It’s a topic we’ve revisited again and again: good reviews equal better business, with seemingly endless amounts of data that point to the power of positive comments on platforms like Google and Yelp. For example, we’ve shown how responding to positive reviews can help your agency drive more revenue, revealed that more than half of consumers won’t use businesses who ignore their reviews, and even shared the optimum number of stars your business should be rated to appeal to potential customers online. (Hint: it isn’t necessarily a perfect 5 stars!)
There’s no debate that positive buzz around your brand, whether it’s shared online or in person, makes consumers more likely to trust (and try) your business — just one of the many ways that positive reviews can give your brand a boost. But while there are obvious benefits to positive reviews, it’s harder to see how negative comments or ratings could help your brand. So you might be surprised to learn about the results of a recent Canadian study, which revealed some conditions where negative reviews can actually increase consumer interest in a product.
We’ll take a closer look at these findings and what they could mean for your agency in this week’s blog post, along with some other ways you can leverage less-than-glowing reviews to help influence consumers to feel more positive and receptive toward your brand. Read on to learn more about why bad reviews can sometimes be good news for your business, plus pick up some tips for how you can use negative comments to put a positive spin on your company.
Research Published in Journal of Marketing Shows Negative Reviews Can Be Beneficial for Businesses
As our readers already know, it’s critical for your business to have the greatest quantity possible of detailed, recent, and authentic positive reviews. Not only will a sufficient quantity of positive reviews send signals that consumers can trust and rely on your brand; it may also help from an SEO standpoint, enabling you to reach a wider audience by ranking higher in local Google searches, a topic we wrote about here. (For more detail, you can also go straight to the source and read Google’s tips on improving your local ranking — which happen to include responding to reviews.)
It’s reasonable to assume that negative reviews must be as harmful as positive reviews are helpful — an effect that may be amplified even more in industries like healthcare and automotive services, according to some research. But while it’s true that poor reviews can sway consumers against your brand and make it harder to rank competitively, there’s also data to indicate that — under the right set of circumstances — some negative reviews may actually be useful or desirable. So what are these circumstances, where does the data come from, and what bearing does it have on your business?
The research was conducted earlier this year by the UBC Sauder School of Business, which is part of the University of British Columbia in Canada. According to associate professor Dr. Lisa Cavanaugh, one of the co-authors of the research, which was published in April in the Journal of Marketing, “[W]hen negative comments come from a socially distant source, a negative review actually increases purchase intentions — and that is a game-changer,” challenging conventional assumptions that “when people say positive things, purchase interest increases, and when people say negative things, purchase interest decreases.”
Cavanaugh highlights personal identification with brands as a potential explanation for these findings, explaining, “When a reviewer leaves a disparaging comment about an identity-relevant brand, consumers feel compelled to protect the brand, and by extension, themselves, by scrutinizing the source of the negative review.” Interestingly, these effects seemed to be more pronounced when the reviewer belonged to a different demographic, or posted from a geographically distant location, from the consumer who was reading the negative review.
As Cavanaugh points out, this research highlights the importance of “forging strong brand relationships with customers.” Regardless of what industry you’re part of, who makes up your customer base, or how many locations you manage, any business can achieve this objective more successfully by actively engaging with its reviewers — including those who were less than thrilled by the product or service they initially received.
On an interesting side note, these findings seem to echo prior research from Harvard, which found that “unfair negative reviews naturally elicit empathy” — and that empathy actually “leads to positive outcomes for the reviewed company, such as increased purchase and patronage. In some cases,” the Harvard Business Review concluded, “these unfair negative reviews can sometimes help reviewed companies just as much as positive reviews.”
Looking for a Reputation Management Platform Built for Agencies and Brands? Schedule a Demo of Our Review Response Service
In order to reap the maximum benefit from negative online reviews, it’s critical for your business to write and publish appropriate review responses. So what review reply strategies should you follow? And, maybe even more importantly, what are some mistakes that you should avoid?
Read our tips for responding to 1-star reviews and learn about leveraging negative feedback — or, simply let our team handle the work for you! Our 24-hour response scribe service provides your agency and brand with personalized, on-brand replies to all ratings and reviews that your clients receive, seamlessly integrating all locations and listings into a centralized, secure, and easy-to-manage reputation management platform that allows you to edit responses, request revisions, see data reports, and more.
Emily Homrok is a freelance copywriter with more than seven years of writing experience. She joined the Shout About Us team as a content strategist in 2020.