Yelp.com is one of the most powerful and influential online comment websites in the world. It provides tips (with which we don’t always agree) for users and businesses, provides free listings for location-based businesses and even hosts live events where, yes, advertising is recommended, but are sincerely intended to help business owners understand how to maximize value from the network.
And yet when online comments are a subject for our Denver social media marketing group, it is assured many business owners and social media marketing managers will voice distrust and even anger toward Yelp. Why?
Businesses hate Yelp for a number of reasons:
- Yelp salespeople are pushy and relentless.
- Yelp is accused of removing positive reviews when businesses cancel or refuse advertising.
- Yelp openly advises that if you do not advertise on Yelp, advertisements from competitors will be shown on your Yelp page.
- This model appears to be successful. Others have adopted it. Businesses have a listing on Yelp even if they did not ask for it.
Rough Sales Tactics
Of the 1.3 billion monthly active users Facebook has accumulated since 2008, the number of people who have logged onto the network hoping for the hard sell is, to date, zero. As Yelp bills and constructs itself as a social network, it’s therefore ironic that Yelp uses such a hard-sell, pushy model for its ad sales. The tactics used by Yelp’s poorly-armed and poorly-informed (or intentionally misleading) salespeople are a throwback to the days of Tin Men. Small wonder reviews of Yelp on GlassDoor.com by former employees, while painting an overall favorable view of the company, admit the, “turnover rate is ridiculously high.” The methods are incongruous with the company’s product offering.
Manipulating Online Comments
Webolutions believes these accusations, while understandable, are unfounded. We have researched the issue and believe neither that Yelp salespeople have the ability to manipulate reviews nor that Yelp’s algorithm for online comments factors in Yelp advertising. But any time online comments are the subject matter for our Denver social media marketing group, the vitriol harbored by business owners and marketing managers toward Yelp is palpable.
As the market leader in online comments, Yelp also bears the brunt of the general anger, resistance and anxiety harbored by traditional businesses and marketers about the still-new and increasingly important need to allocate resources to online reputation management and generating positive online comments.
Yelp calls it, “contextual,” and it is, but it is also predatory. These threats made by Yelp salespeople actually have teeth. Smaller businesses with smaller advertising budgets are placed at a pronounced disadvantage to larger, more established businesses under Yelp’s model—a model that has been so successful that it is being copied by other high-profile online comment websites. Angie’s List, in particular, appears ready to do so.
How to Use this Information
As noted in other articles about Yelp, the company offers many benefits to small businesses. Are the unattractive parts of the company’s public persona simply inconsistencies commensurate with a still relatively new identity finding its identity, or are they windows to a transactional, self-centered soul?
Yelp can be a beneficial piece of your business’s online reputation and, given the strength of the network, is a central piece of online reputation management for many companies whether they like it or not. If your business fits the narrow profile Webolutions has identified as likely to succeed with Yelp advertising, and if you can do what is necessary to convert interest into leads on Yelp, give it some serious consideration.