Making it count: Writing & reading online reviews

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MILWAUKEE (WITI) — Looking for a cool new restaurant? Or, are you afraid it's a dive? It's always a good idea to check reviews online. They can open your eyes to new places or give you insight on some of your favorite spots.

Oscar's Pub and Grill on Pierce St. is packed during the lunch hour. You'd have no idea it is off the beaten path.

"There's no traffic. There's no foot traffic. There's no business across the street," explains the owner, Oscar Castaneda.

He credits his good online reputation for his bustling business.

"Yelp has been great for us because they're telling people where we are," Oscar Castaneda says.

Yelp is one of the best known online review sites. However, there are plenty of places to look for reviews on the internet, but if you're writing them it's important to remember you have an audience.

"For Milwaukeens to the take time to tell our story on a platform where tons of visitors are using it to make decisions about where to spend their money is insanely critical for the city," says Rachel Fell, the Senior Community Manager and Marketing Director for Yelp Milwaukee.

Evolution Gastro Pong officials know just how critical reviews can be.

"It's a great opportunity to look at those things and make corrections the customers really want," says Katie Ryan Pluer, Director of Sales and Marketing for Evolution Gastro Pong.

So, how do you make reviews count?

First, give users feedback that's helpful.

"Maybe there's a 2-for-1 beer special on Tuesday nights or 50¢ wings on Thursdays," suggests Rachel Fell.

Also, put a name and face with your review.

"Credibility is a really big deal. We really want people to use real names, real photos and just kind of give feedback that's helpful and diplomatic and constructive whether that's positive or negative," reveals Rachel Fell.

If you are having a negative experience, don't let your emotions take over. Instead, take a step back and take your time to create a constructive review.

"Definitely point out some flaws or things that they could improve upon, but be nice," explains Rachel Fell.

Believe it or not, in many cases, business officials are reading.

"We take them very seriously and try to make any adjustments that work within our business model," Katie Ryan says.

"Come back and give us another chance and we promise we're going to work on it," says Oscar Castaneda.

Remember, also, when you're reading reviews — they're not created equal.

"You're looking for sushi and come across a place. You can see it has 500 reviews -- 500…and you see that they're upset because they don't serve cheeseburgers at that sushi restaurant. Well, you're not going to take that review seriously," Rachel Fell gives as an example.

"We had a review, I think it was on Yelp actually, that there were too many ping pong balls around," says Director of Events at Evolution Gastro Pong, Natasa Jones.

So, whether you're reading or writing reviews, be honest and consider the big picture — local businesses depend on it.

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