When was the last time you tried a new restaurant without reading online reviews? In today’s social media connected world, consumers won’t go to a movie or book a stay at a hotel or even go to an amusement park without the thumbs up from online strangers. I have no idea about the psychology behind why I won’t try something new without getting the endorsement of others, but if I read a bad online review I will steer clear of that establishment. What is the worst thing that could happen? Maybe I’ll miss a meal? Or have to endure subpar service? Or maybe the music will be too loud…first world problems!

According to a 2016 research study conducted through the Local Consumer Review Survey, 84% of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation. “I know you like Zaxby’s, Grandma, but Trustworthy1924 says that Chick-Fil-A is better.”

In the world of credit unions, we have always enjoyed the benefits of great word of mouth from our delighted members. It’s more powerful than any message we can tell using traditional marketing channels. So how are we leveraging the power of online reviews? Is your credit union actively managing this by engaging members to provide feedback on review sites when they have a positive experience? Or are you using a more passive approach by responding when reviews are not so good?

Consumers are not the only group to look for online endorsements. Job seekers are also relying on sites such as Glassdoor to determine where to invest their talents. Negative reviews from current or former employees can squash  a Human Resources Department’s chance of attracting top talent to their organization; positive reviews can be an advantage in attracting the best candidates to your credit union.

Assessing and managing online reviews from members, employees, potential members and potential employees is a critical component of any social media strategy. The reputation risk of negative reviews is far too serious for credit unions to ignore or to manage passively. And maybe more importantly, not harnessing the benefits of great feedback because of lack of a strategy related to online reviews is a waste of great opportunity.

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