“Each week, millions of consumers visit crowd-sourced review websites in search of recommendations for everything from taco stands to car dealers. Among the influential leaders in the field is Yelp.com, which in the third quarter of 2012 averaged 84 million visitors per month. “Yelpers” have written over 33 million reviews for local businesses, with some sporting more than 1,000 reviews each.”
I love Yelp. For me, it’s one of the few reviewing websites that has stood the test of time. I used to be an avid user of Rotten Tomatoes, Meta-Critic, and Trip Advisor, but after one too many mediocre experiences, I gave them up. My friends are more accurate in these areas, and I wish that more of my friends were on Yelp to share more of their experiences.
Yelp uses (not perfectly) The Wisdom of Crowds. Regardless of the potential biased interpretation of an experience in a business, there is still a huge diversity of knowledge and opinion. There is no centralized “boss” on Yelp encouraging people to give better or worse reviews to businesses. Reviewers are independent to give good or bad reviews without any consequences. However, there are several avenues to receiving awards on Yelp, such as promotions in businesses for “checking in” (e.g. I check in and get a free coffee with my purchase), or the pursuit of becoming “Yelp Elite” where there is the opportunity to attend festivals and promotional events for free.
Pros of Yelp:
- Promotes local businesses.
- Millions of reviews by a diversity of people.
- Studies show that a one star increase on Yelp leads to a 5-9% increase in revenue for local and small businesses.
- There is opportunity to build Yelp community through Yelp Events, messaging, chatting, and letting local businesses promote and host events.
- Reviewers are encouraged to use their real name and link their Yelp account to other forms of social media in order to build trust.
- Negative press regarding Yelp might actually make Yelp more credible. If all businesses are getting good reviews, then the reviews lose credibility.
- There can be a public shaming element when instances of fake reviews appear for businesses. (Yelp Tries to Halt Deceptive Reviews)
I experienced some of these “pros” when I attended a promotional Yelp Elite event in Glasgow, Scotland. The business (Piece) was unveiling a new menu, and was actively seeking Yelpers as a way to gain “free” press. In addition to gaining a little momentum with their new menu, they provided a forum for Yelpers to meet each other and engage with the local business. It may also appear slightly biased, because well, what Yelper is going to give bad reviews to an event with free food and drink? But there is still a risk the business is taking by putting themselves out there to be reviewed. The process reminded me of the Klout presentation (I had never heard of Klout previously), in that businesses give things away in order for their customers to freely evangelize about their business.
- Constantly under surveillance over review filtering and how it is done. (Yelp Pushes Back Says Allegations It Fixes Reviews are Demonstrably False, and is Referred to as the “Internet Mafia)
- Can be easily infiltrated with fake reviews in that anyone can sign up for Yelp, as many times as they want, under whatever name they want.
- There have been instances of people being paid to write reviews for business. (Yelp Tries to Halt Deceptive Reviews)
- Yelp doesn’t review the reviews often or precisely enough (even though the technology is available), and doesn’t seem to want to change any time soon. (Harvard Business School: Helping Yelp Create More Accurate Reviews)
While Yelp is constantly under investigation regarding fake reviews and unnecessary review removal, it’s still a very good platform for local businesses and local community building. At the very beginning, I mentioned how I wish more of my friends were on Yelp so I could actively see more of their opinions about local anything I might be looking for. If people used Yelp like they use Facebook, they might be able to more easily view the opinion of your friends and then potentially feel more like you have more freedom in how you choose where to shop, eat, and consume media. Or, you may at least feel like you have more say in what is advertised to you when you want it to be advertised to you.
So far, I don’t know of any social media platform using collective intelligence in a way that allows the user in an organized way seek out and find the opinions of their friends, acquaintances, or well-reputed strangers for any topic or business. Yelp is by far the closest, and it’s steadily growing.