A few years ago, social networking giant Facebook began to allow users to post online reviews and ratings of local businesses.

Since then, the volume of reviews on the site has rapidly increased, with more and more people using Facebook in the same way they use, say, Yelp and TripAdvisor: as a channel for reviewing businesses and sharing their own customer experiences.

Facebook outpacing other sites in restaurant reviews and ratings

Diners, for example, are using Facebook to review and talk about their trips to restaurants. In an analysis by customer feedback software company ReviewTrackers, which took into account reviews of 250 restaurants over a 6-month period, Facebook reflected the highest growth rate in reviews, outpacing other restaurant review sites like Google, TripAdvisor, Yelp, Zomato, and Foursquare.

These numbers echo findings previously made by Social Media Link, which reported that 2 in 3 consumers were more likely to share their thoughts, experiences, and opinions on Facebook after a purchase.

ReviewTrackers conducted further analysis — this time, of over 331,920 online reviews covering more than 1,300 restaurant locations — and found that customers are also likely to leave the highest ratings on Facebook, which has an average of 4.31 stars out of 5, compared to the industry average of 3.88 stars out of 5.

Yelp and TripAdvisor, two of the most popular review sites for restaurants, average 3.46 stars and 4.04 stars out of 5, respectively.

Why the surge in Facebook reviews?

Well, it’s worth noting that, unlike other sites that filter reviews posted by new users, Facebook makes it easy to rate a business. Its review feature has a familiar interface, and from a log-in perspective, users can get started simply by clicking the Review button on a business’ Facebook Page to start writing. For better or for worse, Facebook’s review filters are also less strict.

Harnessing the power of customer reviews

Given this growth in review activity, Facebook is increasing its focus on this area and rolling out features to make itself much more than a platform for liking cute dog photos posted by friends or live-broadcasting your trip to Machu Picchu.

Facebook’s Professional Services feature, launched in 2015, offers a list of local businesses with the best reviews and ratings, helping guide users as they look for products and services in a specific geographical area.

For business owners and marketers, getting listed in Professional Services can be a game-changer, with positive reviews, 5-star ratings, and high rankings having the power to create opportunities more meaningful than a dozen likes or a link to your new company blog post can.

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Last year, Facebook also introduced friend-based recommendations, which enables a user’s friends to comment on posts that seek information, advice, and feedback on local businesses and professional services. There is also a new Recommendations bookmark on Facebook, which lets users ask a new question, help friends, and map out recommendations in one place.

These new features factor in the social component and influence that friends and family have on consumers’ purchase decisions, allowing Facebook to make a case that traditional review websites are not typically able to: would you rather trust the opinions of anonymous online reviewers over the opinions of your friends and family?

Tips and tricks for managing online reviews on Facebook

With Facebook expanding the scope of what social media can do — while challenging our traditional notions of online review sites — businesses that incorporate Facebook reviews into their social media strategy can gain a much-needed edge over the competition.

Here are some tips to help you manage online reviews on Facebook in perfect harmony with your social media marketing efforts.

Enable the Reviews feature on your Facebook Business Page.

According to a study, 80 percent of consumers are more likely to purchase from local businesses with positive reviews on their Facebook Page.

It definitely makes sense to want to build out and encourage reviews on Facebook: if you can generate positive feedback from your happiest customers, your Page can attract more people, drive sales, and do wonders for your business.

To enable the Review feature:

  • Go to Settings located at the top of your page.
  • Click Page Info and choose Local Business as your Facebook Page category. (The Review feature isn’t yet available for, say, pages for singers or actors or authors.)
  • You’ll be given an option to make your business category more specific: restaurant, café, hospital or healthcare facility, hotel, etc.
  • Click Save changes. Next, you have to add your business’ physical address or location. Again, go to Settings and click Page Info.
  • Click Address and enter the information required, then tick the box next to Show map, check-ins, and star ratings.
  • Click Save changes.

Respond to online reviews.

There is no reason to be scared of reviews. Sure, negative social media comments and 1-star ratings can sometimes feel like a punch in the gut, but the world’s most successful brands know that, in order to succeed on social media, you have to embrace and respond to what customers are saying online, even if it comes from your harshest critics and haters.

In fact, according to industry research, 78 percent of consumers feel that responsive businesses care more about their customers than those who do not respond at all to online reviews. Also, more than 50 percent of customers who have written online reviews expect a response in seven days or less. 1 in 4 have an even shorter time frame: they expect to hear back from the business within three days.

Staying highly engaged with reviewers on Facebook helps your business deliver better customer service, have more effective interactions, and achieve greater social media success. It may even pave the way for critics to give your business a second chance.

Here’s a pro tip: always remember to say thank you in your review responses. Too many reviews to respond to? You can save time by downloading these customizable review response templates.

Share your best reviews on Facebook.

If you’re consistently receiving 5-star ratings and reviews on Facebook as well as on other sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor, don’t hesitate to show them off.

Share your best reviews on your Facebook Page. The impact of content generated by real people and real customers is more powerful and effective than loud sales messages or promotional brand content.

Sharing positive reviews on social media also drowns out negative noise, and it can even make a positive impact on your search visibility.

Conclusion

Facebook is no longer just today’s most popular social network; it’s also a legitimate business discovery engine and review platform with a unique ability to connect businesses with consumers. By managing reviews, responding to feedback, and engaging with customers on Facebook, businesses can support and enhance the effectiveness of their social media strategy — and leverage the word-of-mouth power of reviews in ways that make a positive impact on the bottom line.