If you don’t know about Yelp, odds are you will soon. In fact, if you’re a business owner, it’s entirely possible Yelp already knows about you.
Founded in 2004 by a businessman who had just moved to San Francisco and was looking for a locally recommended doctor, Yelp has morphed into a multi-faceted local website/app – an online city guide that helps people find places to shop, eat, drink and play, all based on the informed opinions of a community of locals in the know.
Now in hundreds of U.S. cities and some 18 countries, Yelp – which went public six months ago (NYSE: YELP) - draws some 84 million unique visitors each month, making the expertise of a community as close as a visitor’s smart phone.
And it’s the community aspect that sets Yelp apart, Kathleen McNeill, senior community manager for Yelp in Atlanta, told members of the Tourism Leadership Council at their monthly meeting Thursday at the Hampton Inn & Suites Midtown.
“Yelp isn’t a bulletin board or a drive-by review site,” McNeill said. “From Day 1, the focus has always been on creating a community of Yelp users.”
Unlike Angie’s List, which charges a subscription fee and focuses primarily on service companies and contractors, Yelp is more lifestyle-oriented, McNeill said.
“Our reviewers look at their community’s shopping, restaurants, arts and entertainment, nightlife, those kinds of things,” she said. “We do have reviews of home services, but they only account for about 10 percent of what you’ll find on the site.”
McNeill encouraged business owners in the group to engage with Yelp, whether or not they’ve had any reviews posted.
“Every business owner or manager can set up a free account to post photos and message customers,” she said, adding that, while the website does sell advertising, it does not differentiate between businesses that advertise and those that don’t.
“All businesses are equal in this regard,” she said.
With some 33 million reviews posted since its inception, Yelp’s growth is primarily in its mobile business.
“Our mobile app was used on 8.2 million unique mobile devices monthly during the third quarter of this year,” she said. “Approximately 45 percent of all searches on Yelp came from our mobile app.”
But her favorite statistic is this one:
“Every second, a customer generates directions to or calls a local business from a Yelp mobile app,” McNeill said.
Yelp runs its reviews through an anti-fraud filter, McNeill said, which ferrets out those that violate guidelines, are abusive or blatantly self-serving.
“The whole concept is to have a group of what we call Yelpers in every community that are knowledgeable, fair and articulate, writing consistently on their areas of expertise.”
ON THE WEB
To learn more about Yelp, go to www.yelp.com
To learn more about the Savannah Area Tourism Leadership Council, go to www.tourismleadershipcouncil.com