I just came back from a trip to San Francisco and apart from having a great time I discovered a new social media site that just blew my mind and blows the competition away. Yelp.com is not a new idea by any stretch of the imagination, i mean reviews of local restaurants, nightlife, bars, businesses etc. hasn’t that been done to death? Citysearch, for instance was founded in 1995 by idealab and you would imagine would have cornered the market in local reviews, right?
Yelp.com may not be as big as citysearch yet, but at 2 years old it is growing at an enormous rate, and based upon my experience the quality and reliability of the reviews puts everything else in the shade. I mean, I had never heard of Yelp before, and somehow ended up finding the most amazing sushi restaurant through it. The sushi restaurant I found, via google’s municipal wifi in Union Square (SF), was called “sushi zone“, hardly visible from market street, only open 5pm to 10pm, and the line starts forming before 5, what a treat. The person I was standing in line next to said he had lived in San Francisco for several years before he found this place, and I had only been there for 2 days, and it was brilliant. Interestingly Sushi Zone garnered 77 reviews on yelp and a 4.5 out of 5 star rating, Citysearch on the other hand had only had 17 reviews, and although still a healthy 9.5 out of 10 rating (remember citysearch is 11 years old and yelp is 2).
Well, needless to say my experience just led me to be curious as to how this site got so good so fast in an area with some incredibly well established players. Here’s my summary of ideas that I think any social media effort needs to pay attention to:
- Reward the people for doing good work
- Help people share their good work through widgets and other embedable code (widget marketing or picture in picture marketing)
- Trust should be built in and grow systematically
- Be passionate, be involved, be part of the community
- It’s about the people not the technology or the product
- Sell out selectively and meaningfully
Reward The Behavior You Want To Encourage
What can I say, if you want the community to do good work then provide a mechanism to motivate good work. Too many organizations just reward and measure quantity, but if you reward and measure quality and you will get it back ten fold. Yelp has done an amazing job of measuring and rewarding the right things. Apart from counting the number of reviews members have done, Yelp gives special kudos for being the first person to review a location. That IMHO is a little stroke of genius as I’m sure the first review of a location is usually the hardest one to get
Get Bloggers Involved
The yelp widget provides a little map that bloggers can embed showing locations they have recently reviewed.
With 1.2 million incoming links from 14,000 blogs, according to technorati, you establish quite a foot hold
Trust Should Be Built In
The mechanisms that reward good quality also raise the level of trust.
Be passionate and participate
If you and your employees are not part of the community then who is, take a look at the CEO’s profile
Sell Out Selectively
Communities don’t mind if you sell out as long as you do it with their interests at heart, we all know you’ve got to make a buck.
What does all this add up to? Well if you do a search on google for “yelp” the third search result is “Courtney P at http://courtney.yelp.com“. Her profile provides a great example of what yelp does to build community and reward valuable participation. Courtney has reviewed 33 restaurants so far and according to the community at large 18 were Useful, 3 were Funny, and 8 were Cool. She has 36 friends, 2 fans, and 5 “firsts” (you get kudos if you are the first to review a restaurant). All of that adds up to being an “elite” member which I think gets you invited to some cool parties.
Want to know more about Yelp.com, watch the user directed and created video:
By Katie Zarling Buono
One potential scenario: Google buys yelp, merges it with dodgeball