BY IAN PANCHEVRE
Reporter with Silicon Hills News
MetroHi.com , a San Antonio based startup in the review management space, started with humble beginnings but is now picking up momentum, and it’s all thanks to a unique approach to an enduring problem.
Radu Istrate, the founder and CEO of MetroHi and a Boston College graduate, first came to San Antonio in 2006 to start a viral marketing company with his sister, a Trinity University grad. His experience with the promotional aspects of online marketing got him thinking broadly about analytics, reviews and reputation management. And he spotted an opportunity.
At the time that MetroHi was founded – in the ever-so-distant era of early 2011 – a wave of interest and excitement was building in the social media analytics space. But the review analytics space was still relatively nascent, and thus afforded an abundance of opportunities for growth and disruption.
“Now there are a lot of ‘Reputation Management Companies’,” explains Istrate. “But a lot of those companies don’t have a technology, they make claims about managing reviews, but they don’t have an application or any…” Istrate pauses to search for the right term, “technical gravitas.”
MetroHi, on the other hand, has plenty of gravitas, both technical and otherwise.
In pursuit of a core mission to provide local businesses an easy and convenient solution for reputation management, MetroHi offers several key services. The first, Review Site Placement, gets a business placed on all the top review sites. The second, Review Boost, drives new reviews for the business from existing customers. Additionally, MetroHi offers a review aggregator dashboard that allows businesses to monitor activity across a number of different review sites, while generating regular reports that capture broad trends.
Despite building an impressive engine for reputation management, MetroHi believes its role transcends the web and includes offline approaches to building reputation.
“MetroHi boosts reviews through a process that combines online approaches with physical materials and in-store promotions,” Istrate elaborates. By producing and distributing materials (e.g. cards and display stands that contain QR codes, which in turn link to a custom landing page) MetroHi makes it easy for customers to post reviews on behalf of brick-and-mortar businesses.
Wait a minute, a review management company that encourages more reviews? This approach may seem counter-intuitive because it cuts against the grain of most reputation management companies, which promote their business by spreading fear of negative reviews.
But MetroHi doesn’t see it that way.
“If you give your customers an easy and convenient way to post a review, the people that will most likely post are your satisfied customers” notes Istrate. Seen another way, if it’s inconvenient to post a review, only the unsatisfied customers will go out of their way to post about their experience.
“By addressing the convenience issue, you give a voice to the satisfied customers and impact the broader conception of the business.”
In turn, MetroHi has adopted a philosophy that values feedback and embraces public chatter. And it just so happens that the lone, disgruntled customer has his voice drowned out by a chorus of overwhelmingly satisfied customers. This contrasts with the approach of traditional reputation management companies, which are more reactive in nature, offering after the fact solutions for businesses once negative reviews appear.
And it seems that MetroHi’s approach is working shockingly well.
Gina Umana, a Financial Advisor at Waddell & Reed, initially engaged MetroHi in the fall for review site placement but ended up subscribing for additional services. The results? “We weren’t even on the sixth page of Google and now the website shows up right away!” proclaims Umana. “We’ve received at least one client who said she was searching online, found our website, and decided to come in and do business.”
Ah, behold! The marvels of the web, and the accomplishment of a local reputation management company that managed to double its client’s monthly web traffic. Yes, gravitas is something MetroHi does not appear to lack. And this non-traditional approach towards review management may no longer be so counter-intuitive, now that it has had endured and proven itself.