Does Yelp Help Small Business?

Social Networking sites like Yelp can help bring in new customers to small businesses, but can they also help drive customers away?

By Stephanie Elam and Julie Brayton
|  Wednesday, Nov 16, 2011  |  Updated 10:52 AM PDT
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Social Networking sites like Yelp can help bring in new customers to small businesses, but can they also help drive customers away?

Stephanie Elam

Social Networking sites like Yelp can help bring in new customers to small businesses, but can they also help drive customers away?

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"We are an authentic barbershop in the true meaning of the word barber," states Matt Berman, Founder & Chief Barber, Bolt Barbers.

Bolt Barbers is an old school style barbershop with a modern marketing twist.

"We have a campaign called "People Hate us on Yelp," according to Berman.

Bolt Barbers actually displays those negative Yelp comments explicitly on their website. They put them in their window, and they've even published a book of some of the best buzz kill reviews.

"They're certainly very informative for us," according to Berman. "We learn a lot from them. They give great perspective, but they are also incredibly funny.

And believe it or not, Berman or Mohawk Matt as he’s known, says the campaign actually helps his business.

"Yelp is incredibly important," says Berman. "We run offers on Yelp. We actually generate and run advertising that takes people, instead of to our home page, to our Yelp page."

Social marketing pros say all businesses should be paying attention to what their clientele is saying about them online.

"I don't think enough small businesses actually go into Yelp and look at their ratings and their reviews," according to Tim Hayden, Chief Marketing Officer, 44 doors. "A lot of my clients are seeing more people come in the door, not from Google, but from Yelp."

And that is what yelp is ultimately about. People can now share their opinions and experiences almost instantaneously as a collective.

"Businesses have always approached their customers, or any new media opportunity or advertising or marketing, from a command and control standpoint. Now that there's an information exchange that happens with or without your knowledge, things are changing. Not only is the customer becoming empowered, the customer is making decisions based on this information," according to Brian Solis, Principal, Altimeter Group, & Author, of the book "The End of Business as Usual."

Mohawk Matt says the customer is not always right at Bolt, especially now that social media plays such a key role in the proprietor - customer relationship. He says lots of men don't realize barbers are not cosmetologists.

"Our 'People Hate us on Yelp' campaign is a way to help those people find a place that they are going to be a little more comfortable with," says Berman.

But Bolt will reach out to the dissatisfied directly or even publicly on Yelp, and armed with a 4 1/2 star Yelp rating, Bolt Barbers hope potential customers will check what others have to say about them and save everyone the hassle.

"What we like to say is that there are 2,378 salons in Los Angeles, so there's no dearth of places you can go to get coiffed, feathered and texturized," according to Berman. "Just don't come to Bolt."

 Follow NBCLA for the latest LA news, events and entertainment: Twitter: @NBCLA // Facebook: NBCLA

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