Monday, November 11, 2013

Facebook's "New" Star Rating for Small Businesses Set to be a Gamechanger

By Vin Ferrer / Social Media Strategist, NJ Marketing Agency, Graphic D-Signs, Inc.

Seeing Stars? Facebook's latest change is star ratings for desktop viewers.

Less than a week ago, Facebook began unrolling a new 5-star rating feature for small businesses. Like large online software services and utilities often do, Facebook unleashed these changes without warning or announcement. Small businesses nationwide need to be made aware of just what implications this rating system carries with it. So we're here to shed some light on the situation:

Why Did They Do This? 

The star rating system is not a new feature, but instead one that just got moved from the mobile to desktop version. Facebook users since 2012 have had the option to rate your business via mobile device. Some businesses may have utilized this facet more than others, but predominantly, users did not fully take advantage of this function. Mobile check-ins and ratings were areas where users went to other channels like Foursquare of Twitter to announce and discuss.

However, Facebook is a powerhouse thinker and innovator. They're out to steer you away from those utilities, competing for more eyeballs. And as a business, they are also in the data mining industry--selling your gathered profile information anonymously to third parties for a premium. A new rating system allows them to sway a bit more traffic their way and better refine those profiles. It also gets small businesses more serious about social media in the process.

What Do 5-Star Ratings Mean For My Small Business?

For small business brands who can't afford to payoff huge data management firms to instantly attain 5 stars (unethical, yet to be expected), the game just got a bit more complex.

The star rating is prominent, appearing in blue just below your company name and right above the smaller number of likes, people talking about this, and people who have checked-in metrics shown in light grey.

Now Facebook puts a great deal of strategic thought into their user-friendly-focused design, so we are safely able to view this change with a marketing lens. The size and location of the star rating suggests a new focus for Timeline visitors and a bit of a lessened emphasis on "Likes," which oftentimes can be emotionless and ambiguous. This article by TechCrunch explains why. The very light level of grey gradient used to denote the absence of a star or part of a star serves to put an initial emphasis on the amount had and not the amount lacking. However, the overall positioning of this metric (immediately left of the profile picture and just below the profile banner) negate that attempt at lessening a poor rating's impact. Combined with society's need for best in class, ultra premium quality, a "some rather than none" attitude will not suffice. Small businesses need to get as close to 5 stars as possible.

Businesses in good standing within their immediate online communities will be sure to achieve a high rating right off the bat. This star rating will coax a new need to better interact and meet the needs of customers through social media--something social marketing mavens like Gary Vaynerchuk believe should be treated with the same importance as an in-person customer interaction.  

What's Bound to Happen? 

One of two things will come from this:

More than likely, Facebook's newest metric will create a momentary jolt for small business owners and entrepreneurs, a call-to-action of sorts to get their services in gear and remedy a way to get that rating fully filled as quickly as possible. Big brands will enlist expert third parties to "fluff" the average and manipulate outward consumer appearance--in much the same fashion as those companies discovered to have been paying for fake YouTube views in an effort to add a few million views to their videos, thus boosting the potential impact of said videos. To keep up, small businesses will need to put a greater emphasis on brand reputation management and engaging in the already-present conversation about their brand.

Less than likely? Facebook will drop the rating system all together, try their best to shrug off the defeat, and find another magical metric for small businesses to have to deal with. Since the 5-star rating has been in place for so long, and given the added burden of meeting shareholder quotas, this major move is likely to stick.

What's a Small Business Owner to Do? 

Firstly, don't panic. While this new metric is slowly being unveiled, one segment at a time, it will ultimately be on everybody's plate. Knowing is half the battle, so good job for already making yourself aware. High-five!

Next, you need to recognize social media's importance if you haven't already. Now, an even more complex and substantial rating system is coming your way. You can meet this challenge head on, or watch it start sucking the life out of your online presence. Your choice.

Thirdly, you can have a big effect on this metric. If it's low, you might not be meeting the needs and expectations of customers. Turn the conversation back to them, ask "how can we better our brand?" and start steering your ship to that goal. The quicker, more appropriate, and more qualified service you can provide, the greater your customer satisfaction will be.

Lastly, endure! Nearly all social media initiatives take time to see fruition. If things don't seem to be changing, don't lose heart but instead try an alternative way. Think about enlisting qualified experts to capture your voice and manage your content creation or your entire channel for that matter.