Sarah Drinkwater is UK Community Manager at local listings and review site Qype. 

I’ve been talking to Sarah about the challenges of the role, how businesses should respond to negative reviews online, and how local businesses can use Qype effectively. 

Can you describe your role at Qype? What are your typical tasks & duties?

I’m the community manager for Qype’s UK site, so I’m in charge of a team working to keep Qypers happy! That involves overseeing our editorial content (including newsletters, blogs and social media), moderation, engagement and organising real-world events. 

Day to day, my work varies hugely. Right now, I’m organising our summer party (keep an eye on our Twitter if you’d like to come along) and putting together a top-secret proposal for a partnership and competition with a great brand. 

It is a really busy job, especially because we engage with our community both online and offline, running regular events across the UK. 

What are the major challenges associated with your role? Is much of your time taken up with moderation? How do you approach this issue? 

In general, the biggest challenge with community management is that it’s such a new role, and one which seems to vary hugely from company to company. Some community managers work mostly in moderation and customer support, and others are essentially out there acting as the brand at all times.

I’ve been called everything from an editor (as an ex-journalist, this is a term I can handle!) to a brand advocate, but I think the truth is that any community manager has to be a jack of all trades. 

As our site’s so large, we do, as a team, spend a lot of time on moderation, whether it’s deleting inappropriate content, answering every feedback email or just making sure Qypers are heard. 

How is Qype doing in the UK? Can you share some numbers? 

I can only give out European-wide figures, I’m afraid. Last month, we had 42m page views, 20m visits and 17m unique users. As the UK is Qype’s second largest site, I think it’s fair to say we’re having a really good year so far!  

How are people using Qype? What is the split between mobile and desktop? 

Right now, it’s about 90% desktop and 10% mobile, but the skew towards mobile is growing every day. Our mobile and app statistics are just what you’d expect; peak times are weekends and evenings with users performing hyper-local searches. 

What do you do to encourage user interaction and feedback on Qype? 

In terms of user feedback, we try to be as easy to access as possible and every new user is added to either mine or one of my team’s profiles so they can contact us with any questions or problems.

It takes time to reply to every single user email we get but it’s worth it. With no community, we’d have no Qype. 

Encouraging user interaction is simple, really, as most people love sharing their opinion. This week for example, we’ve been crowdsourcing the best burger joints in Ireland, just in case Obama got homesick. 

What kinds of advice can you give businesses when it comes to responding to feedback and criticism they receive online?

The main thing is you can’t ignore it. The recession has meant that consumers are increasingly fussy about how and where they spend their hard-earned pennies.

Add our love of sharing our opinion, and the popularity of a user generated review site like Qype is obvious, users want to reward great places or services and publicly criticise bad ones.

Businesses are often shocked that they’ve been added to the site but that’s why reputation management is essential. Your customers are talking about you whether you like or not, so responding is always best. If you claim your business listing (which is free), the system notifies you whenever you get a review.

I always advise businesses not to get emotional. It’s never fun hearing something critical, especially if it’s your business and you’re working your heart out, but remember that everyone’s subjective and no company is 100% every day.

Always respond gracefully, and remember this is a great chance to get some honest feedback and make your business even better.

The most successful businesses on our site are the ones that don’t just talk but listen, so they have videos and discount vouchers on their profile but, if there’s a bad review, they’ll reply rather than ignore it, and turn that customer around.

For me, the key to gaining new customers (and Qypers, for us) is to treat your existing customers well.

What sort of role do you play in trying to promote honest feedback while preventing reviews that business owners might claim are false or even libelous?

We have terms and conditions in place to protect us, users and businesses, and we do our best to keep the site free of spam, fake reviews, offensive language or libelous content. Beyond that, moderation is such a subtle thing and it often boils down to one person’s word against another’s. 

I have to use my judgement on a case-by-case basis, but my main priority is making sure users have their say, within our terms and conditions. To be honest, sometimes the way a user or business contacts me helps me work out whether their claims are likely or not. 

What are some of the ways businesses can use Qype to drive customer acquisition? 

Well, setting up a profile on Qype is free, which is brilliant for small businesses that can’t afford to set up their own website but still want to be online and found via search.

On the premium listing, your profile becomes a micro-site on Qype, with links to your social channels, video, PDFs, event listings and access to analytics so you can see how many clicks you’ve got.

Adding a discount or special deal voucher to your profile works across both the site and our mobile app, so you can reach customers at the point of consumption.  

Our real world events also help introduce businesses who get the importance of online to our community of potential customers. For example, we did an event with the Hackney supper club Fernandez and Leluu and, a year on, it’s still so popular with Qypers that it’s rated on the site as one of London’s best restaurants. 

What advice would you give to other community managers? 

Nothing beyond the obvious, really: I try to listen as well as talk, talk well and always put our community first! 

Putting a personality behind the profile is important, too, which is why it’s best to find a brand you can be passionate about. Something incredibly dry might not be a natural fit for my personality but having a right to reply and finding cool places across the UK? I can definitely work with that.