This is a guest post by Megan Totka.
We’ve all been there: the consumer looking for a new place to eat.
You have a specific cuisine on your mind. There’s that place around the corner. It never looks busy but has a steady flow of customers. Do you try it? Do you avoid it?
But this isn’t just good news for users, this is a great new tool for your business too.
Foursquare has been talked about before but I’m here to give you another idea: Yelp!
What is it?
Yelp is a social media and user review website used to connect people with local businesses. Much like Foursquare, Yelp allows you to “check in” and then rate the service, quality, and products of a business.
You can upload photos, ask for advice, share quick tips, and join elite communities to meet up with other users in person and explore businesses in their community.
Why don’t you know about it?
Yelp has been around since 2004.
The community has grown to about 84 million monthly visitors. It offers free apps for iPhone, Blackberry and Android users. Foursquare, its biggest competitor came a few years later in 2009.
You may not have heard about Yelp as much due to the timing of its launch.
One of the most well-known smart phones, the iPhone, didn’t release its first version until 2007. Yelp was around prior to this but was an online-only community. It didn’t have apps or connections to Facebook or Twitter yet. (It does now.)
Other sites like Foursquare launched after the majority of smartphones, specifically with these connections. In fact, many users have no idea that Foursquare has separate owners and creators from Facebook. It’s a common misconception that the site was developed by Facebook.
Why do you need it?
Social media is everywhere now. Gone are the days of having a food critic or secret shopper come in to tell you how good or bad your business is doing. The internet has not only changed the way businesses market and advertise but how customers get their information.
You now rely on other customers, real people that experienced it like an everyday customer will experience it, to tell you how it was. Sites like Facebook and Twitter are great for this but Yelp is designed just for this purpose.
Users are there to write reviews and get recommendations, nothing else.
Having your business reviewed on Yelp, especially if you get four or five stars, could mean a big boom in customers for you.
How is it different?
Yelp offers an elite status each year.
Users nominate other users for their ability to write honest and entertaining reviews. This elite status allows users to attend Yelp sponsored events at local businesses and restaurants.
Other websites similar to Yelp also have social get-togethers and are more than willing to send free swag, but they are not run by these sites. The Yelp events have actual Yelp employees putting them together.
For your business, hosting a Yelp event could be huge. This means you’ll have 20-50 elite users in your business trying your food or product. These users are not required to write reviews but more often than not, they do. If you impress them, you just went to the top of the list for new business.
What does this mean for your business?
Most reviews are going to be written by consumers, obviously. In fact, Yelp has a full team devoted to keep fake reviews and spam off the site. Businesses cannot get ahead by creating fake profiles because Yelp worries about this and devotes time to stopping it.
So how can your business excel from Yelp?
First, check your reviews. Contact any users that wrote a negative review, especially if as an owner or manager you were not already aware of the problem. Some may not be repairable but just maybe you’ll get a user to give you a second chance and amend their review.
Second, you can keep an eye on your competition. Maybe they have awesome reviews because of a new gimmick or customer service skill they are using. It may be time to rethink your plan. Yelp makes it easy to see what customers like and don’t like about both you and other businesses that you need to be aware of.
Whether Yelp is your choice or another website or if you stick to the old fashion way, what customers say about you is vital to the success of your business.
You need to stay on top of your reputation both in store and online. We are no longer in the age of a bad newspaper review eventually going away after a couple months because no one sees it anymore. What goes online will stay there forever. Make sure this doesn’t hurt you.