Your Pizza Sucks And . . .

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Yelp t-shirtsIn this new age of social media marketing and user generated content, marketers are learning first hand the impact of directory sites that allow visitors to rate and review the products, service and services of companies at the local level.

These sites garner a fair amount of bad feelings from small business owners as they often allow rants from disgruntled customers, but few protections for the actual small business against unfounded or competitor sponsored bad reviews.

These sites do serve a useful purpose for the consumer, are growing in popularity, and are here to stay, so now’s the time to learn how to navigate them, participate in them, and use them to your marketing advantage.

But first, here’s some interesting coverage on this issue for background.
1) One of the sites getting some of its own negative reviews when it comes to posting reviews without any recourse for the business owner is Yelp! – in this New York Times article Yelp! is criticized for its hands off policies.
2) One San Francisco Pizza hot spot took matters in their own hands and turned the tables, so to speak, on Yelp! by creating Yelp! t-shirts for their staff to wear that featured some of the most absurd one star ratings. The coverage Pizzeria Delfina received, including a national spot on NPR and a mention on American Idol may have actually led to Yelp!’s decision to change some of its policies and allow more control over reviews for business owners.
3) A New York Times follow-up story quotes Yelp’s co-founder and chief executive, Jeremy Stoppelman announcing that business owners will now have the ability to publicly respond to reviews, particularly those they feel are unfair.

Rating and review sites are great places for prospects to find local business and are growing daily in popularity. You can no longer stick your head in the sand and ignore them. Bad reviews on rating sites can impact your business and unfortunately negative people tend to be more likely to want to express their feelings.

My advice – go on the offensive and take a proactive stance.

1) Make sure you are listed on the major social media sites and that your profile and business information is up to date and as accurate as possible.

2) Make note of the URL for your listings and start promoting these sites and stimulating positive reviews from some of your most loyal customers to get the ball rolling in your favor. (Some of the review sites appear to list businesses with more reviews above others when people do local searches.)

3) Start publishing your positive reviews in other forms of communication (maybe a t-shirt!). These testimonials can add to your marketing message and act as subtle reminders to other happy customers that they might want to post reviews as well.

4) Add a few reviews of your favorite local businesses, particularly those you may have strategic relationships with.

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google maps, insider pages, Jeremy Stoppelman,, merchant circle, pizzeria delfina, yahoo local, Yelp

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