For business owners, I have long advocated taking control of your listing on the various social media listing services with Yelp being one of the two most important places for most businesses to do so. Why?
If someone tells another person about your business that's a huge recommendation. While you can advertise in all sorts of traditional media, a genuine recommendation from a trusted friend is the most powerful way to get new business, period. Yelp is, essentially, that personal recommendation as the site is a place where anybody can go and review a business. With more reviews come an aggregate listing of a business from actual customers so individuals can go and see what others thought of a restaurant or hardware store or auto shop before they ever step into the door.
This is extraordinarily useful in large markets like the Bay Area, where Yelp originated, as there is so much population density that the sites become incredible resources of reviews and some businesses literally live and die by these aggregated reviews. Furthermore, with smart phone apps that allow people to read the reviews and draft new ones the power of Yelp becomes magnified. Many people won't set foot in a business until they've seen what others have to say about that business - I am included in this, by the way.
And my opinion is shared by millions and millions of others with that number growing readily. This article says more: read on.
I am the modern consumer and when I travel I no longer ask for the recommendation of an innkeeper - I look on my own smart phone and read what others have said on Yelp. Why? Because an innkeeper is just one resource who has their own distinct style and opinion which may be very different from my own. The aggregate Yelp review is from a variety of people and is more likely to be generally accurate.
What About Lousy Reviews
As Yelp grows more and more there are more reviews of all sorts. No matter what business you're in, you're likely to get some extraordinarily great reviews and some extremely lousy reviews. Everybody's got an opinion and people are often more likely to write a review when they're angry to help others avoid your business - that's human nature. So you know there are likely to be some angry reviews beaten out of a poor smart phone as the customer sat seething in your parking lot following an experience they didn't like. Hey, that's normal.
But if people universally call your service unfriendly or say that your food portions are small or your towels aren't soft and absorbent or that your mechanics treated them dishonestly, then shoppers see a pattern that's likely the true picture of your business. That's how Yelp works - as more people review your business patterns emerge. If that pattern is a reflection of great service and a product that shines, then you're going to see even more business because people were pleased overall with how you do business and the reviews are going to show that. New customers will trust these reviewers, especially since they're unpaid and are just the word of fellow patrons.
According to an article on Business Insider, 92 percent of people trust recommendations from friends and family above all other forms of advertising when making a purchase decision, according to a new study. That number was up nearly 20 percent from 2007.
Those findings, however, only begin to highlight the changing advertising model. According to research by Nielsen, fewer than half of all people still find paid traditional television, magazine and newspaper ads credible. Those numbers, however, were down 24 percent, 20 percent and 25 percent respectively across those mediums since 2009. As for online customer reviews, 70 percent of people profess trust in the appraisals, up 15 percent in the past four years.
Our Towns and Yelp
While you might be correct in saying that Yelp isn't as valuable in a small town where you get many of the same regular customers over and over again, what's happening is that visitors to the area are used to using this technology to find places and aren't always finding yours.
When someone is considering a visit to Lake County, or is already here, they are very likely to pull out their smart phone and be disappointed with the results they get. Many travelers have told us that they almost didn't visit the area because they didn't see a lot of great choices here.
In other words, not having corrected Yelp listings is actually hurting our area as prospective travelers are avoiding the area because they believe, incorrectly, that there aren't enough choices for food and adventure here. Ouch!
The solution is to make sure your Yelp listing is correct and that you're an active participant - not just by making your Yelp listing right but by reviewing other businesses that you patronize. Honest and plentiful reviews will go a long, long way toward helping us earn more tourism business here in Lake County.
You can find out more about Yelp and how to claim your business' listing on Yelp's FAQ page. Or just give me a ring, I can help with Yelp. Yeah, I'm a poet and didn't know it.