Yelp ExplainedYou’ve got your Facebook Page amped up, you’re Tweeting like a champ and the Linkedin world is abuzz with chat about your latest update.

That’s the goal, and it’s an admirable one, but a frequently neglected channel of communication between businesses and customers is Yelp. Although the total number of Yelpers is significantly lower than Facebookers or Tweeps, the lasting impact that single points of contact can have is amplified many times on Yelp.

Why Do People Yelp?

Yelp is a community driven review site that enables users to create locations, give details about the businesses, review them, and even post multimedia content.

Each business receives a 5 point rating based on posted criteria, often the Yelp score will be a major determining factor in a potential customer’s purchase decision, especially if the product or service is easily substituted, as in the restaurant or entertainment industries.

Reviews and tips help to create a sense of community and frequent, quality Yelpers can receive the coveted Yelp Elite status. The badge of honor comes with an increased clout for the user’s reviews as well as real-world benefits like pre-opening invitations, Yelp-only parties and VIP treatment.

Readers Seeking Answers

When people turn to Yelp for advice, they are assigning a similar badge of honor to the Yelp site in general since there is plenty of information on the larger social media sites about businesses and reviews of their offerings, but Yelp is revered as the ‘Review’ site.

Given that, users actively seek out advice on Yelp. Their intent is to be educated about a specific business, whereas Facebook and Twitter reviewers push their opinions at their followers without organization, peer review or expert status.

Review Staying Power

Once posted, the information on Yelp remains there as long as the page exists. Not only will the review live on in the list, a snippet of it will appear alongside the brand in searches as long as it is the most recent review on the page.

In the event of a negative review, the potential for damage is much deeper and wider than any single post or Tweet could be. The staying power amplifies the effect of each review not necessarily because it reaches more people – a Tweet or a post is still seen by a greater average number of people – but because of the above mentioned authority attached to it.

Yelp reviews adhere to the tried and true advertising concept of multiple views: we don’t assign much value to many things the first time we see them, but when a message is repeated over and over we tend to pay more attention and actually believe the message all the more.

Residual Review Impact

So people are reading Yelp reviews and assigning increased value to the writers’ opinions. And these opinions are appearing consistently and for longer periods of time than nearly anywhere else on the ‘net. Based on those factors, it’s easy to see how a potential customer’s decisions can be altered by just a few strongly worded reviews, but what about the effect that the reviews have on future reviewers?

When a Yelper posts a review of a recently experienced business, impressions and opinions are top of mind, which is a positive thing. Inevitably, however that reviewer will sneak a peek at the community’s existing opinions. Whether intentional or not, the previous reviews may color the new reviewer’s memories – and the decor that once may have been “bold and edgy” could lose it’s sheen after hearing that others felt it was “loud and tacky”.

Groupthink is a dangerous thing that can be difficult to reverse once it turns against a business. Conversely, people are quick to reconsider their negative experiences as anomalies if the community is mostly approving of your business.

3 Ways to Take Advantage of Yelp

Social Media of Business

Given that Yelp carries a considerable clout, what can be done to manage a crowdsourced forum for sharing opinions that’s centered on impartiality?

By following these 3 steps, satisfied customers can become brand ambassadors, disappointed reviewers will give you another chance and first-time seekers will see you in the best light possible:

  1. Build a Professional Page. Yelp provides a wide array of options for businesses to modify. Searchers expect to see top-quality businesses with top-quality pages. Verify yourself as a business owner and start building – the whole process takes no more than a couple of hours of work.
  2. Reinforce Positive Reviews. Simply put, people respond to positive reinforcement. It is absolutely acceptable to thank a reviewer for their favorable post and invite them back for another visit on the house, or at a discount.That person, who was already a fan, will very often post a follow-up review and comment on others’ questions about your business for months or even years in the future. A solid team of brand ambassadors can be more powerful than any promotion that you run.
  3. Apologize. If your customers have posted legitimate complaints, don’t be afraid to publicly apologize. The key here is to be sincere. Social media people have learned to see right through purely perfunctory apologies.Remember, scorned customers don’t want freebies, they want to be heard. The best possible response to a negative review is a simple equation: Apology + Reiterate the main point(s) of the complaint + Describe what has been done to correct the problem + Thanks for pointing it out + We’d love to have you back to see how we’ve gotten better = Angry reviewer converted into repeat customer.

Finally, as with all social media, it’s imperative that your content reflect the fact that you take the medium seriously without taking yourself too seriously. It’s okay to poke fun at your mistakes, to acknowledge when competitors have done something very well, or to have some fun with the customers. Social media is driven by fun and the best can balance humor with professionalism and tact.

What do you say?

Have you publicly dealt with a dissatisfied customer on Yelp? Have you fostered brand ambassadors by rewarding customers for their comments? Let us know by leaving a comment below.