Google is continuing to roll out features attached to the knowledge panel that give business owners opportunities to share information with their customers and potential customers. From video uploads in MyBusiness to Menu & Services links, there’s more information than ever before available right in the Google search results. Some are even calling Google your website’s “new homepage.” As a marketer, every opportunity to get more information out there is a good one, but there’s a danger lurking here that ALL businesses need to be aware of, from small mom & pop stores & services businesses to the largest chains out there – Google’s new Q&A feature.
Within Q&A is the ability for any person signed into a Google account to ask a question of a business, and any person signed into a Google account can answer those questions. That seems like a great feature on the surface, but what happens if that question is answered by someone bashing your brand? What happens if a user types in a negative comment instead of a question? Herein lies the problem – there’s no notification system for businesses to know when there is activity on their Q&A in the Google Knowledge panel.
We’ve seen everything from gibberish posted here to users trying to make dental appointments,
mistaking this feature as live chat for the business. If you’re not actively monitoring your Q&A – there’s a real opportunity for some customers to be turned away by negative or unhelpful comments. Looking at this from a S.W.O.T (Strength, Weakness, Opportunity, Threat) standpoint can help us see the potential for good and bad here.
Using the new Q&A feature can be a real boon to your business if you can answer questions as the business owner, vote up great answers from your community, and alleviate confusion. I found a good example from my local community of business owners getting in there and being proactive in answering questions to keep information correct and timely.
John is the business owner and not only answered the question, but made it clear that he wanted to keep communicating here, so that’s a +1 for Ace Hardware in Glenwood Springs!
The weakness of the Q&A platform is it’s lack of notification system. Business owners receive no email/alert when a question or answer has been posted. That’s a real weakness as far as I’m concerned because the threat is there for negative comments or iappropriate posts. If something is not a clear Q&A, a business owner can report it to Google and get that question/answer removed…. but we can’t do that if we don’t know they’re there.
Luckily – a company Mary and I work with quite a bit has built a first-to-market notification system for Google Q&A as part of their Pro Package. Get in touch with GetFiveStars.com to see how this can work for you. A bonus is that the package also includes a great platform for monitoring your online reputation, obtaining more reviews, and keeping track of your online brand sentiment. I highly recommend looking into their system – you can manage it from your computer or your smart phone if you’re a service business and on the go a lot!
Being able to create an opportunity to communicate with your customers is a great feature of the new Q&A system. You can have coworkers or family help you “seed” questions into the Q&A system that allow you as the business owner to go in and answer them thoroughly and thoughtfully. The first step is to write out questions in the customer’s voice – what do they always ask for and how do they ask? Answer the question and get a few upvotes on your answer and you’ll see some great benefit from this feature.
You can also take the time to respond thoughtfully to questions that have less-than-helpful answers. Our local Lowes does not have fireplace mantels in stock – but they can order them in fairly quickly – so they should log in and state that. The answer of “nope” isn’t very helpful here, so taking advantage of the opportunity to answer the question shows you in a positive light.
Like I stated in the opening – there’s a huge threat to brands here if they’re not monitoring the conversation within Q&A – and as we’ve discovered, monitoring is not that easy for a busy business owner who can’t look at Google every day “just in case.” We’re seeing a ton of junk come through in these Questions – from gibberish to negative reviews, to outright trolling…. all of it can be a threat, or the potential answer can be a threat.
Use this feature to your advantage – be involved, be helpful, protect your brand and stay ahead of your competitors who aren’t likely to be paying attention to this facet of reputation & brand management!