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Joel F: Review of Yelp.com


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I remember when you could go to Yelp.com for useful reviews of local businesses and services. Pretty much any business, small or large, had member reviews that were relatively fair and helpful. Even some city services were reviewed. Back then I would have happily given the site my five stars.

But then Yelp decided social media was the way to build traffic and set up a system to have their members compete for status. First posting more reviews was enough, but soon folks were encouraged to write more entertaining reviews, funnier reviews and ultimately snarkier reviews. Members who didn't post enough, got dropped from listings (although they couldn't tell that because when they looked at a listing they would still see their own reviews). In this slow, steady slide toward mediocrity, it became less and less useful as a source of local reviews and increasingly fertile soil for trolling.

While social media may be a great way to build traffic, generating a revenue stream from it is a lot harder, so Yelp chose to target the small businesses that were the very fabric of their content. Rather than add value for small businesses, Yelp hatched a sort of protection scheme in which businesses were offered "sponsors" status to keep Yelp from placing ads for their competition at the top of their listing. This did little more than piss off business owners (i.e. multiple law suits) and didn't really offer any added value to the advertising effect they were already getting from the web site.

Ultimately, Yelp has evolved into a below average social media portal and, in the process, seriously undermined it's credibility as a source of fair and reasoned reviews of local businesses. I used to come to Yelp if I wanted qualitative information about a business, now I might go there if I want to find out what hours they are open.

Yelp, get back to basics, Focus on encouraging your members to post reviews that are more helpful and less hurtful. Figure out how to help small businesses thrive independently and not on the backs of their competition; believe it or not, small businesses don't won't to succeed at the cost of other small businesses.

For now, I give Yelp.com One Star.

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