Managing comments on Tripadvisor

One of the most consistent queries one receives as a marketing consultant is: ‘How do I manage negative comments on TripAdvisor?’

The simple truth is that in the digital world, you’re going to get lambasted by someone, somewhere, at some time. In the old days, that was OK – the lambaster was kind of confined to his or her circle of acquaintances. And if he or she was looking for a wider audience, that would have meant paying for advertising, and that would have cost actual money. But if you shouted loudly enough (through your advertising budget and via your public relations consultants), you could drown their message with yours.

The problem being, of course, that advertising and PR have never been as effective as word of mouth, and the lambaster’s lambastings would still have hurt.

If you knew about them.

Sadly, only the goalposts have moved: speech really is free these days, and any nutjob with access to the net can try and ruin your reputation by going on line and posting negative comments about you.

Fortunately though, you (although you might not think so at the time, especially since your ego will be hurting) have the upper hand – if, of course, your establishment is as good as you think it is.

It’s all about *managing* your *overall* reputation – and that means understanding that, while you can’t win every skirmish, you can win the war.

This is where sites like TripAdvisor become your friends.

Most readers who do their research on TripAdvisor will read a variety of reviews, and if most of the reviews about you are positive – you’ve won the war.

Note that I said *most* and not *all* – this is so because if all your reviews are positive it could actually count against you, since the reader might think that you’re actively involved in talking yourself up. (But beware – although you can and should ask your guests to post reviews, you’re strictly not allowed to incentivise them to do so: if TripAdvisor thinks you’re doing that, it could take action to block you.)

A spread of mostly good / some poor reviews shows that you’re for real, and somehow makes you more accessible. It’s called the ‘wisdom of the crowd’ – and it’s all about how you manage this wisdom.

The primary factors that affect a property’s ranking in TripAdvisor’s popularity index? – according to the company’s Social Media Program Manager, April Robb: “the quantity of reviews, how well those reviews rate the property, and how current the reviews are.”

So what should you do?

Ask your guests to rate and review your property on TripAdvisor (but don’t offer them an incentive – like upgrades or discounts – to do so. That would affect their impartiality). Remind them about this on departure – and in your follow-up e-mail – and then hope for the best.

It may sound like a weak strategy, but it isn’t: if you’ve exceeded their expectations, guests will want to reward you in some way – and over time, your on-line reputation will grow.

Still, there’s no quick fix here – although, as Ms. Robb says, if you do feel that a review is fraudulent or fictitious, you can “either make use of the Review Dispute form in the Owners’ Center or … report the review via the ‘Report Inappropriate’ link at the bottom of each review.”

And you can also post a management response, of course (the best kind – “thank you for bringing this to our attention, and this is what we’re doing to address the problem…”).

In fact, you should post a management response, because – Ms. Robb again – “We often hear from travelers that how a property responds to criticism has more influence on their booking decision than the criticism itself.”

And therein lies the rub.

Yes, this is about your response to individual posts and reviews – but, more importantly, it’s about your strategy as a whole.

My quotes from April Rob come from Daniel Edward Craig’s interview with her – it’s definitely worth a read.

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