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Friday, February 26, 2010

Rise Austin Session: Hacking online Communities - Yelp for Business Owners

We've heard all about the website Yelp.  Some people love it, and some people hate it.  Some people feel that their policies are unfair to business owners and that business owners are powerless to reviews.  Don't fret.  Don't get angry.  Do get proactive, and do learn how to manage your business owner's account to turn sour reviewers into happy customers.  On Tuesday, March 3rd, I'll be giving a presentation on Rise Austin to show you how to navigate and understand the ins and outs of Yelp policies and how to understand the Yelp community.  I'll also show you several small Austin businesses that used Yelp to drum up business (without paying $300 per month). Click here to register

And the biggest question on your mind now: Since Yelp is being sued, will it go away?  My personal opinion is "No, Yelp is not going away."  The amount of traffic on Yelp is staggering compared to other similar websites.   Yelp was offered $500 million dollars by Google.  Yelp has spurred many angry articles in the past about their policies.  None of those things have made any impact on Yelp as they are continuing to grow bigger and bigger.  Yelp isn't going away, in fact business pages on Yelp are often very close to the top when searching for a business on Google.  If a business doesn't have a website and adequate SEO skills, you can guarantee that their Yelp page will be the first link up on Google. 

What can you do?  You can ignore Yelp.  Some businesses thrive regardless what reviewers write about them.  On the other hand, you can use Yelp, a website with roughly 8.5 million visitors daily, as a marketing tool.  For Free.  If you can't make it to the session, here's a sneak peak into one of the topics I'll be covering.  I'm also available at or 512-981-7627.

Rule 1: Do NOT ask for reviews.  This is in fine print on the Yelp for Business Owners page here.  It really should be in bold and in all caps.  Do not ask customers for reviews.  Do not ask friends to review.  Do not ask family to review.  Anytime a business starts to get many positive reviews from people who aren't obviously part of the community, things look suspicious.  These newbies are often referred to as 0/1 as in zero friends and only one review.  There's nothing against newbies as everyone starts somewhere, but it does look suspicious when as business gets nothing but newbie reviews.  There an entire thread on Yelp dedicated to outing suspsicous looking activity on reviews also called shill reviews.  This type of behavior only creates anger and distrust in the community, and even casual Yelp users recognize the behavior easily.  Urban, an American Grill took it to a new level by having employees write shill reviews even before the restaurant opened.  Yep, it is pretty easy to see that they have literally shot themselves in the foot.  I'll be displaying the reviews written by the employees and of the Yelp community at the Rise presentation.  They have been taken down by Yelp Admin for the time being. 

You might ask, "But I'm referring users to Yelp when I ask people to write reviews for my business."  Yelp gets about 8.5 million visits a day.  They probably don't care if you referred 100 users a day to their website; they don't really need word of mouth advertising.  However, the community does care that your reviews (even though your friends and customers have good intentions) look like shill reviews.  If your friends and family do review you, it should be disclosed within the review.  With social media being a huge part of our lives, you can't hide your friends and family anymore.  It is better to be upfront rather than the being outed on the master debater business flogging thread

Also, here's a few other interesting characteristics about the Yelp community.  They love dogs and support almost every single event or cause for dogs.  If you have a dog business, you are pretty much welcomed with open arms.  They love supporting local businesses.  Most are internet savvy and educated.  While there are always a few angry and unsocial-able people in every community, Yelp users are generally very friendly and outgoing.  Many business owners are also have individual accounts on Yelp, and they are also active in the community. 

To register for the full presentation on March 2nd, click here:   For more information: or 512-981-7627.

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