Per an announcement on its Lat Long blog, Google is now allowing businesses to respond to consumer reviews within Google Places listings. Google Places, formerly known as the Local Business Center, was launched in April and provides businesses with the ability to get found, communicate with customers and provide real-time updates and offers.
Prior to Google Places, a brand’s local business information was viewable only in a Google Map bubble within search results. With the advent Google Places, a permanent HTML page and Google web address become available for places and businesses (see images below).
Caption: Google Map listing with reviews (appears within search results)
Caption: Google Place Pages are permanent HTML pages that contain additional information about venues, as well as maps, photos, reviews and more.
Google Maps reviews, aggregated from several sources across the web, provide an overview of chatter around a particular business or point of interest – but users can also share reviews directly on the Place Page of any venue. Now, businesses can publish official responses to the feedback within their Place Pages.
As of yesterday, verified business owners can publicly respond to reviews submitted by Google Maps users at the Place Page for their business. This presents an opportunity for brands to enter two-way conversations with consumers – whether that’s by engaging vocal advocates or providing a direct response to customer complaints.
Caption: Example business response (via the Google blog)
How and when brands should respond to feedback on sites like Google Places and Yelp largely depends on if and when they have the resources to handle what could be a large-scale endeavor. Consumers tend to view personalized responses from brands on social platforms as an unexpected bonus – and the necessity for businesses to respond depends on the platform and the behaviors taking place on said platform. For example, consumers might be more likely to expect (and receive) a response by reaching out to a brand on Twitter vs. through a Google Place Page or Yelp listing.
Brands and businesses that do opt to respond should set parameters around how and when – and then not stop. Once you’re present in a community, continuity matters. Others will expect you to always be there and if you respond a few times and leave, you run the risk of falling short of consumer expectations.
When approached the right way, conversation and responsiveness can be powerful ways for businesses to grow followers or inspire advocacy through individuals’ social graphs. Simply put, consumers will be more willing to reach out to brands that are willing to engage. By fostering conversation, media sharing and feedback, brands can increase exposure and reach, empowering an enthusiastic community of fans.
For more information on Google Places be sure to read our past articles on the topic:
- Under the Hood of Google Places: A Look at Google’s Revamped Local Search Offering
- Exploring Google Places Redux: User Interaction, Features and Limitations
Katie Perry contributed to this report.