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Dealing With A Yelp Disaster

In the digital marketing world of eateries and nightlife, “social media” is the be-all end-all in self-promotional buzzwords. Anyone with a quality business establishment can benefit from using social media outlets to increase awareness of their brand, create dialogue with their current and potential future clients and even deal with negative comments in a public forum to turn negative press into positive.
But what happens when your business turns up on a social site that you cannot completely control such as Yelp?


What Is Yelp? Yelp is an online urban city guide that helps people find cool places to eat, shop, drink, relax and play, based on the informed opinions of a vibrant and active community of locals in the know. Yelp is the fun and easy way to find, review and talk about what's great — and not so great — in your world.


What happens in the (all too common) event when a disgruntled employee or even a local competitor fills your profile with hateful rants?


Without the ability to remove posts on Yelp, the way you can on Facebook, all the positive spin in the world will not quell the person with an axe-to-grind angrily from posting hostile reviews from the safety of their home.


So what do you do if your establishment encounters a “Yelp Disaster”?


The Knee-Jerk Reaction #1 – CRY TO MOMMY

The #1 response to a Yelp disaster is “I’ll get my friends and family to post glowing reviews to offset the balance!” Hold on there! You thought of it, and YELP has thought of it too, so they've created a “filtering system” to combat false reviews. While admittedly, it is still flawed, YELP is sticking to their guns and using their filtering system to weed out what they consider to be unrealistic reviews.


The Knee-Jerk Reaction #2 – I’LL SUE!

The second most common reaction is to pursue legal recourse. While this topic is still a grey area as to who is legally in the right and who is in the wrong, a case for defamation can easily be made and filed by any lawyer looking for a quick paycheck. Even if you're successful with your claim, it will most likely a very long, and very public affair, and yes, Yelp has already thought of this too. They have a very lengthy FAQ about how they think you should handle your lawsuit questions and actions, so let’s move on…


Logical Reaction #1 – Use Yelps Other Tools

More than 50% of visits to a restaurants website will be on a mobile device. This fact means that most of your clients will have a mobile device handy while dining.


Encourage check-ins via the Yelp Mobile app. Reward or entice customers to check-in on the app. Studies show that people are generally kinder when they know their words will be associated with their identity in an in-person encounter.


In addition, your regulars are the most likely people to respond to such an offer, and they're even less likely to bash you while they're taking advantage of your special offer.


Logical Reaction #2 – Time & Volume – Do What You Do!

While self-admittedly flawed, in time, Yelp claims its filtering system brings “validated” reviews to the top and over time sends bad reviews to the bottom.
Here is a short video on their filtering system:

What’s the difference? A Yelp user who has a long standing history of holding an account with Yelp and has reviewed many establishments (fairly) holds a lot more weight according to Yelp than someone who just joined to post a scathing review minutes after joining then abandoning yelp altogether.


In short, if you are providing quality product and service, just keep doing what you are doing, in time your good name and good service will prevail and the cream will rise to the top and the unfair negatives will sink like a stone.