The overwhelming majority of advice for course entrepreneurs is centered around things that you can control. For example, customize your course website to match your brand! Or, use email marketing tactics that really work!
Sure, you can choose to publish what you want on your website and figure out which channels are best for finding learners. However, there are also some things that can really help you build your brand and that entrepreneurs often feel powerless over: reviews of their online courses.
Indeed, social proof is powerful, and it can really help build credibility and establish yourself as an expert. It can also give you anxiety since, let’s face it, nobody likes being so vulnerable in front of online strangers, basically.
How to manage your online course reviews
Some entrepreneurs can go about not knowing what it’s said about them online or just assume that they’d be tagged in everything and eventually find out. This is a rookie mistake because you’re also missing opportunities to engage, gain more learners, and generally put yourself out there where your target audience is.
Plus, you know what’s worse than a negative review? No review at all.
The best part is that you have more control than you think. The process of managing your online presence and course reviews can be a relatively simple one.
Let’s see how it’s done:
Monitor your online brand
You can’t be everywhere all of the time, hitting the refresh button for new comments. That’s why the first step is to monitor everything related to your online brand. You can find mentions of your name, business name, courses, etc., which really helps you track any reviews.
The easiest way to accomplish this is by setting up your Google Alerts, so you receive an email each time something relevant pops up.
And while Google Alerts is free to use, some entrepreneurs may want better filters, results, and analytics related to their mentions. There are many media management tools such as Brand24 or Talkwalker if you want something more sophisticated.
Try review sites listing
Small businesses can find it hard to get their foot in the door and get more reviews. That’s why you can expand your strategy by listing your business or courses on specific websites related to e-learning or your industry/niche.
At the same time, whenever you advertise a course on an external website, try to figure out if you can control your listing, which means changing the details and replying to comments and reviews. That’s because it’s best to be able to answer people’s questions and address their concerns directly, be it from positive or negative reviews.
Ask for a review
Just the other day, the guy that delivered my takeout said, “Can you please leave a review on the app?”. I order food about once a week and never thought about it.
Don’t be afraid to ask for reviews. The worst that can happen is that they do nothing or say no. This goes for your website ratings and reviews, which you manage yourself, comments from external website listings, or wherever you want or need to showcase more social proof.
It can be as simple as asking nicely through an email. Alternatively, you can make this an announcement and pin it in your course newsfeed or group. You can also ask happy customers to leave a review, especially if you’ve recently helped them with something. They’ll feel more compelled to reciprocate the favor.
As for me? Of course, I gave a 5-star review to the guy who brought me lunch.
Building rapport with reviewers
It’s so easy to get caught up in negative feedback, thinking of ways to reply to them, so much so that you forget about the good ones! To engage with learners, make sure to reply to all reviews, even if it’s to say a simple “Thank you!” to the positive ones.
As for the negative feedback, automated responses work best with emails, not public reviews. Although it’s good to have a template of sorts for quickly responding to reviews, they have to be personalized for every situation and person. If you copy and paste responses, people will know.
Answer honestly and openly to their concerns. You don’t even have to add arguments or explain the side of the story all the time. A simple “Thank you for your feedback!” and offering a solution to their problem can be enough.
Engaging bloggers and influencers
If there are other types of websites that mention your courses, such as a blog, proceed with caution. You don’t want to start a “war” on their home turf, where their readers are most likely to “side” with them, even if they don’t have all their facts straight.
It’s tempting to take each argument that they make and start dismantling it. However, be ready to admit that they might also be right in some regards. A condescending tone is also inappropriate, as well as personal attacks.
Instead, you can leave a comment asking politely for clarification, showing that you are open to suggestions. If there’s something that they did get wrong, make sure to adjust your tone accordingly. For example, “You’re wrong about…” can become “From my experience and knowledge, I arrived at this conclusion…”
In most cases, even if it’s a small blog or a person with many social media followers, they might be glad to have a private conversation with you. Who knows, they might actually help you promote your business later.
Remove fake reviews
Everyone can leave a review. That includes someone from your competition. While you may not expect this from a fellow course creator, sadly, it might happen. Otherwise, some people may just leave negative reviews just because they could never figure out how to sign up, which doesn’t make them your learners.
People like reading reviews before a purchase, but you can never be sure of their authenticity. Most learners will see through suspicious ones, but others might not realize that some are misleading.
That’s why you can ask to remove fake reviews if you know for sure that they aren’t genuine. You can always reach out to the listing websites or curate them yourself on social media or your course website.
Publish or keep negative reviews
Yes, you’ve read that right. Whenever potential learners read only positive course reviews, they’ll become suspicious. It just looks fake to them.
For example, a course creator with 50 reviews and an average rating of 4.5 looks more genuine than someone with ten comments and a rating of 5. So, keeping lukewarm to negative reviews actually makes your course look better.
Remember that a negative review here and there, on your course website, or social media won’t turn people off completely. Deleting reviews will also only antagonize people, and it’ll make you lose them as learners.
Keep an eye out for similar comments
So, let’s say you receive a Google Alerts notification, and an issue is signaled by someone on your Facebook page. The next day, the same thing happens, but it’s on a course listing site.
In this case, you can see that there is a pattern that’s clearly bothering people. Maybe your quizzes contain some errors, maybe some parts can be explained in a more straightforward way, or they want the course discussion groups to be better moderated.
This means that you have valuable feedback to improve your courses. You can keep track of the issues and even save their comments in a document so you can fix things later.
Give a free-if-not-satisfied option
Here’s the truth. Customers rarely act through on money-back guarantees. However, this thing offers a sense of security, especially when you offer a pricier course.
Usually, it’s a marketing tactic, and you might not even get to use it, but it’s a good idea to handle negative reviews by giving people this option in some cases.
For example, if the learner is extra difficult and doesn’t want to solve the problem any other way, your time is better spent elsewhere. For example, if they refuse a discount on another course, they might just take the money and be satisfied with this final solution.
Your online reputation matters. Burying your head in the sand or going to extremes to prove your worth online doesn’t do you any good. The way to build credibility is step by step, being professional, and turning reviews into an opportunity to improve your business.
All course entrepreneurs need to be able to handle reviews, and these pro tricks can take your strategy to a whole new level!
Ioana believes that learning doesn’t stop when school stops. When she is not writing about learning and ed tech, she can usually be seen reading a book and drinking lots of coffee.