Andrew Zimmern recently voiced his opinion of Yelp to Eater.com, spoiler alert: he doesn’t think very highly of it.
Back in a December 2012 interview, he referred to Yelp as, “a tremendous forum for a bunch of uninformed morons,” and came back to it this week with, “the last thing I want to do is utilize a service where millions of people are chiming in, and the results are tainted.” He believes that you shouldn’t trust the masses to come together and offer opinions, but rather a select few.
He Kind of Has a Point
There are three main demographics of Yelp reviewers. There are the food bloggers who are trying to build their names and credibility, Yelpers who enjoy going to elite events and getting free stuff, and impassioned customers who hated or loved a business so much that they’ve decided to write about it.
It’s this last group that proves Zimmern right. More often than not, for a customer to review your business, they either have to love it so much that they want to find a way to compliment you, or they hate it and want to publicly warn others against your establishment. Either way, these users aren’t signing on to Yelp with the calm, experienced palate of a foodie, but rather with the flaming taste buds of someone determined to share their opinions on the Internet.
For example, this past weekend I went to the Three Birds Tavern in St. Petersburg, FL. I happen to think the food was delicious and the beer was good. If I were to write that in a Yelp review, it would share screen space with, “BRING BACK THE PARMESAN TRUFFLE FRIES! Sorry, one star until they make a triumphant return!” which is next to, “…like a fountain of effervescent unicorn rain. I want to marry Sweetwater. This place will be my best man.” As you can see, any rational opinion is ignored while the overdramatic reviewers steal the spotlight with caps lock and unicorn references.
So Who Should You Trust?
Zimmern believes you should trust authorities on food and, more importantly, people with similar tastes and preferences as you. Why should you trust a raving Yelper who you’ve never met before and have no idea what types of food they’re into?
This is where food bloggers and publishers come in.
The example that Zimmern gave in his 2012 interview was Pete Wells slaying Guy Fieri’s restaurant in the New York Times, but you don’t have to rely on high-brow food critics to tell you what’s good. Local area food bloggers try different places and write about them as their hobby; they’re the epitome of what Zimmern was talking about.
Find a blogger with similar tastes and preferences (home cooking, spicy food, pub grub, etc.) and follow their blog and where they eat. Find a local blog that has the same values, from family friendly to locally owned, and see what they recommend. Word of mouth works best when the source is reliable and trusted – and isn’t a random Yelper hoping to get free stuff.
Moving the Concept Away From Food
Walk with me. I know you’re reading a content marketing blog and there are plenty of other places you could go for dining advice, but Zimmern’s comments could really be applied to any industry.
For marketers, crowd-sourced review sites are increasing in popularity, but an authority figure’s endorsement can carry more weight. Why do you think toothpaste commercials cite four out of five dentists instead of 75 out of 92 Internet reviewers? This also means you shouldn’t get bent out of shape when someone gives you a bad review. You can’t please everyone, but you can try to fix the situation and create new methods to prevent the complaints from happening again.
For publishers, Zimmern’s words present an opportunity. When it comes to your industry, you know more than your readers and your customers. Prove it and they’ll keep coming back. For example, marketers that offer good advice on their blogs in a unique way will continue to build their authority in the industry and have an increase in clients. Plumbers that create tutorials and how-tos for various projects will get calls when their customers need a big job. It’s all about creating a sense of trust and authority.
A Nod to Yelp
To be fair, Yelp has several systems in place to make sure the quality results are at the top while the reviews of lesser value sink to the bottom. Users can vote in favor of reviews if they’re useful or funny, and they can also filter them by date, rating, and the status of the poster. If you don’t have time to research local bloggers, you can read reviews of Yelp elites who regularly travel around reviewing different businesses.
I’m not agreeing with Zimmern in his attack on Yelp, but I am agreeing that the masses don’t always know what they’re talking about. It’s better for consumers to seek out an authority, and better for publishers to position themselves as one.