If you can’t say something good about someone, sit right here by me.
– Alice Roosevelt Longworth (1884-1980)
Alice Roosevelt Longworth’s famous comment is a reminder of the danger businesses face with the advent of the “social sharing” on websites dedicated to the airing of opinions. It seems a bit pernicious, this effort to make everything “social” and shared — online reviews and recommendations are rampant and looked to for validation, whether in the form of Facebook “likes,” Twitter “followers,” Tumblr and WordPress blog subscribers, or even Yelp reviews. Restaurants have their own spin on it by including large communal tables, forcing “community” whether it is wanted or not. Businesses have incubators that are essentially one large room so groups can collaborate. Crowdsourcing sites are the vehicle of choice to fund all manner of projects. In another time, all this collective action would have been called Communism, but today, it’s taken for granted and its just the way things are done.
For businesses, the current social bête noire is the online review. A bad review may result in cause of action for libel. But why do these reviews matter? A scholarly piece on the subject that appeared earlier this year in the Harvard Business Review (“What marketers misunderstand about online reviews,” by Itamar Simonson and Emanuel Rosen, HBR, Jan.-Feb. 2014), which noted that customer’s purchase decisions are affected by a combination of three things: (1) prior preferences, beliefs and experiences; (2) information from marketers; and (3) input from other people and from information services – i.e., “opinion,” (for simplicity’s sake, “O”). They noted that the greater the reliance on one source, the lower the need for the others. So in order to answer the question, “how much does “O” matter?” one needs to understand where a product falls on the “O” continuum.
We know intuitively that “O” matters, but can it be quantified? Research by a Harvard Business School professor, Michael Luca, found that in cities where a large number of diners rely on Yelp reviews, independent restaurants tend to benefit, while franchises and chains suffer (“Optimal Aggregation of Consumer Ratings: An Application of Yelp.com” (Harvard Business School Working Paper 13-042, November 15, 2012); “Reviews, Reputation and Revenue: The Case of Yelp.com” (Harvard Business School Working Paper 12-016, September 16, 2011)). The type of person using Yelp (typically a younger, more adventurous “plugged in” demographic) appears to be drawn to the different and the unconventional; hence the preference of the independent restaurant over their better known competitors, particularly chains and franchises.
O-dependent markets can diversify more readily, because peer-to-peer information has greater influence on consumers who rely on such services more than other information sources, such as information derived from traditional marketing channels. Since most Virginia wineries are not readily using expensive mainstream marketing (i.e., newspaper and magazine advertising), peer-to-peer messaging takes on greater importance, so most Virginia wine falls on the “O-dependent” end of the spectrum.
Review sites have mushroomed, and we have to face the fact that they confer legitimacy because of the power of “O.” Yet customer reviews on Yelp, TripAdvisor, Foursquare and Google+ Local are far more prevalent for wineries located close to urban centers, leaving those of us in the hinterlands at a disadvantage. Not having recent reviews appears suspect — has the winery closed? Why isn’t anyone reviewing it? What’s wrong?
Gaining (hopefully favorable) reviews is as frustrating as our efforts to use some other social sites like Instagram, which requires a robust cell signal for the photos to upload, which is something we don’t have in our corner of the world. Of course those who don’t give a whit of others’ opinions and prefer to form their own are not affected by such things, because they don’t care enough to look, but for the majority of people who do, these things may matter. With a smartphone, everyone is a reviewer, a witness, a critic — the power is yours, so please help us out!
If you’ve been to see us recently, please write a review on the site of your choice. There are links to many of these sites (and more) on the left hand side of our website placed there for people looking for reviews, but also providing an opportunity to interact with us, or to stay informed about what we’re up to. Below you’ll find links to our pages on several business and travel review sites, with a summary culled directly from their pages. We recognize that this request is fraught with peril and could invite negative reviews, since we cannot — and don’t want to — control what others write about us. We just ask that they be balanced and fair, though we are reminded of Theodore Roosevelt’s famous comment on his headstrong daughter Alice, the source of the quote that opened this post: “I can be President of the United States, or I can control Alice. I cannot possibly do both.”
Foursquare helps you find the perfect places to go with friends. Discover the best food, nightlife and entertainment in your area.
On Google+ Local, see reviews of places you’ll love, from people you trust. Recommendations from people you know and trust show up when you search for restaurants and other businesses. Knowing who wrote a review and their tastes helps you pick the right places. Reviews from real people like you are tallied to create scores on a precise and easy to read 5-star scale. People’s reviews also factor into concise summaries that help you quickly get an overall sense of a place.
Plan and have your perfect trip with TripAdvisor, the world’s largest travel site. Browse over 150 million candid reviews, opinions, and photos of hotels, restaurants, attractions, and more – all by travelers like you. You’ll also find low airfares, free travel guides, worldwide vacation rental listings, popular forums with advice about virtually every destination, and more. No wonder so many travelers make TripAdvisor their first stop before every trip.
Yelp is the best way to find local businesses. People use Yelp to search for everything from the city’s tastiest burger to the most renowned cardiologist. What will you uncover in your neighborhood?