Spotlight on Your Local Yelp Team

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Emily Washkovic, the small business expert behind the review host and Yelp, takes a look at this week’s episode of the podcast.


Yelp was founded in 2004 with the mission of connecting people with great local businesses online and in person. In 2021, Yelp reported 33 million unique users on its app and reached 244 million reviews cumulatively. About 70% of those reviews are 4 stars or higher, with 52% of those with a 5-star rating.

One of the ways Yelp connects people and places is through its community managers, with a group of employees being the in-person, on-the-ground face of Yelp-making connections at local businesses and within the community itself. Has been charged. Gabby Messinger and Amy Nebel Dougherty are two of Yelp’s original community managers, or CMs using insider lingo. Gabby is now the Vice President of Community Management and Amy is a Senior Regional Manager.

Gabby debuted at Yelp in 2007. “I applied for this job. That title was a community manager. And at the time, I had never heard of it before. It wasn’t a typical job title. But it sounded great. It was tempting. It was because you were a social butterfly. You were connecting people in the community with local businesses. You were doing things like writing a local newspaper and giving people recommendations to go to,” Gabi said.

“You were both educating consumers about local businesses in their community. And you were educating consumers about Yelp as a resource and hopefully writing reviews. But also business owners. to know and tell them about the tools Yelp had to offer them.”

It was not an easy start though. In 2007, Yelp wasn’t quite the household name it is today. “I would often tell people that I worked for Yelp, and they would ask me, ‘Where? What? Is this like a dog website?’ And then I have to explain what exactly Yelp was. So there was a lot of education involved in telling people what Yelp was back in the day,” Gabby said.

“We were too sneaky. We had very little budget to work with. We were doing a lot of grassroots marketing. At festivals, long days on our feet. Getting people involved in festivals and telling them about Yelp And ideally to make them more curious and sign up for our newsletter or possibly check in to a festival or event and write a review.”

While the community’s awareness of Yelp has grown, the mission remains the same: to facilitate connections. As Yelp has expanded its reach, it has developed a secret club of Yelp reviewers, the Yelp elites—a group of reviewers with a passion for building small businesses. They are the most active and influential users of Yelp, checking out and reviewing as many businesses as possible in their community.

“They just love local businesses, and they love meeting other people who have a local passion,” Amy said. “And hearing the stories of business owners. It’s clear to see. I remember when I was a CM, and I had that kind of big purpose moment where I had a bunch of brand new elites at an elite event, and They all met each other, and you’d expect it to be weird. You know, meeting for the first time, but it wasn’t.

“And then I remember, later that weekend, they all check in at the same brunch restaurant on Yelp. And it was like, we made some real friendships here.”

In general, people including the elite want to leave positive reviews on Yelp. They want to share their favorite places with the community, to share a sense of place and purpose.

Gabby said, “I know from conversations with elites over the years that they tend to be positive by nature, and they want to be a cheerleader for these local businesses. And I think it really makes them feel that way. It’s like they’re doing a great job. The difference is when they’re leaving that review or adding those photos.”

“And then especially when they hear back from a business owner, when the business owner actually thanks them for the review, or maybe they go for another visit in the future and because of their review. They are recognized and personally thanked. So I think that is one of the major reasons why people choose to be elite and remain elite year after year because they see that it is making a big difference. And it’s helping their local community in so many different ways.”

There are some common threads among Yelp reviewers, and with the idea of ​​becoming a Yelp Elite reviewer one day, it’s easy to get into the habit of reviewing on a regular basis.

Amy recommends starting small. “I think the most important thing is to check in on Yelp, add photos as you’re there. If you’re standing in line waiting for a meal, snap some photos, add them. Yelp will let you write this later. Going to remind for review.

“And I also think it’s important to remember that you can review any type of local business. There are a lot of businesses, especially now, that might want to hear feedback from you just to get that review. Would like it.”

And Gabby echoed that sentiment, adding that timeliness is key, too. “I like to suggest that people review when they’re fresh. And if you don’t think you had a perfect experience, like you want to go back again once or twice before giving a full review, that’s fine. is,” he said. “Sometimes I’ll add photos on my first visit and then after a month or two, I’ll go back, add more photos, and then I’ll add my review. It doesn’t have to be a novel. It could be a few sentences, And then you can always update it later.”

While your experience deserves less than 5-stars, Gabby says it’s important to remember that the business owner on the other side of that review is human, and should be given feedback about things that need to be implemented by the business. or can be replaced.

“As far as giving constructive feedback is concerned, I think it is definitely something that we all want to do when we are giving reviews. I think we need to take a step back as well. and know that there is a staff shortage right now, and we may not get our food or whatever our order or whatever our experience is and in time courtesy. and just recognizing that the review has a lot to do with the business. Showing respect goes a long way. Everyone’s struggling post-COVID. And so it might not be as harsh as you initially feel. Taking some time to think about why the experience is so good Not as much as you would like. And I agree that the elite are doing it. Of course, there are some users that don’t. But we do our best to encourage people to be respectful and kind in their reviews. “

Yelp is an excellent tool for finding small businesses in the local area or while traveling. If you’re interested in becoming a Yelp Elite reviewer or know someone who could make a great member of the Elite Squad, you can nominate them here, Some final conclusions for businesses:

  • Yelp elites love small businesses. Yelp users and Yelp elites are a diverse group with a passion for high quality businesses.
  • Almost everyone wants to leave a positive review. Many reviewers are inspired by positive experiences they want to share with the community.
  • The more things change, the more they remain the same. The Yelp community has changed a lot since 2007, but its values ​​and goals remain the same: to connect consumers with great local businesses.

Listen to the episode below to hear straight from Gabby and Amy, and agree behind the review Every Thursday for more from new business owners and reviewers.

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