Positive ratings and those 5-star reviews from online consumers are powerful marketing content. Some 70% of Americans say they look at reviews before taking the next step to conversion, and 51% of consumers say they would never buy a large electronic item, such as a TV or computer, without reading at least one piece of user-generated content.

Quite simply, consumers trust other consumers for purchasing advice.

Many marketers have realized the power of ratings and reviews to drive sales from their websites, but few have extended such user-generated content across their social marketing programs.

That's a shame, because positive ratings and reviews are extremely valuable social content that can be amplified across the social Web.

To exponentially increase the value of ratings and reviews, every marketer should include positive customer comments in their social marketing programs across social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

So how can you get all those great ratings and reviews off your website and into the social content stream, in an efficient, measurable way at scale?

Here are three concrete tips to get you started with integrating ratings and reviews into your social marketing.

1. Get organized

One of the biggest challenges with using ratings and reviews in your social marketing programs is managing the content at scale. Your customers could be creating dozens or even hundreds of reviews per week on your site, as well as on third-party review sites, and it's tough to keep on top of all that activity.

The first step is to create a process to integrate ratings and reviews into your social media marketing platform. That way, you can manage, monitor, and automatically distribute reviews on key social channels alongside other user-generated content.

Once a positive review is part of the social conversation, the powerful endorsement can go to work for you to generate engagement and boost sales.

2. Respond, react, and re-engage

The vast majority of reviews are positive, but sometimes customers voice legitimate gripes or concerns. When a review is negative—either about your product/service or your brand—you must react quickly and reach out to the disgruntled customer.

Likely, you are already adept at calming the rare upset customer by offering a discount, free replacement, or other incentive. But don't forget that these "negative" reviews can actually turn out to be positive customer service experiences.

Of course, you'll highlight positive reviews across your social stream, but distributing only 100% glowing reviews can make your company look inauthentic. Try selecting a few less-than-stellar reviews to share on Twitter, Facebook, or another social network, highlighting how you fixed the problem and thanking the customer for the honest feedback.

The goal is to use reviews to engage customers in an honest two-way dialogue that keeps them coming back, so don't automatically discount every negative review.

3. Monitor and measure

Populating your social stream with review content is just the first step. Then, you have to measure the impact of that content on brand engagement and sales in much the same way you measure the impact of other user-generated content on overall marketing ROI.

Make sure you're tracking the impact of specific review content on engagement and conversion via your social media marketing platform. If you're using reviews as both social content and paid ads, measure which campaigns drive the biggest sales and engagement impact, so you can then optimize distribution of reviews.

The best way to measure the impact of review content when you publish it to social networks or include it in a paid ad is to tag the review by product, product page URL, category, keyword, location (and other tags, if appropriate). Doing so will allow you to determine what's working and what's not.

Once you've got a smooth process in place for monitoring and including review content across your social programs, you can optimize the program via social network targeting:

  • Use your social media management platform to publish relevant review content based on your fans' and followers' social connections, interests, or locations.
  • Use paid advertising on social networks to include relevant review content in ads and reach highly targeted groups that are apt to be interested in the products reviewed.

For example, fans on your Facebook page who love camping will be highly likely to respond to a paid ad or post that includes a positive review of a tent or camp stove.

* * *

Once you get started with harnessing reviews across your social programs, there's no end to what you can do with this valuable content.

When your customers say great things about your products or services, amplify that praise as much as possible to gain maximum impact.

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How to Integrate Ratings and Reviews Into Your Social Marketing Programs

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image of Shoma Sarkar

Shoma Sarkar is product marketing manager at Spredfast, a leading independent social marketing software provider. Reach her via ssarkar@spredfast.com.

Twitter: @shoma617