Today I was looking at my Twitter stream and saw Dwight Silverman post this tweet " Whoa. Yelp accused of offering to remove businesses' negative reviews for a price in the Bay Area. http://is.gd/k2Gn" He later followed up with a blog post " Yelp's not helpless against accusations of extortion http://tinyurl.com/bt52ja "
I quickly asked my Kevin Lee who is the DC "public servant" for Yelp about this issue and he pointed me to a blog post by Jeremy Stoppelman Yelp's CEO http://officialblog.yelp.com/2009/02/kathleen-richards-east-bay-express.html ( This guy is just 31 - Man ! These people start very young :) )
Kathleen Richards story on East Bay Says Yelp draws more than 16 million unique visitors to the site each month, according to Yelp spokeswoman Stephanie Ichinose. More than 4.5 million reviews have been written so far, and the company has raised $31 million in funding to date. Specially after the FaceBook stand off last week it is good for the company to engage with the media and the community using social media tools. Here is how the Yelp Conversation was playing out when I posted this.
- @jowyang: Follow up: Yelp's CEO responds to call out --debunks reporter http://tinyurl.com/bbuvfa
- Twitter conversations on this issue http://search.twitter.com/search?q=yelp
- Technorati http://technorati.com/search/yelp?language=n
- StreamGraph for the term yelp http://tinyurl.com/ce94zj by neoformix
Here Kathleen Richards has good intentions in writing this story as it is a journalist's duty to look out for their readers. Yelp has responded on their blog to the article. Social Media is a powerful tool for users.What can we as Social media users do to make sure both sides are heard ? Yelp's integrity is in having genuine reviews from people who actually visited the restaurant. Maybe this is a case of a wayward sales guy saying the wrong things as no company that just landed a huge funding will sanction such sales tactics that may affect their reputation.
A few months ago my colleague Joe Loong wrote two good posts on the Network Solutions' Small Business Blog on reviews . I have been in the restaurant business in a earlier life and the advice i give my friends in the restaurant business is that they make sure they add the listing to Yelp and continuously monitor to see what their customers are saying. Yelp also offers a way for business owners to respond to reviewers. Small businesses are instinctively good at Customer service and if a business is run well they should not fear negative reviews. If a business is getting a lot of bad reviews there are a couple of options:
a) If a particular reviewer mentions a bad experience contact them and set things right
b) Encourage your customers to Yelp
c) Proudly display your Yelp ranking on your web site, it is after all your hard work that got you good reviews.
d) Facing a barrage of negative reviews that seem to be hate filled.
- Reach out and try to contact the reviewer
- If you have a blog explain your side of the story and link to the review ( Yelp did that same in their reaction to the East Bay Express Story)http://officialblog.yelp.com/2009/02/kathleen-richards-east-bay-express.html
e) Yelp is not the only option , you should use the different tools that the web offers today , social networks, review sites, blogging tools, wikis , video and audio to talk to your customers and always be ahead of the game.
f0 Yelp community discussion on giving bad reviews http://www.yelp.com/topic/chicago-ever-think-twice-about-giving-a-bad-review-
What do you think Yelp should do ?
- Quickly shoot a video with Yelpers dressed as characters from Godfather and be interviewed for their side of the story
- Start a wiki Facebook style asking for Yelp members to give their feedback
- Call Kathleen Richards and take her out to a restaurant not reviewed in Yelp ( neutral ground)
What are your ideas ? Comment here and lets have a conversation.