Yelp -- Does it Help?

Any time you do something public, from writing an article to running a business, there is always someone to have an opinion about what you've done. We'd like to think we are surrounded by admirers who appreciate our hard work, and enjoy the fruits of our labours. We also know there is always someone around to say, 'nah, it's too short on the left' or something equally demoralizing. To avoid unfair criticism, we might be tempted to hide our light under a bushel, but to do so would limit our efforts to thrive in the market place. Public opinion doesn't affect major corporations and large companies much, but what about start-up, or small businesses all the way down to mom-and-pop stores?

To research this article, I looked at the Yelp-postings of businesses with which I am personally acquainted. My experiences with those businesses did not always match those of the reviewers -- in one instance, a dry cleaning establishment that several times wrecked or lost my clothing received high praise from other customers. In another instance, a used bookstore received very mixed reviews -- people either loved the place and the staff, or loathed everything. While I knew some of the negative remarks were deserved, I also knew some of those remarks would not have been made if the reviewer knew the full story.

As a tool for referrals, Yelp is immensely important. Such navigation systems as Siri rely heavily on Yelp, so that when you whisper into your mobile 'Siri, find me a sports bar', Siri refers to Yelp and relays the information to you. You have the opportunity to read the reviews for yourself, and make up your own mind. What you choose to do will depend on how much credence you give the reviewer, and how much you need that sports bar.

One of the articles I read ('How Yelp Can Help... Small Businesses Take Advantage of Reviews [Infographic]' by Veronica Maria Jarski, December 17, 2013) mentioned that businesses registered with Yelp showed an average annual revenue increase of $8000, and businesses that actively advertised (for a fee) showed an average increase of $23,000 for the same time period. A study showed that 90% of Yelp users said their businesses were positively influenced by Yelp.

So, is it worth the risk of a negative review? Customer complaints can be damaging - even devastating - to a small or start-up business. However, businesses that are registered with Yelp have the opportunity to respond publicly and privately to customer reviews, which minimizes damage. There will always be someone around to say you're 'doing it wrong', and most people know this.

Yet the overall impact of Yelp, and services like it, suggests positive reviews are helpful, negative reviews are possible, and as an information and referral system, Yelp is highly beneficial to all of its users -- businesses and consumers.

Yelp if you need anything.

Paul TN Chapman, Blog Manager, Reed Social Media Group