

A Hashtag is a form of demarcation and a method to link content on a specific topic within social media. An analysis of certain hashtags has some business value to brands and organizations. One example is share of voice on social media: how one brand stacks up against another brand’s social media chatter by consumers.

The below statistics and charts are a hashtag analysis with a few confounds, such as #OSU representing Ohio State University and / or Oklahoma State University. These confounds were accounted for to a degree by using alternative hashtags for some teams. It’s also possible for a rival team’s fan base to tweet about a competitor. Nonetheless, the depicted results below make for an interesting conversation, while illustrating hashtag analytics 101.

Auburn vs. Missouri

Auburn won the game and the battle of the hashtag. The #Auburn tweets tallied 55,555 compared to 3,937 for #Missouri.

#Auburn vs #Missouri

Florida State vs. Duke

The Seminoles trounced the Blue Devils on the field — and on the hashtag — en route to the opportunity to win a national championship. #FSU scored 21,990 tweets compared to 5,295 tweets for #Duke.

#FSU vs #Duke

Oklahoma vs. Oklahoma State

This was a bitter rivalry to begin with! Oklahoma pulled the upset on the field, yet lost on Twitter: #Oklahoma came up short with 3,649 tweets compared to 8,368 for #OkState. It was an even worse beating if you count some of the 17,936 tweets for #OSU (although some must be attributed to Ohio State University tweets).

#Oklahoma vs #OkState

Stanford vs. Arizona State

Stanford won big on the field but came up short on Twitter: #ASU’s 6,471 tweets edged #Stanford’s 3,486.

#Stanford vs #ASU

Texas vs. Baylor

Baylor shellacked Texas on the field. However, the tweet-off is more unclear. On the one hand #Baylor’s 6,651 tweets easily beat #UT’s 1,034 tweets. On the other hand #Texas produced 8,009 tweets.

#Baylor vs #UT vs #Texas

Ohio State vs. Michigan State

This was arguably the best game on Saturday, with the underdog Michigan State knocking of Ohio State. It was also a very close hashtag contest. #MSU’s 24,593 tweets topped #OSU’s 17,936, but there is a possible confound: some of the #OSU tweets were probably meant for Oklahoma State. #OhioState’s 15,063 tweets topped #MichiganState’s 8,635. Who won? I’m calling this one for Michigan State: a tally of the two Spartan-related hashtags (33,228) barely tops the two Buckeye-related hashtags (32,999).

#MSU vs #OSU

Any surprises?

Dr. Todd Bacile (@toddbacile) is an Electronic Marketing Professor at Loyola University New Orleans by day and a college football fan by night/weekends. He holds a Ph.D. in Marketing from Florida State University. Social Media Marketing Magazine ranks him as one of the Top 100 Marketing Professors on Twitter. Have a question or comment? Post it here and you will receive a response.

Creating A Social Media Marketing Strategy

Social media marketing strategy in the classroom

Jessica Rogers, PhD.

medium_5688645738Another eleven-week term wrapped up for my students and I last week. As we reflected on all the topics we have covered in all three social media marketing related courses I teach, a common theme emerged. Almost all the work we did in our final project within the concluding course was dictated by set goals and long-term objectives. As with any business, students first began setting goals and objectives that accurately addressed our vision and mission. With this information, they began to brainstorm about specific tactics that we could use to accomplish short-term goals and choose metrics best suited to measure performance. All of the short-term work students did also fell in line with the long term goals of the project set by myself, the instructor/creator.

The ‘campaign’ was very short in length, but it definitely gave them the opportunity to not only strategize, but also blog, utilize Google Analytics…

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