Yelp is not a dirty four-letter word — despite what many restaurant owners think.
Here at Cali BBQ, we have found that Yelp is one of the best search engine optimized (SEO) online platforms that restaurants can use to connect with engaged customers near them.
Yelp Introduces New Ways to Connect
Yelp Connect was introduced in 2019 as a way for restaurants to increase their exposure and engagement on Yelp with the exact people that you want to reach online — customers eager to buy your food. Yelp is social media for restaurants.
For $180 a month, Yelp Connect lets you post real-time updates on your Yelp profile, which in turn get posted for users to see on the Yelp homepage and sent out in weekly email blasts to potential hyperlocal customers who live near your restaurant.
What is Yelp Connect? — https://www.yelp-support.com/article/What-is-Yelp-Connect
Why is it important to be hyperlocal? Social media allows you to interact with the entire world, but Yelp Connect allows business owners with a Yelp page a digital way to engage with customers near them. This could mean residents and regulars of where you set up shop or those traveling to your city.
Everyone you connect with online are either current or potential customers.
This targeted engagement keeps business pages from getting lost in the sauce and allows owners to update their target audience all while updating their core Yelp page.
Yelp Connect is Business Social Media
Unlike Instagram or Facebook (which do offer targeted advertising options) Yelp Connect puts your business updates and photos directly in front of what sales people call “pre-qualified” leads.
That is to say, those who know they want to spend money on what you offer. Instagram doesn’t email people when I make a post. Neither does YouTube or Twitter. But Yelp Connect does.
The platform is built to push content to your audience without having to understand the confusing nuances of targeted advertising on other platforms like Facebook. You write an update, add a photo, and press publish. And every single week we get a roundup that tells us how many people are engaging with each post. It’s easy, but powerful.
You can make three types of posts on Yelp Connect:
- Ongoing Posts that stay up on your page indefinitely until removed.
- Event Posts that are up for a limited time and get priority promotion prior to the event date.
- Update Posts that let you set an expiration date for when they’re taken down.
While Yelp Connect serves as somewhat of a hybrid between Yelp and other social media platforms that businesses use like Instagram or Twitter, it’s not all about pushing promotions or driving sales.
Like standard social media, the use of storytelling and honest engagement with your audience is key for connection and brand building on Yelp Connect.
On Yelp Connect your followers are the people who have engaged with your restaurant using Yelp. That could be people who booked a table with Yelp Reservations, virtually lined up with Yelp Waitlist, or bookmarked your page.
Restaurants Need to Reach Local Customers Online
In a world where online searches impact business more than ever, 2020 has served as the perfect year to launch Yelp Connect.
The pandemic adjustments have made being digitally savvy more important than ever. In addition, the social landscape of our country has impacted where customers shop and support.
I spoke with Yelp’s Small Business Expert Emily Washcovick about the Yelp Connect service and how a restaurant can benefit from posting to the network.
“Updates on Yelp Connect can be everything from launching a new beverage item that you can purchase now to-go all the way to finding updates about what they’re doing as a business just to give a little bit of an insight into what’s coming next,” Emily said.
“There are so many unknowns and I think that the ones who are always erring on the side of professionalism or this polished message, or the perfect post, are not necessarily reaching their customers at a high rate.”
So, even though Yelp Connect is definitely a business tool, treating it an overly buttoned up manner isn’t what it’s all about.
Like any good online communication platform, Yelp Connect is about building community.
Because it offers a more localized approach, nearby followers and visitors can feel both connected and informed with every update.
Like anything else in life, the real rises.
(A version of this Yelp article is in the Feb 2021 issue of Restaurant Startup and Growth Magazine. Read more at RestaurantOwner.com: https://www.restaurantowner.com/public/RSGDigi/Feb21.)