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Can Yelp Help? Using Social Media to create a Healthy City

I travel a bit and whenever I am on the plane back to Edinburgh I like to have a peek round and check out the other passengers.  I’m always shocked just how full the flights always are – all year round –any day of the week.  So who’s coming?  Some business travellers but thanks to budget airlines – it is ‘easy’ for people all over Europe to have a short break in Edinburgh.   So, after I look around at the young couples, groups of friends, and families, I like to close my eyes and silently wish them all a fun, safe, happy, sunny visit to Edinburgh.

But that’s not all I can do to help.  It may sound silly, but I would love EVERYONE to see Edinburgh the way I do, to find the great shops, local cafes, amazing walks and parks and to go back home and sing Edinburgh’s praises to all their friends.  That’s one reason I started this blog – as my little way to help spread the love  –  but after attending a Yelp Elite Evening at Loudon’s Cafe and Bakery, I now realise that in addition to my blog, I can get the message out to a bigger audience using online ‘review’ sites:

Can these websites really help to improve the ‘health’ of Edinburgh?  YES – by what I like to call….da da  dum…… the Domino Effect!  If you can help your favourite business stay in business, in turn they can make their neighbourhoods more vibrant and safer (there’s nothing worse than boarded up shops!), they can hire local people, they often use local suppliers (more so than big chain shops/restaurants/cafes) who in turn can provide local jobs, and so on and so on.

How does it work?  It’s simple.  You register, create a profile (reviews must come from ‘real’ people – they are on the lookout for accounts made by businesses to boost their ratings), log-on (online or using a phone app), locate the business you’d like to review (or add it if it’s not there), give a star rating and write a review.  You can also give feedback on other reviews, and with some sites, like Yelp, you can connect with other reviewers and become an online community.  Your positive reviews can boost a business, but If you do feel you need to give a low rating, be constructive as many good companies will also try and learn from the not so good reviews – so you can help a business become better.  It’s easy, fast and really effective!!  You may even get addicted – you’ll know the signs – when you go out to eat, the food arrives and just as everyone starts to tuck in you shout “WAIT!! Nobody touch your plates until I take a photo!”

What’s in it for ‘me’??  Well in addition to helping your favourite businesses and giving tourists the best possible ‘Edinburgh Experience’, some sites reward the most active reviewers.  You can apply to google to become a ‘Google City Expert’.  You need to have a google plus account, write 50 quality reviews and if you are accepted (or even if you’ve applied but not hit the 50 reviews) you may be invited to some really cool events around the city – recent events in Edinburgh have included exclusive access to the Camera Obscura, The International Science Festival, Art Galleries, taste testing, etc…

If you are an active ‘Yelper’ you can request ‘Elite’ status (see form on elite page).  It adds credibility to your reviews and you get invites to special events.  I’m not elite, but Yelp also invites other active members of the community to events that may be relevant so I was happy to go along last week and taste Loudon’s amazing selection of cakes made for just about every dietary need – gluten free, dairy free, egg free, sugar free.

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Here are Yelp’s requirements for Elite status:

“Frequency and quality of reviews are important – but wait, there’s more! We’re looking for model Yelpers that engage on the site by sending compliments, voting Useful, Funny, and Cool (UFC) on reviews, participating respectfully on Talk, and consistently posting quality content. Depth and breadth of reviews is key to submitting a successful Elite application, but ideally, you’re a yelpy good citizen as well.”

Both Google and Yelp stress the importance of Quality reviews so here are some of my tips:

  • Start with the positive.  If you’ve had a bad experience it is tempting to want to have a public rant but most people sort their searches with the highest ranked places first.  So go online and start plugging your favourite places, places that you want to see do well and stay in business – for your sake as well as theirs – so you can keep going!!
  • Have fun with the reviews.  Use good grammar and spelling, but you’re not writing an easy.  Make it colourful, descriptive, realistic, and give examples.  You don’t want to sound like a paid ad – let people know you are a real customer with no attachment – you are writing because you like the service, the product, the atmosphere, ethos, etc….
  • Take photos!  A picture paints a thousand words.
  • If you have a smartphone download apps (such as Yelp) so that you can review on the go and check-in.
  • Think bigger than just shops and restaurants.  Show that you really know your city well.  You can review museums, parks, walks, events, sports centres….
  • You may not seem credible if all your reviews are 5 star.  So do review places that you feel require improvement or that you think may give a bad impression of Edinburgh.  Be constructive – not mean spirited.  Remember you are not anonymous!  Some businesses may respond to your review, which I think is good – it shows that they are paying attention to these sites and care about their reputation.  Be prepared to give these guys a second chance.
  • Have a look at the terms and conditions of the site you are using.  Make sure you follow the rules – they do have the right to remove reviews that are inappropriate.

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