Letting your customers talk: integrate comments into your website

People are nervous about what they say in online spaces, and rightly so. Our internet-record is likely to follow us for years and years, so what we put out there today could come back to haunt us in the future.

Businesses and organizations have another worry—they worry about what others say about them. With the potential for spreading bad or false information, the internet (and more specifically social media) can certainly create problems for businesses unfairly tarnished by unhappy or unsatisfied customers.

This could be the primary reason why many small business owners I know are hesitant to include some type of commenting system on their websites. After all, if they allow customers to provide feedback—either in the form of ratings or comments—those customers might provide negative feedback. That negative feedback could, therefore, affect the decision-making of future customers.

The safe choice for many who feel this way is to simply avoid it: provide no public mechanism for criticizing or complaining.

To be fair these concerns are legitimate. Nobody like criticism; and it is especially disconcerting when it could interfere with one’s livelihood.

But the unfortunate part is these commenting and rating systems also provide public mechanisms for celebrating the business, product or service, and without them small businesses are missing the opportunity to let others advocate their brand for them.

Recent studies by the Nielsen Company and others have shown that over 70% of online customers trust the advice from others when making a purchasing decision. They trust the opinion of others more than they do the business, the business’ advertising or any type of marketing the business does.

The upshot is that comments and ratings on your site—whether they be about news, events and articles, or about your products and services—could be the easiest method of compelling others to purchase from you or use your services. Though there is a risk of negative feedback the risk is worth it to gain the advocacy of customers—to get them to sell for you.

And in all honesty, if reviews are consistently terrible, then you may want to listen to them and change the way you are doing business.

The easiest methods to integrate these tools are to use mechanisms that are free to use, and which integrate into existing social media platforms.

One commenting system is Facebook-based, and Facebook makes the code easy to place on your website, easy to understand and then use. The nice part about using a Facebook commenting system is that when a comment is made, the commenter’s Facebook friends are notified about the comment, thereby spreading your message.

Another mechanism is called Disqus (disqus.com). Like Facebook it is easy to add to a site, and users can sign in through a number of platforms, including Facebook and Twitter. Unlike Facebook, Disques lets you moderate the comments and it will also notify people on the different social media platforms when a comment is made.

There are a number more that you can investigate, but if you spend even a small amount of time looking you are sure to find a system that works well for you.

The point is that you should provide a feedback mechanism, a way for customers and clients to interact with you. Don’t be afraid of putting your brand out there for criticism. It may be scary at first, but the outcome is worth overcoming that fear.

Word One Consulting
clint @ wordoneconsulting.com
2263 S. Main
Las Cruces, NM 88005