November 17, 2009

Yelpy

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I get these Yelp updates. I told them I didn’t want to pay them anything, I told them I didn’t want any updates, but I still get them. And like most of my spam, it’s sort of my fault because I’ve been lazy and haven’t tracked down the little off switch.

This was in my inbox this morning from Yelp. Thought I’d take a second to talk about our evolving relationship with reviews, and social media, etc.:

Inc Magazine presented an interesting idea last week: Business owners are more engaged on consumer sites than consumers themselves. According to the article, “87 percent [of business owners] had written comments on review sites, while only 63 percent of consumers had done so. The small-business owners also held review sites in higher esteem: 57 percent said they found them useful in making purchasing decisions, compared to 41 percent of consumers.”

I think this quote is funny. As some of you know, I have a bit of a rocky relationship with Yelp. Not much better with print media. And nothing with Facebook. These are the cornerstones for most new businesses, especially restaurants. So what’s my problem?

I’ll admit, some of it has to be some sort of strange deep stubbornness that I’d need a head shrinker to identify. But I can justify it with some straightforward criticism, and I thought all of you may enjoy a peek behind the curtain of how companies are manipulating, oops, I mean communicating to you.

I don’t like the sound of my own voice

I’ve always suspected that most of these networks are really driven by a small handful of folks. And a good number of those folks are talking to themselves. This little study sort of confirms that, though it’s less dramatic than I expected.

When we first opened Yelp contacted me, first by email, then by phone. They wanted me to pay them monthly, a lot of chickpea sandwiches, so that they would put me higher in their search results, etc. I said no thanks, based purely on money. But it bothered me beyond just the money. I think there is a little slight of hand there. You assume, or at least I do, that when you use these sites, with the emphasis on user reviews, the information is untarnished.

Then Yelp invited me to “Taste of Kendall Square.” I can only imagine they are holding these things everywhere. The deal: I bring food for 200 people, they bring 200 hyper-Yelpers, and Clover gets written about, by more Yelpers. I said no again, because of the money. But at this point I realize I also just don’t want that much Yelp attention.

Twitter (and someday facebook?)

On the other hand, I love the way Twitter has worked for us. It’s just a really handy tool. Never thought I would sing the praises of Twitter, I was a bit of a critic early on. But the truth is, it’s a clean fast way for me to get information out to everyone. And recently I’m finding it’s becoming a great tool for us to collect feedback. There is no pretension, no slight of hand. What you see is what you get on Twitter. I like that.

We have some Google customers. They have some new tool called Google Friend Connect. I think we’ll play around with it. Like all of these, I’ll start out skeptical, but keep an open mind.

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