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Posted at 05:00 AM ET, 08/14/2012

How to make Yelp work for your small business

Every other week, On Small Business reaches out to a panel of young entrepreneurs for answers to some of the most pressing social media questions facing small business owners. The following responses are provided by members of the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of entrepreneurs.

Q: How can small business owners get the very most out of Yelp?


Yelp’s review services can give your business a big boost - if you know how to use them effectively. (Jin Lee - BLOOMBERG)

Amanda Congdon, co-founder and director of operations of Vegan Mario’s in Oak View, Calif.:

Reviews are tricky business. You want a lot of them and you want them to be positive, but where do you start? Try the following...

• List your business on Yelp, complete with store hours, website and a message from the owner.

• Display the “People Love Us On Yelp” sticker on your company’s door (you’ll get one from Yelp after earning a 3.5-star rating). That lets people know you care about your Yelp presence and would like a review.

• Write back to select negative reviews if you find them to be completely off-base. If the mistake was on your end, apologize and offer to make things right.

• Think twice about posting deals on Yelp. I have seen this backfire because those who frequent Yelp want to patron what’s well-rated and popular, not what’s sponsored, regardless of what tops search results.

• Listen to Yelpers and incorporate their feedback!

But definitely do not...

• Ask patrons to review you -- they may indeed do so and mention this very interaction!

• Leave fake reviews for your own business. Savvy Yelpers know how to spot shills and WILL call you out.

• Engage with every reviewer who says something mildly negative. You only make yourself and your company look bad.

Anthony Saladino, co-founder and chief executive of Kitchen Cabinet Kings in Staten Island, N.Y.:

Prior to completing a purchase, many potential customers will thoroughly review your online reputation through Yelp and other review sites. It is essential for all businesses to effectively manage this reputation in order to convert these visitors into paying customers.

Create a company profile on all the major review sites and make sure to include your complete business information (address, phone number, hours of operation, logo). Include category keywords related to your business to improve visibility, and provide detailed information about your services, products, company history, and top selling points to educate potential buyers.

It is also critical to obtain as many customer reviews as possible; each positive review will provide you additional credibility and help close a potential sale. A good way to increase your review volume from satisfied customers is to send out a thank you letter after a purchase, asking them to provide you with a review on your product or services.

Nina Rodecker, founder and chief executive of Tasty Clouds Cotton Candy Company in Los Angeles, Calif.:

One of the main purposes of review sites is to provide information to sales prospects, or people looking for a specific thing. Positive reviews improve your business reputation and are great for building credibility for those incoming customers. Many of our customers came directly from reviews. They, in turn, are more likely to leave a review themselves.

You can also use reviews to highlight products, services or other important details of your business. In our case, responding to reviews about one of our exclusive flavors helped us build more buzz by allowing us to highlight our whole range of flavors.

Even a poor review can reveal a legitimate problem with some aspect of your company, giving you the chance to fix it before it gets worse.

Follow the YEC and On Small Business on Twitter.

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. The YEC recently published #FixYoungAmerica: How to Rebuild Our Economy and Put Young Americans Back to Work (for Good), a book of 30+ proven solutions to help end youth unemployment.

Do you have questions you would like to see answered by these young entrepreneurs? Share them with us in the comments below or via email and we’ll pass them along to the YEC for future series.

By  |  05:00 AM ET, 08/14/2012

Tags:  small business, advice

 
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