Yelp Allows Businesses to Talk Back

Yelp, the popular community sourced review site, has announced that it will finally allow businesses a public voice on their forums. Prior to this reversal, companies were left with few ways to respond to negative reviews – they could either contact reviewers privately or in the case of one San Francisco pizza shop, showcase their […]

Yelp, the popular community sourced review site, has announced that it will finally allow businesses a public voice on their forums. Prior to this reversal, companies were left with few ways to respond to negative reviews – they could either contact reviewers privately or in the case of one San Francisco pizza shop, showcase their bad reviews on employee t-shirts in a bit of ironic marketing – both of which fell short of addressing the public at large.

Yelp co-founder Jeremy Stoppelman looked upon this previous stance as a means of protecting the consumer’s point of view, but as the site’s reach has grown, it has increasingly come up against businesses – particularly those advertising on the site – that complained of being powerless. Considering that participation from both groups, in terms of revenue and content generation, are essential to Yelp’s long term success, addressing this disparity became necessary. Now that companies have equal say, maintaining the site’s delicate balance will pose a whole new set of challenges, especially considering Yelp’s ongoing decision not to screen comments before they go live.

For businesses, this presents an opportunity not only to respond directly to bad press, but more importantly to engage with their customers in conversation which is essential to shaping a message and developing lasting relationships. Although consumers might feel somewhat slighted by this move now that their free reign has come to an end, they will also discover that these new dynamics have their advantages. Seeing how companies exist alongside their reviews in this new social space paints a much fuller picture than was previously on display. And at the end of the day, a little more accountability for all parties is a good thing.

[via NY Times]

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