New Media Tastemakers Summit Panelist – Yelp: New York Times Reviews Their Impact on Small Local Businesses
The New York Times talks about the impact of user review sites like Yelp on businesses. As we know, they’re huge, since every restaurant in town is now scared that they may offend too many customers with poor service or mediocre food. But if this is a consumer driven society, then in many ways firms like Yelp are turning every individual into a powerful new media tastemaker:
THE Rooz Cafe, a restaurant and coffee shop in Oakland, Calif., signals its distaste for patrons who post reviews on Yelp.com with a small sign: No Yelpers.
The sign is routinely ignored by devotees of Yelp, a San Francisco Internet company that enables average folks to write reviews of everything from restaurants to plumbers to parks.
“If you want good coffee and a comfy place to work, I’d recommend this place,” wrote Stephanie S., who gave Rooz four stars. “And the No Yelpers sticker made me laugh.”
Rooz’s owner, Steve Ranjbin, said he put the sticker up as a joke, but added that he had a complaint about Yelp.
“Yelp does not respect us as business owners,” Mr. Ranjbin said. “They don’t listen to business owners unless you’re an advertiser paying Yelp.”
Mr. Ranjbin, who said that amateur reviews can hurt his business, said some had misquoted him or called his employees names, but that Yelp had refused to take these comments down. Yelp rarely removes reviews, even when advertisers complain, preferring to let the crowd have its say.
The proliferating reviews of Mr. Ranjbin’s establishment offer a good illustration of people’s newfound love of comparing notes via reviews online.
According to Nielsen/NetRatings, 2.5 percent of all Internet users in March went to Yelp.com, and traffic there quadrupled over the last year. Yelp tracks its users through Google Analytics, and the company, which is almost four years old, said it had 9.5 million unique visitors in April, nearly double the 5 million it reported last October. There are more than 2.6 million reviews on the site.
“This site is having an impact on business,” said Greg Sterling, founding principal of Sterling Market Intelligence, a consulting firm that focuses on the Internet’s effect on local consumer and advertiser behavior. Mr. Sterling said that Yelp had become an early leader in that field, which also includes Judy’s Book and Insider Pages.
But don’t forget, when stores and restaurants get good reviews, they are more than happy to put the YELP sticker on their windows.