If Facebook and the Better Business Bureau had a child, you’d have Yelp. Yelp got its start in 2004 as a way for regular people to share their reviews of primarily consumer businesses such as restaurants, hair salons, etc. Since its inception, Yelp has jumped on the social networking bandwagon with mixed results.
Yelp earns its living through ad sales to companies that are listed on the site. In 2009, that business model was met with some controversy. There were accusations that Yelp was letting paying customers reorder the reviews on their site…essentially burying the negative. Yelp has reportedly addressed this issue and according to their site, they do not let paid customers manipulate the reviews.
If you run a business to consumer business, Yelp is almost a necessity. We live in a highly mobile world. New residents often turn to Yelp to help them find the services and establishments they need. I’ve used Yelp to help find restaurants, car mechanics, hair salons and even doggie care people. If an establishment is recommended to me, I check it out with Yelp. Not appearing in Yelp is akin to not appearing in the pre-internet Yellow Pages.
Simply having a listing is not enough. A smart business owner should be proactive with their Yelp listing.
- When someone posts a review of your business, you receive a notification. Whether the review is positive or negative, don’t ignore it. Contact the customer (via Yelp). If the review was positive, thank them. If the review was negative, apologize for the negative experience and thank them for giving you the opportunity to make your business better. Reviewers have the option of editing their reviews, so a well-worded apology might be all it takes to get them to change their opinion.
- Ask your happy customers to post reviews on Yelp. People love the opportunity to brag about their latest find. The simple act of asking might be all it takes to prompt them to post. You could take it a step further. Print it on your bags, your receipts and on signs.
- Become a “Yelper”. Friend fellow Yelpers just as you would on Facebook. Invite them to visit your establishment. After you have been active with your account for a while, you can create a Yelp event. Invite your Yelp friends. Promote it on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.
- Offer Yelp discounts. This can be done with a paid Yelp ad or you can create a special Yelp landing page for your website. You can include the URL for the landing page in your listing. This URL will take the viewer to a page that is specially designed for Yelp users. Just make sure that entering the main site is very intuitive from the landing page.
- Don’t take negative reviews personally. This can be tough. For most small business owners, their business is a direct reflection on them. Remember, people post negative reviews for different reasons. Sometimes it can be a bad mood. Occasionally, it could be a disreputable competitor. Regardless treat each review as serious and honest, and as an opportunity to improve.