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The Social Network (Addict): Yelp.com for Newbies

I check in on real-life friends on Facebook. I chat with internet friends via Twitter. I check out the best businesses in my area using Yelp. I track my reading progress with Goodreads. I blog about what’s happening in all of my fandoms on Tumblr. I see how much and what types of music I’ve been listening to with Last.fm. I put together my Pilates workouts using YouTube.

What does it all mean? What are you going to get out of signing up for tons of different social networks that track so many seemingly mundane things? I’d really like to answer that question, not just for others but also for myself! So here it is: A series on various social networks and how to best utilize them.

Let’s start out with my most recent social networking obsession: Yelp. I’m really late to the party on this one, since the site has been around since 2004. Still, I kept coming across it

Image Credit: Yelp

Image Credit: Yelp

when looking up restaurants that had been featured on my favorite Food Network show, Restaurant: Impossible. I was curious to see how the made-over restaurants were faring post-show, and I noticed that many of the reviews were concise, helpful, and interesting. Actually, most of them were concise, helpful, and interesting. It was pretty amazing that a review site wasn’t filled with capslocking, bad grammar, and tons of exclamation points, but instead featured coherent, thoughtful critiques. And not just on restaurants, but all different kinds of businesses. Gas stations, pet groomers, government offices…you name it, it can be Yelped. (Can I say that? Is that a thing? Whatever, I’m making it a thing.) But of course, being a total foodie I tend to focus more on…well, restaurants.

I decided to sign up for Yelp and give it a go, because I’d had a really awful experience at a restaurant and figured “Hey, why not add my voice to the others?” Reading what I had about the shows that had been featured on R:I had certainly influenced my decision to visit said restaurants whenever or if ever I got the chance to visit them…maybe I really could help someone else out. Then I wrote another review about a restaurant my boyfriend and I frequented. Then another review on that one place I went with my mom for Mother’s Day. And another. And anoth—oh, wait, you probably know where this is going. I was suddenly reading and giving feedback on every place I’d been to since moving to Colorado, and in the process I found how best to pick which reviews to follow and which to disregard. Because while Yelp is a very solid review site overall, not every user knows how to ensure that their review is going to make a difference in how people view that particular establishment. That’s where I come in! Because why use a social networking site if you’re not going to get the full benefits from it?

I realized after my first couple of reviews that I was publishing large paragraphs full of information, without anything to break them up. Which was strange, since the reviews I appreciated the most were broken into various paragraphs based on the flow of the review. So I went back through my own reviews and added a few paragraph breaks where I changed topics; it makes it easier on the eyes for the reader and can draw their attention more easily to what they want to know. Was the service good? What menu items do you suggest people try? If you had to return an item, what was the return process like? If everything is garbled into one big paragraph, there’s no discernible way to find that information. And of course, this bigger the paragraph, the less people will want to read the entire thing. Break it up, either into smaller sections, good/bad comparisons, or even bullet points. It’ll make a huge difference in how people approach your reviews, trust me.

Image Credit: Yelp.com

Which leads me to my next discovery: mention the key element of the business. For example, when reviewing a restaurant it may be a good idea to mention THE FOOD! In this review situation, be sure to mention what you ate or drank and what you thought of it, good or bad. (If you can’t remember specifically what you ate, at least mention it in general terms.) Even better, mention what other members of your dining party ate and drank as well, and their reactions to it. It gives first-timers or visitors who haven’t been in a long time something new to try — or avoid. It could also influence others who had a bad experience with one meal and get them thinking about going back and trying something different. Maybe the restaurant’s salads are gross, but their apple pie is to die for! If so, mention that it’s your favorite dessert eatery, even if it’s not a good choice for a healthy food lunch place, and others might start to think of that restaurant differently.

For me, service at any business establishment is key. Even if the food isn’t anything to shout about, if the service is good I’ll probably keep returning. If my purchased item wasn’t what I wanted and I had to return it, great customer service will make me forgive my previous annoyances. It sets the tone of a restaurant more so than the decorations or the place settings. It makes or breaks my point-of-view, so I always mention it in my own reviews. Figure out what’s important to you when reviewing a location and go with it. It’s always good to mention the other elements of a business (location, décor, wait time, etc.), but if you value one aspect over others, go with it. Chances are there’s another Yelper out there who holds those same standards, or others who see a group of reviews discussing the great food but hardly anything about the service. Find your niche!

Yelp is an amazingly useful and social site and I am so excited to have found it. In fact, I am addicted to love Yelp so much, I’ve recently been chosen as a “Top Yelper” in the site’s Weekly Yelp newsletter for the Denver area! I’m having a blast on this site, and it’s because I’ve been able to utilize its purpose to the fullest.

Next time on The Social Network (Addict), I’ll be discussing how to utilize Yelp even more now that you have the basics down!

About the Author

Emma Craighead is a contributing writer to The Hudsucker when she’s not playing Dungeons & Dragons, screaming at her iPhone while playing Angry Birds, or finishing up her Bachelor’s Degree in Social Studies Education. She currently lives in Denver, CO. Follow her at her personal blog and on Twitter as @efcraig.

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