Yelp announced a series of tools today for businesses to interact with local reviewers and have more of an active voice.
New features for SMBs include:
Message customers who have reviewed their business
See how many prospective customers viewed their business page
Update business information instantly (i.e., hours of operation, categories)
Receive new review e-mail alerts
Yelp and other local social search sites have always had elements of local reputation management engines for small businesses. The new tools make it easier for SMBs to utilize Yelp in this way. Like a lot of other local marketing tools for SMBs, Yelp’s offering will face adoption challenges in its requirement for businesses to self service (registration required). But Yelp’s local traction and sheer volume of reviews will make it an easier sell. The company is meanwhile stepping up local sales efforts with recent funding.
By getting more businesses involved in using Yelp in this way, the company hopes they’ll realize its value as a local ad medium — especially given the analytics features. In that way, these features could be a hook for the various placement upsells, on which Yelp’s monetization scheme is largely based. Though the messaging happens behind the scenes, this could also give businesses more of a sense of control over how they’re portrayed on the site — the lack of which could have previously scared them away from being paid advertisers.
We’ll see if these features have a financial impact for Yelp. This is a step in the right direction and essentially throws a bone to businesses after the site’s history of being mostly user-centric. Now it’s more of a two-way street.