As the phenomenon of local business ratings and reviews becomes more “institutionalized” and important, efforts are popping up to help businesses cope and/or take advantage of the trend. Merchant Circle is one business in the local space that has positioned itself as a platform for SMB “reputation management” as well as marketing.
Local search provider Yelp has now added tools that make it easier for local businesses to communicate with reviewers and to gain perspective on activity on their profiles.
As Yelp has gained in stature and importance in a number of US markets, savvy businesses were joining the Yelp consumer/reviewer community to promote themselves and interact with users. However, the new suite of tools supersedes this as a means to communicate with fans and critics alike.
The new tools, collectively dubbed “Yelp for Business,” provide the following benefits and capabilities:
- Analytics about traffic to profile pages
- The ability to update and enhance profile information (verified by phone)
- Email alerts when new reviews are posted
- The ability to send messages to reviewers (with several controls) behind the scenes
Yelp has also created a kind of best practices guide about engaging the community.
Consumer reviews on sites like Yelp are essentially word-of-mouth online and they’ve grown in their importance to consumers over time. A number of directory and yellow pages sites allow businesses to publicly comment on reviews. However, Yelp decided to enable the merchant-customer communication behind the scenes instead of directly on the site.
The Yelp tools represent a next step for local review sites and social directories. It starts to make the site something of a “CRM platform” for small businesses.
I have more information and discussion on my blog, Screenwerk.