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<firstimage=”//static.makeuseof.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/opinion.jpg” />These days, when you mention Yelp, most people know what you’re talking about. Much like Twitter and Facebook, Yelp appears to be the next major social network climbing up in the ranks.
Jerry previously wrote about the Yelp iPhone app, where you could search for highly rated local restaurants to eat at near your location. In fact, numerous MakeUseOf readers have often mentioned Yelp. Personally, I thought Yelp was just another small fad social network attempting to build itself up upon the concept of mobile reviews of local businesses.
The reality is that Yelp is now much more than that. The community is now set up much like Facebook, with profiles and friends, but the heart of this particular network is the review process. Beyond searching for local businesses, members earn a certain status the more they review businesses. The stronger your status, the more other people pay attention to what you have to say.
Are we entering an electronic era where the highest rated Yelp reviewers will be as revered by local businesses as the fine dining newspaper columnists were back in the day? Maybe not yet, but things seem headed in that direction.
Yelp Helps You Out & Lets You Help Others
I have to admit, I learned about Yelp by accident. I was actually using a completely different mobile app on my Android called Where. Where is a pretty cool little app that almost acts like a mobile Yellow Pages – where you can search for local businesses through listings for local restaurants, shopping and more. I used Where a few times while I was traveling with the family, and noticed that each of the businesses had a little link labeled “Yelp Review.”
I wondered what a Yelp review was, and made a mental note to check it out when I got back home. Once I did, I was surprised to learn that it was a booming social network filled with user reviews for businesses in the US, Canada, Ireland and UK. Once I learned about the Yelp mobile app for Android, I switched to using it immediately.
I have two favorite parts of Yelp – the ease with which you can quickly search for local businesses as well as something to do in your area, and the awesome social network of people who are out there actively reviewing local businesses.
Searching for local businesses is as simple as either typing a keyword or typing in your town. The fastest approach is typing your location so that Yelp can offer a listing of local businesses that have already been reviewed (as well as those that haven’t yet – if you feel like writing your own review.)
The listings include the business name, a quick reference for the rating (from 1 to 5 stars) as well as the address and phone number. The most recent reviewer’s comments are included on the listing page as well – so you can briefly get an idea of the business just from the listing page.
Once you click on the business name, you’ll get all of the details, including average price range, parking, whether there’s waiter service or if the business offers delivery. There’s even a cool slideshow of photos for most of the businesses listed in Yelp.
The restaurant above is one near me called DiMillo’s – my wife and I had one of our anniversary dinners there. It’s literally a floating restaurant, permanently at dock in Portland Maine’s Old Port. I may just post my own review!
The Yelp Community
The number of Yelp reviewers are growing exponentially, and reading through the review section for any business is very entertaining. You’ll often see some reviewers going after the review of another reviewer – correcting it or explaining why they are wrong.
For some communities, where tourism is critical, reviews can really make or break the business – and many local business owners are starting to take online reviews from popular sites like Yelp very seriously. However, what businesses are learning is that the best way to ward off negative reviews is to develop a loyal customer base who are ready and willing to defend your good name and testify to the quality of your service or product. Communities like Yelp that encourage local folks to review businesses are really driving local businesses to excel and compete.
You’ll notice that the profile page for reviewers is much like a Facebook profile, except instead of status updates you have the main column with the user’s latest reviews. Other community members can actually rate those reviews as useful, funny or cool and they can forward reviews to friends. This approach keeps the reviewers themselves honest – because no one is going to give much credit to a reviewer who the rest of the community feels they offer poor reviews.
Best of all, on the main Yelp page you’ll see a link for “Yelp Mobile.” Here, you’ll find mobile versions of Yelp for just about every major mobile device – iPhone, BlackBerry, Droid and Palm Pre. I’ve downloaded it to my Droid (as you can see above), and plan on using it any time we travel and we’re pressed to find a good local place to eat. Now you no longer have to ask the clerk at the front desk of the hotel where there are any good places to eat – just pull out your mobile phone and check out what all of the locals have to say. When you listen to local reviews for businesses, you will never be disappointed.
Do you use Yelp, or do you have any other local business review social network that you like to use? Share your own insight and resources in the comments section below.