All businesses should put some time and energy into reaching out to online influencers. The Wall Street Journal Weekend has a great article, The Price of a Four-Star Rating, on how restaurants, cafes, and bars can do a little face-to-face blogger outreach and engagement to great effect: dominating and pwning their reviews on Yelp!
Last August, Dine spent about $1,500 on an event for members of Yelp, a Web site where consumers post reviews and rate restaurants. The nearly 100 members were treated to an open bar, duck roulade appetizers and red velvet cupcakes for dessert. As a bonus, they all received certificates for discounts on subsequent meals. The result: a torrent of favorable reviews on Yelp. Most reviewers mentioned that they attended a Yelp event, though few highlighted that the food and drink was free.
$1,500 is peanuts, even for a small business, when the outcome can result in a 4-star rating — and it can be much much less — or much more luxurious, too! Additionally, the more folks who review you on sites like Yelp, the less likely that any one particular post will gut your reputation for all to see.
It is Stat 101: more total data assures that outliers are less influential over the total.
If your Yelp page has only one bad review, you can clean it up with 20 lukewarm reviews or even 2 or 3 brilliant reviews.
PR firms like Ogilvy and Edelman have been inviting bloggers and message board owners to round tables, forums, lunches, dinners, and parties on behalf of their clients for years now. Wining and dining bloggers works as long as you just put your best foot forward and don’t demand or require good press in the end. And before the Internet, they were wining and dining newspaper, magazine, and television reviewers as well. Does Car & Driver pay out-of-pocket to fly to Nice just to review the new Aston Martin DB9? No, Aston Martin foots the bill, of course!
Don’t game the system: sponsor and open house and invite local residents to eat your food and drink your beverages and then offer them a simple request: “blog or yelp me when you get home.” Make it simple: put a link off your site or give them a card with a URL that redirects directly to your Yelp page: www.joesdineryelp.com, for example
Better still to make a point of limiting your outreach to just local bloggers, inviting just them, as opposed to a bunch of general folks, to a face-to-face gathering. Bloggers are more likely to grok Yelp, anyway, and they also have their own platform — their own blogs — with which to write their own reviews. Online, more is better and ubiquitous is best!
If you treat people right, if you tell them who you are, if you don’t demand anything, and if you are transparent as to your intent, then it will all turn out well.
Heaven forbid folks don’t reveal they were guests at your schmooze fest! Make sure these bloggers reveal that they attended this special gathering for them!
If you don’t and anyone finds out that your wooed these high-influencers and community influentials then you’re toast. Be open, be honest, and ask for what you want, “please pop over to Yelp and let the gang there know what you think about my store, service, restaurant, bar, cafe, etc.”
And, if you think that $1,500 is too much, you’re a cheap bastard and will probably go out of business within a couple years or have probably never really made much of a success of yourself or your company and probably have already cut too many corners and earned those poor reviews.
You cheap bastard!