You Can Incentivize Google Plus Reviews…Just Not in the Way You’d Think

It’s bad form to offer customers hard incentives to write you reviews.  That includes money, products, work, massages, Starbucks cards, Chuck-E-Cheese tokens, or anything else of tangible value.

On Google Plus it’s also against the rules.  For once, Google’s review policies are relatively clear:

Conflict of interest: Reviews are most valuable when they are honest and unbiased. If you own or work at a place, please don’t review your own business or employer. Don’t offer or accept money, products, or services to write reviews for a business or to write negative reviews about a competitor. If you’re a business owner, don’t set up review stations or kiosks at your place of business just to ask for reviews written at your place of business.

You can’t hold raffles or contests that reviewers can enter by writing you a review.

Then there’s the unofficial word from 20 months ago that you can’t hold review contests that donate to charity, where Google apparently stated that “Any incentive offered in return for a review of a specific business is against our policy.”  But that “policy” wasn’t part of the rules then, and it certainly isn’t now:

To encourage reviews for your business: Remind your customers to leave feedback on Google. Simply reminding customers that it’s quick and easy to leave feedback on Google on mobile or desktop can help your business stand out from sites with fewer reviews.

Even in the “Tips for writing great reviews” document there’s no such broad stance against “any incentive.”

After flip-flopping for too long, Google’s’ not only OK with your asking customers / clients directly for reviews, but also encourages you to ask.  It’s just that you can’t butter your reviewers’ bread.

So what can you do besides beg?

You appeal to the little Mr. Rogers within each of your customers.

You do it by telling customers that whichever employee, technician, hygienist, etc. who helped them will get a small bonus for any positive feedback about the job they did.

It’s not a new concept, but it’s worked like a charm for my friend and long-time client, who’s put it into practice for getting reviews on Google and elsewhere.  Here’s exactly what he tells customers:

By the way, any members of our crew who served you today will get a bonus for any positive comments you’d like to add about their performance.

This works because you’re not waving money or an Amazon gift card in reviewers’ faces.  You’re not telling them that their word – their very reputation – is worth just $25 or $50.

Rather, you’re appealing to the part of human nature that enjoys helping other people out.  You’re also deferring to your customers’ judgment.

Of course, you’re not telling reviewers to give you 5 stars.  They can write, “The prices were high, the person who answered the phone was an ogre, but at least Fred was polite and did a good job for me.”

To me, this approach is just a smart way of encouraging – not even “incentivizing” reviews.  You’re not trying to grease customers’ wheels, and you’re only asking for positive feedback to the extent that your customers feel that someone on your team earned it.  And it seems to work.

What do you think of this approach to encouraging reviews?  Have you tried it?  Leave a comment!