While many are checking-in on Facebook, a whole different group of connected people are reviewing and rating local places to eat, shop, drink, relax and play, all for the benefit of others.
Yelp, a social recommendation phenomenon in the US, has launched in Australia. Australia marks the 13th country in the global expansion of Yelp, having already conquered Canada, UK, Ireland, Spain, Belgium, France, Netherlands, Austria, Italy, Switzerland and Germany.
Yelp in Australia
In October, a group of Yelp scouts visited cafes, restaurants and other local businesses in Sydney and Melbourne, writing honest reviews of their experiences. Now Yelp is in the hands of real people who will become the heart of this online community.
“It’s the good content from people like you that make Yelp different from other online, localised offerings,” explains Angela Tangas, Product Development Manager at Sensis, the Australian partner for Yelp.
Indeed, no one local review site has captured Australia. There are several "what’s on" guides, including thethousands.com.au and my247.com.au, but both these businesses focus on dining and entertainment without any customer-created reviews.
Yelp goes beyond restaurants and includes categories such as shopping, beauty, fitness and travel. Coupling extended business coverage with reviews by real people ensures Yelp provides something that is unique in Australia.
How does it work?
By becoming a Yelp reviewer, users can add their reviews of local businesses. If other Yelp members like that review, then the author can earn an ‘elite’ status, which can see them invited to exclusive Yelp events in their area.
Content that was developed by Yelp in the lead up to the Australian launch is labelled with a Yelp Scout logo. The scouts were not paid, to ensure reviews were real and not biased. Content added since November has been created by the developing local Yelp community.
According to Brad Howarth, co-author of A Faster Future, “The success of Yelp hangs on its ability to establish a community quickly that provides enough information to make it useful to everyone else.” By choosing to write Yelp reviews, users become a part of this community, and reviews can be shared via other social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.
Isn’t it just like Facebook?
Well, no, not really. Facebook Places and FourSquare allow people to check-in and alert their followers to their current location. Yelp is all about the reviews generated by its members.
Research from Social Commerce has found that globally, 77 per cent of online shoppers use reviews to help them make decisions. Yelp harnesses the power of online reviews and applies them to the real world, offline experience.
Anyone who is a member of Yelp can submit a review of a business. Facebook allows reviews to be added if you "like" a specific company, but reviews are not integrated into the check-in process. Not yet anyway.
What does it mean for local businesses?
Local businesses can claim their Yelp profile, provide information and respond to the reviews they have been given. From 2012, businesses with a premium listing in the Yellow Pages will automatically be given a Yelp profile.
According to Howarth, Yelp has been a significant force in the market. “Recommendation is a powerful driver of behaviour and in some cities in the US Yelp makes a big difference to the revenue earned by restaurants. It has had the capacity to make or break some businesses,” he says.
Yelp is also available via mobile devices to allow on-the-go reviews and research.
With Melbourne and Sydney launched, Yelp is now moving into the Brisbane and Adelaide markets.
By the New Year, you’ll start to notice Yelp reviews popping up on Yellow Pages online and mobile sites.
Next year will be the test to see if Australians embrace Yelp in the same way as America and Europe.