I read Lani’s fine article last week about Yelp as a reputation management tool and I thought I would throw out some of my insight as a Yelp “sort of” insider.
A little background on Yelp. A couple of years ago they were trying to build up a following in Nashville and approached me with an intriguing offer to write 50 reviews a week in return for a paycheck(something I hadn’t had in a while). Alas, even though I’d never heard of them, I created my little profile and started cranking out some pithy useful tidbits at a hectic pace. Now, because I know there has been some criticism of Yelp I want to clarify that I was NOT paid to write good or bad reviews, they did not specify what the reviews should say or who to review. The parameters were they wanted local flavor and not big chains and they wanted engaging good tips and fun anecdotal reviews. It could be a park, a Dr., restaurant, hardware store, repairman, library anything. In addition, they suggested I think long and hard before I made a terrible review and absolutely forbade me to write anything negative about a business competitor and/or to write anything related to my personal industry while I was on their payroll. Sounds pretty ethical right?
After about a month or so and a few hundred reviews in, I began struggling to get 50 reviews in a week and let the gig go. However, a funny thing started happening. I would be out and about and often find my friends and acquaintances stopping me to say they had used one of my reviews to visit a restaurant or make a purchase. Well doesn’t that beat all? I had seriously taken this on as some side cash and fun because I’m a bit opinionated but (insert light bulb in a bubble over my head here) I realized Yelp could be a HUGE business tool beyond just my own business page.
Yelp as a lead source:
I continue to use Yelp faithfully to this day and here is what I think makes it just as viable as Facebook and Twitter as a lead source:
1) SEO - Yelp has SEO we all opine for!! For example if you google the term Ugly Mugs (my fave coffee shop in my neighborhood) they come in just under the actual shop’s site and sometimes they rank ahead of the purveyor google is indexing them for. Anyway the text and review is mine on page one of Googles page is my review. Woot – I love being a neighborhood expert with some first page google ranking teeth in my game!
2)Now that I’m not under the constraint of writing about my industry, this year I intend to write reviews about my favorite vendors for a couple of reasons. Here is one I did a while back for an appliance company that saved my fanny on a listing. It was a tremendous opportunity to promote what I do on Yelp while providing useful information to the public. In addition, I love to send links of my reviews to the vendors I’ve written them for and let them know I appreciate them and want them to succeed. It’s pretty darn easy to gain referrals from business associates that you not only send business to but also promote in a very credible, useful way.
3)Yelp encourages Interaction not isolation. They have a local public forum you can view from your profile page. I’ve seen all kinds of great topics including ones about folks looking to relocate in to the area and wondering about neighborhoods. Yelp Elite – If you write enough reviews and get enough of a following then Yelp invites you to be a part of their Elite Squad and that gets you in the door to all kind of fun events with other Yelp contributors. Hmmmm… an exclusive audience with people in your community who freely spend time passing on tips about their favorite products and services, wouldn’t that be useful?
4)Yelp integrates with other social networks. When you write a review you can opt to have it go to your Facebook wall and on your Twitter feed. I frequently get lots of traction from reviews through both of those sources. In addition, Facebook has a similar application to FourSquare so you can download the app to your mobile phone and start checking in all over town.
5) Have you heard of Bling your Blog? This is a fun little tool provided free of charge. Yelp automatically maps your most recent reviews and allows the map widget to rest on your profile page. If you click below your profile name or on the bottom of the map the term “bling your blog” you will be redirected to a page with that map where you can completely customize the color and size of it to match your blog. It will then generate simple html code for you to cut and past on to your homepage or whatever page you wish it to reside on. In addition WordPress has Yelp Bar which is a cool little plug in that will display Yelp reviews of your business on your site should you be lucky enough to have any.
Just scratching the surface
Now that I’ve discussed some cool ways to use Yelp (and I personally think I’m just scratching the surface), I want to make some suggestions on how you should not screw up Yelp. Don’t post bogus, even if they are nice, reviews because over time the site will lose credibility. Don’t post self promotional things about yourself on Yelp because in time the site will become cluttered with every business hack blindly doing it (a bit like Twitter) and the site will lose credibility. Don’t get upset if you end up with a bad review or two, conversation is healthy. Don’t slam businesses for sport or in competition with you because you and the site will lose credibility.
Do be authentic, engaging, yourself, funny, useful, and informative just like we have all been told on other social networking sites. Yelp is a cool tool with tremendous potential that has managed to stay under the “spam the world with useless content for the sake of posting something” radar. Go and use your Genius, report back to me on what cool new ways innovations you are creating with Yelp, but for god sakes please keep it real.