Richmonders apparently didn’t get the memo (not even a tweet) that they can review any business online and use other residents’ reviews to research their purchases or dining options.
In California a website called Yelp.com has become the go-to site for people who want recommendations for everything from a good dinner to a good dentist. And its popularity continues to grow every day.
Hundreds of Richmond businesses are on Yelp now, but the popularity is nowhere near that of Facebook or Twitter. Yelp is one of the most popular websites that solicits reviews. (Last week we looked at TownMe. You can read that review here. )
And it seems to be growing in Richmond, especially in the restaurant category, where 348 dining establishments are listed, the most popular being the vegetarian eatery Ipanema. Most other business are still awaiting their Yelp debut. But it’s coming. Yelp.com had 25 million unique visitors last month alone, and it is vastly more popular than a similar service, Angieslist.com, a pay service, according to numbers from Compete.com.
If you are a business owner, that’s likely cause for concern, because anyone can go on and write a damning review. If you are a coffee shop owner and your barista copped an attitude with one of your customers, you will pay the digital price. Even if every other employee was on his or her game that day, but Timmy the barista wrecked his skateboard on the way to work that day and had an attitude, your business is now staffed by kids with bad attitudes who provide terrible service.
Whether or not Yelp gives the average reviewer any more power than the hundreds of local bloggers or Twitterers is debatable. But good businesses have been burned by the service. (Click here if you want read a funny article about one business owner’s response to his Yelp critics.)
Yelp is, most importantly, a site to review businesses, but one of its more useful features is a social media aspect, where you create a network of Yelpers you trust, or just of your friends. You can also follow other Yelpers just as you would with Twitter. Only a few Richmonders seem to be using this feature.
Yelp lets you view anybody’s profile, which lets you investigate the person who posted a review and makes it hard for a business owner to prop themselves without being sniffed out by the curious Yelper.
The site also has a forum feature where you can post a question or ask for a recommendation and other Yelp users answer you.
The appeal of Yelp is that it puts the power of a business’s reputation in the hands of consumers. The written reviews are accompanied by a five-star ranking system.
“Word of mouth has gone digital,” said Kevin Tuskey, director of interactive media at Circle S Studio, a branding agency.
“In the past, you had to focus on knocking dead that food critic,” Tuskey said. “But now, with Yelp, [everyone has] as much clout as the critic.”
After playing with the service for some time, I found that the common sense rule still seems to apply: If you are looking at a business and only four people have reviewed it, then you are not getting good information. Yelp becomes useful only when a business has been reviewed by 75 to 100 people. Then you might have a decent sample size to really tap into how the community feels about a restaurant.
But even that needs to be questioned, because everyone has a different idea about star rankings, and that variance can make deceptive results. My three-star rating might be your five-star rating. Let’s take the reviews for Sticky Rice, a sushi restaurant on Main Street in the Fan that essentially is a bar that serves sushi and has good noodles. Its most popular culinary draw seems to be a bucket of tater-tots served with a 24-ounce Pabst Blue Ribbon. It’s not a classy sushi establishment; it’s a hangout spot and a fun place to meet up with friends. But if I thought I was going to a classy sushi joint, I might post a review similar to Rebecca M’s:
“Sucky Rice is not only pseudo sushi but I dare question its status as food. You heard me. Sucky has bastardized an honorable craft by concocting rolls deep-fried to denigration and so slathered in spicy mayo that the delicate flavors of the beloved maguro, sake, saba and hamachi are rendered null and void… When I make a b-line for my favorite sushi restaurant, I require that my fish be fresh, my flavor combinations be delicate and the chef take an aesthetic pride in his or her dish.”
If you are using Yelp, you need to take everything with a grain of salt. For Richmonders, it’s not entirely useful yet, because there are just not enough people on it to give a consensus opinion on anything.
But don’t count this site out. It’s taking off. For more on Yelp, read this story:
Rebel Yelp (Slate)
The replacement for newspapers isn’t Craigslist; it’s local social media.
David Larter covers technology for BizSense. Please send news tips to [email protected]
YELP IS EXTORSION!
We have over 200+ fake accounts in YELP!. We write one star reviews and watch the EXTORTION spread! When an account is deleted-we create an other one. YELP is not credible. Catch me if you can! The JOKER : ) … LOL!