Yelp for Business Owners: New Check-In Feature

Combining local reviews with social networking, Yelp has been striving to achieve the perfect balance of legitimate commentary with the gratification of engaging in an online community.  Yelps new check-in feature ups the ante for business owners. For competitors like Foursquare and Gowalla, who have about 300,000 users jointly, as compared to Yelps 200 million plus users, this feature is certainly something to Yelp about.

Yelp was wise to make this recent update for two reasons: One, because Foursquare and Gowalla are both commanding much attention these days, in fact, like many others out there, Claudia just admitted to her own infatuation with Foursquare.  Two, because when someone checks-in to a location that they just reviewed, they are adding merit to that review.  It is one thing to write a review for a place that you may not have actually been to, it is all the more difficult to do so while checking-in, unless of course, you are actually there.  With its new check-in feature, Yelp is for business owners, helping them to find out who their loyal customers are (as well as for users – letting them know a hotspot is truly a hotspot).

Yelp Rewards for Checking-In

The Yelp iPhone app, which launched mid January, already has over 1 million users that are hooked up to Yelp check-in.  Not only has Yelp worked to strengthen their pull by allowing access to their most popular and most prolific reviewers, it also enables a connection between other users and these top reviewers. Users can seek out reviewers with which they have common interests and read reviews on place they are likely to visit.

In an effort to motivate users to seek out new businesses or to post about businesses that are not currently listed, Yelp offers a reward program for users that are the first to review a Yelp business.  Regulars (someone who checks in at least twice a month) with the most check-ins will be featured on the Yelp business’ page and will receive a badge of honor.  The fact that check-ins appear both next to the reviews in the users profile, and on the business’ page and listing, shows the mutual benefit this type of relationship can warrant.

Yelp further encourages their users to write meaningful and constructive reviews by initiating the idea that reviewers may potentially receive offers from the venues that they check-in to.  Whether it is coupons, upcoming event notifications, or an offer for the best seat in the house, Yelp businesses will benefit from running promotions on Yelp, particularly geared towards their most frequent reviewers. What is the best part about being in a Yelp business listing?  Yelp offers this all for FREE!

Yelp Can Benefit Your Business

Ultimately Yelp check-ins will add page rank to a business’ site, so treating Yelp as an important tool for leveraging a social market and targeting customers, is very important.  Here is a list of potential ways for businesses to use Yelp to their advantage:

  • Offers and Announcements Feature: Although this feature has been around since Yelp’s beginning, it becomes even more important to reward patrons, especially ones that are writing reviews and are visiting a business’ establishment on a regular basis.
  • What Are They Doing?: Reviewing Yelps business listings is a great way to keep track of competitors.  Search their reviews, see who writes for them, and find out what types of promotions they are running.
  • Who To Connect With?:  In the same way that a business can track competitors, they can also track mutually beneficial business partners and associates and find ways to connect with them.
  • More Robust Profiles:  Yelp check-ins show up in a users profile and on a business’ page and listing.  This feature allows a business owner to see the full picture of those customers that are writing reviews about their business.  This enables businesses to get an overview of their customers and their market.
  • Connected to Social Networks:  The new Yelp iPhone app gives users the ability to share check-ins with Facebook and Twitter, which can broaden a business’ outreach.  Even more reason for businesses to encourage their customers to write reviews.
  • Push Notifications:  Users can receive updates when their friends check-in somewhere and active users may receive status updates of businesses that they check-in to frequently.
  • Encourage Customers to Write:  Add a Yelp link to emails, a Yelp button to your website, Facebook and Twitter pages, and encourage visitors to write reviews by offering promotions and rewards for doing so.
  • Run Promotional Events:  Track check-ins and run events on slower days to boost the number of visitors, or suggest to already present customers that they invite their friends to join them.

Check-ins can only help to substantiate reviews and give more integrity to a business’ profile. A good review from a frequent customer can now add a tremendous amount of credibility to a business.  For this reason, it is important for business owners to make sure their reviews are positive, that they are socially engaging with their customer’s, and that they are rewarding their customers whenever possible.  Yelp allows a business to balance online and offline marketing by utilizing the features available online to help you better interact with your customer’s offline.   And to that I say, ”woof, woof, yowl!”

This entry was posted on Tuesday, February 16, 2010 and is filed under Integrated Marketing.

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