What Are People Saying About Your Nonprofit Online?

what are people saying about your nonprofit onlineYou may think you’re too small or don’t have the staff (or the time) to have an online presence.  But you may already have one without being aware of it.

Online review sites are very popular.  If you have a physical site that attracts visitors, people are already talking about you online. Sites like Yelp often focus on restaurants, but they also include museums and other cultural attractions.  And Trip Advisor is packed with reviews of museums. Anyone can submit reviews of places they’ve visited, sharing their likes and dislikes and giving ratings.

Let’s take a look at some of the online review sites you should be keeping an eye on.

Yelp – More focused on restaurants but also includes cultural attractions.  Reviewers rate institutions on a scale of 1 to 5 stars.

Google Places – Google Places is now incorporated into Google+.  Users can upload their own photos of their visit.  The ratings are from 0 (poor to fair) to 3 (excellent).  Google Places also pulls in Zagat reviews.

Yahoo Local and Citysearch – Both operate on a similar basis.  You can submit reviews directly on each site.  Each also pulls in review information from other sites.

Trip Advisor – Because it’s centered around travel, it had the most reviews per institution of all the sites listed here.

The good news is that you aren’t helpless.  Each of the sites above provides ways for owners of each institution to participate.  Here’s what you need to do.

1.  Claim your business.  No matter what site, you need to claim your business.  This gives you an opportunity to fill in the mission and background of your institution, hours of operation, special features, add photos, etc.  Most review sites let owners claim their business page for free.

2.  Respond to comments.  All of the review sites mentioned above will allow owners to respond to reviews. This allows you the opportunity for a fuller explanation of a perceived problem or some service recovery.  I checked several medium and large museums in the Detroit area.  None had responded to any of the reviews for their institution, even the negative ones.  There were at least two complaints about dirty exhibits at one museum; no response from the institution.  The Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) was recently successful in getting a millage passed for operating funds — but it wasn’t popular. I found reviews that were complaints about the millage – not a review of the facility itself.  Yet there was no response from the DIA.  Also, because of the millage, the DIA expanded its operating hours.  None of the review sites  have been updated to reflect the new hours.

3.  Don’t game the system.  A few businesses have been caught trying to “buy” their way to better reviews – encouraging customers to modify a poor review in exchange for some monetary gift.  Don’t ever attempt to do this.  All of the review sites take great pains to make sure their service is as objective as possible. Usually what will happen is a business will reach out to a reviewer who gave a poor review and attempt to get them to change the review.  This then prompts the reviewer to go back online and talk about the “bribery.”  It’s not worth the potential damage.  Respond to the negative comments directly on each site; you can’t change the review but you can at least state your side of the issue.

Take a few minutes right now to see if your institution shows up on these sites. Be proactive about your online presence – no matter where it lives – to maintain your reputation.