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"I want the family farm - the backbone of our country's heritage - to thrive and survive for future generations."

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Websites with Online Reviews
Give Your Business Feedback

By Jane Eckert

Before the Internet the only way we really knew what our customer’s were thinking about our business was by asking them or hearing their feedback at the checkout. Of course, it was easy for a disgruntled customer to leave our business and never give us any direct feedback.  They would just go home and begin to spread negative word of mouth  comments about a recent visit and we would never know that it had even happened and had no way of rectifying the situation.

Now, with the speed of the Internet that has changed and we must recognize that negative comments once shared online are seen by the Universe. I was contacted this fall by a farm that had received a negative posting on their Facebook page and they wanted to know whether to respond or just ignore the comment.

I would suggest you always respond. It is never wise to leave a negative comment about your business without a reply by you.  Whether you feel the comment was fair or not it is important to let the reviewer and your followers know that you have read this posting and are listening. While the social networks like Facebook have been a boom for many of you that have participated, it is important to monitor your guest feedback and listen because we can often improve our guest services through these comments.

One of the largest online consumer business review sites is www.yelp.com and they had over 38 million visitors in August 2010 both posting and reading reviews from others. Yelp is a website to connect people with local businesses and to share their experiences.  Just like you might ask a friend or neighbor to recommend a local doctor or restaurant the Yelp site is an online referral website.  If you have not visited this website it is an absolute must.

As a business owner you can post and create a “free” page on Yelp about your business with a comprehensive description, hours, announce events, special offer, post pictures and more.  Then when someone wants to find an apple orchard or pumpkin patch on Yelp your listing will appear. Visitors can come on to the Yelp site and post comments and rate their recent visit to your business and everyone can read these postings.  Whether you participate on Yelp or not visitors will be writing reviews about your business and it certainly is better to be proactive than inactive.

Other online review websites that you will want to research include www.citysearch.com, www.cityvoter.com , www.tripadvisor.com and www.gocitykids.parentsconnect.com to see if reviews have been posted about your business.

Google Places Now Premier Search Option

Take the time to go to your computer now to learn about a new and improved search feature from Google that has grouped online reviews written about your farm on one page.  It’s actually a new tool that Google introduced to replace the Business Listing pages to Google Place pages.

For example, type in the search words “Michigan apple orchards” and the regular search results appear as well as a new “left hand column” of expanded search options.  Click on More and you will see the Places icon along with a red balloon. Now click here to see all of the orchards listed and it shows you the number of Reviews posted about your farm.  

Take the time now to go to www.google.com/places and create or edit your own online Google business listing.  The Google Places search feature will now become the one stop page for a consumer to find out all they want to know about your type of local business. If you don’t appear or the information is not complete then the consumer will go on to the next listing.

Google Places also allows you to post information about your business, photos, video and much more. The winter is certainly the best time to increase your understanding of these online review sites and create positive information for your business.

The tools of the Internet keep changing and it’s important you stay involved and educated on the next steps to improve your Internet presence. I can keep you posted but you need to do the work.

Jane Eckert is the founder of Eckert AgriMarketing (www.eckertagrimarketing.com), a full-service marketing and public relations firm that helps farmers to sell directly to consumers, diversify operations and become tourist destinations. She is also CEO of www.RuralBounty.com, a search directory for agritourism farms and ranches in North America. Jane can be reached at 314-862-6288 or you may email her directly.