Are you a restaurant, retailer, hotel or a consumer wondering who exactly Yelp is helping? When you run a business, there are plenty of things you should be concerned about. It starts with your product and service, from there the list just grows. Obviously one of those concerns is what people are saying about your restaurant brand. I am a huge advocate for social media and digital as a whole for restaurants since this offers a great vehicle to keep tabs on what customers are saying. I am amazed at how many restaurants are still hesitant to get into the game, it is such an amazing medium to create relationships and to interact with your customers. I certainly think the positives outweigh the negatives, however I would not be doing my job if I did not point out some concerns that have been on-going with Yelp in particular.
As you can see if you are a restaurant, you need to be aware of reviews on Yelp.
I am sure most if not all of you have heard of Yelp. Yelp is simply a site that segments reviews by location for everything from restaurants to dentists, to mechanics and so on. 10 things you should know about Yelp (straight from their site). Yelp has been under fire recently due to the questionable practices surrounding the validity of reviews.
Jason Falls, founder of Social Media Explorer recently wrote THE FUNDAMENTAL FLAW OF YELP’S SOLICITED REVIEW STANCE. Questioning: Is Yelp encouraging more negative reviews with their stance on solicited ones?
Another debate has to do with who should be protected. Are you the restaurant who wants honest and fair reviews? Or are you the Yelper who values the right to share individual opinions? I use the term debate because the conversation that are taking place can get very heated. For example you can read this exchange that took place on Yelp, regarding a review.
I want to be clear that I am not taking one-side or the other in this situation, the point of this post is to make you aware of the situation. I feel strongly that peer reviews are valuable to both the restaurant and to the consumer. If nothing else, I want you to be concerned enough to monitor and keep tabs on what people are saying about your brand on Yelp and other site such as UrbanSpoon, TripAdvisor or Foursquare to name a few.
It’s not just a love-fest on Yelp.
While Yelp tries to do their best to keep reviews on an even playing field, as you can see in this Search Engine Land post: “After Sting Operation, Yelp Outs 8 Businesses That It Caught Trying To Buy Reviews“. The truth remains that there will always be people who try to use open forums for their own good, such as posting negative reviews for competitors or rewarding patrons for favorable reviews. Yelp has been questioned for their practices as well, for offering to clean up negative reviews in exchange for advertising with them. At times Yelp has gone as far as cleaning up the amount of reviews if the number gets to be too great, regardless if the reviews are genuine and legitimate.
Some vendors have gone as far as tracking down reviewers to make amends for bad experiences. This one example: “Shop Owner Drives To Customer’s House After Bad Yelp Review“, in particular may be the extreme but you have to applaud the owners diligence.
UPDATE: A new player has emerged that may offer among others; restaurants and retailers and option to help monitor fake reviews on Yelp. An appointment based product, TruReview, might be a solution to help combat false business reviews by validating and authenticating them. This could be a good product for the restaurant brand that is interested in getting to the bottom of the complaint or one that is being attacked by phony reviewers.
ANOTHER UPDATE: It appears the battle with Yelp help is not yet over, as most recently a San Diego, CA Law Firm has been fighting and fighting back as this time Yelp sues the firm for supposedly posting fake reviews. This is another chance to raise awareness of Yelping going bad. Beneath The Brand shares more on a popular example commonly referred to as “The Streisand Effect“, where everyday people try and fight back using the power of their voice and the internet.
Where do you fall on this debate? Are you monitoring web reviews for your restaurant? Have you had any issues with Yelp reviews?