Do You Trust Strangers?   Leave a comment

Yelp logo84% of purchasers say their decisions are influenced by online reviews.

84% of purchasers don’t know who they’re listening to.

Yelp is the big company in crowd sourcing … they collect reviews from many, many consumers: the crowd. Most people (84%, apparently) trust that crowd to tell them what restaurants are good, what dentists are friendly, and what retailers deserve their business.

In its best case, having the crowd recommend good restaurants in a strange city is a wonderful thing. Velda introduced me to Yelp in Maui, and it was great. We were in Lihue for the first time, and by listening to the crowd, we were pointed towards some wonderful restaurants, markets, and shows.

However, the crowd is not perfect. As some have observed, Yelp is great for “normal” restaurants, but if your tastes are more esoteric, then you shouldn’t listen to the crowd. Ethnic foods, or spicy foods, have a much more unusual flavor profile … which may not be as easy for the crowd to evaluate.

On the other hand, some people are idiots. Perhaps you’ve noticed? Some members of the great unwashed public have unrealistic views of what service should be … and what they deserve in the marketplace. There have even been cases documented where people have demanded  blackmail from retailers … or they will give them bad reviews. One bad customer – one irresponsible consumer – can mess up a review profile for a small business.

So what’s a retailer to do?

Buy good reviews, of course!  There are companies that guarantee that they will submit positive reviews to Yelp (note that they don’t guarantee that the reviews will actually be posted on the website). Yelp is aware of this … and so they threaten retailers that if they buy reviews, then they will get this warning on their website:

Yelp Alert

That’s a pretty stiff punishment for anyone trying to build their business based on a crowd-sourced review site like Yelp. Who would go to a business that’s known to be a cheater?

But what if Yelp is gaming the system, too? There are stories about the sellers of Yelp advertising telling retailers they can “fix” bad reviews that come up. The other thing that’s known is that the Yelp software accepts some reviews … and ignores others. If it thinks that you might be a fake reviewer, then your review will never see the light of day. But what if you’re really, really a supporter of your local restaurant, and you wrote a 5-star review because you really believe?

If the Yelp algorithm doesn’t like you, then you’re not going to help your favorite retailer. There’s an LA Times article, link below, about this exact problem.

The bottom line is that crowd sourcing is a great thing when it works. When it doesn’t work … it’s not worth much at all.

And THAT is why we sometimes need people other than the crowd to tell us what’s what. Sometimes, an impartial writer is necessary for the rest of us to know what’s true, or what we can trust. Yes, my friends, I’m talking about real, professional journalists. They have a place … and occasionally helping guide their readers is why they get paid the big bucks to write their opinions.

Right, big bucks. Did you see the article about the most hated professions in 2013?  Newspaper journalists came in dead last, at # 200. That would be below lumberjacks.

I’m no journalist, and I’m no lumberjack. I do love Yelp, however. I’m a fan. I write the occasional review.

But I also subscribe to two actual newspapers, and a third electronic edition of a real newspaper, and I read the writing of actual journalists. They have names. They even have bylines and email addresses that I can write to when I choose. That’s good, because there are times that I remember what my Momma told me:

Don’t trust strangers.

And sometimes, anonymous reviews on the internet are very strange, indeed. Don’t you think?


LA Times: When Yelp Rejects Your Reviews

Managing Your Small Business Reputation

Huffington Post Interview With Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman

The Worst Jobs of 2013

Quora: How Reliable Are Yelp Reviews?

Mob Sourcing

Posted April 24, 2013 by henrymowry in Media

Tagged with , , , ,

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.