Yelp is a social media review site that is used in cities all over the world. As a consultant with expertise in social media for small businesses, I find that many small business owners neglect Yelp simply because they are under the mistaken impression that Yelp is merely a restaurant review site. The fact is that in addition to restaurants and food, Yelp has categories for: nightlife, shopping, beauty and spas, arts & entertainment, event planning & services, active life, health and medical, hotels & travel, home services, local services, automotive, local flavor, pets, education, public services & government, professional services, real estate, mass media, financial services, religious organizations. Once you click on those main categories you will find a myriad of more specific categories; everything from boat repair to lawyers to cleaning services.
Claiming and setting up a free Yelp business page is fairly easy and takes very little time. But once your business page has been set up don't think that you are done. That's a potential nightmare waiting to happen. You must stay on top of interactions with your customers no differently than you would if you were interacting with them face-to-face within the confines of your small business establishment. The good news is that Yelp makes it very easy to do this because they will send you an email letting you know whenever a customer posts a review or tip about your business.
Some of my clients are afraid of Yelp. They are under the mistaken impression that by setting up a Yelp business page it is inviting an online review disaster. As small business owners we've all had experience with difficult customers. So why invite trouble, you ask? This line of thinking is extremely limiting. A difficult customer can actually be a small business's best friend.
Difficult customers tend to point out your weaknesses in a way that your more friendly customers may never do. A difficult customer will always be brutally honest. If you don't know where your weaknesses are, then how can you improve upon them? My assessment is, "There are no problems but only opportunities." Use the valuable feedback from your customers to continually improve your business.
The online interaction is invaluable in that you will have the chance to show every client (both current and future) that you care about customer feedback. That feedback will be hosted online in front of everyone forever. I can't think of a better way to keep more of your customers than to be able to demonstrate your willingness to learn and grow. Online reputation management is key component of keeping your small business headed in a positive direction.
Do not put your head in the ground and ignore this valuable marketing tool. Whether you claim your business page or not, savvy customers can create a listing for you and post their reviews unbeknownst to you. Whether those reviews are positive or negative if you fail to respond it is seen as a social media fail.Taking a few minutes to get educated and begin using Yelp will bring a tremendous ROI on a small portion of your time and effort.
Yelp also offers the benefit of a very useful blog geared towards helping your business succeed in a few different aspects of your digital development initiative. Not to mention the opportunity for your small business to gain invaluable web content that will help increase your digital footprint. Remember, if your customers can't find you, what difference does it make how good your product/service is? It's flat out foolish to forego taking advantage of these valuable free tools.
*Note: This was written by a Yahoo! contributor. Do you have a small business story that you'd like to share? Sign up with the Yahoo! Contributor Network to start publishing your own finance articles.