More Insight Into Yelp

Following last Monday’s article about improving patron engaging through Yelp, a pair of very worthwhile comments came in; one from Boston Symphony Orchestra office & social media manager Matthew Heck (who was mentioned in the article) and Marc van Bree, author of the Dutch Perspective (the intersection of communications, social media and culture).

Heck offers some firsthand insight into how he handles interacting with patrons on Yelp within the confines of his orchestra’s operating parameters.

Firstly, thanks very much, Drew, for the shout out. It’s nice to be recognized for the effort that goes into maintaining a solid social media presence. As far as Yelp is concerned, my approach to our page is rather simple. I check in weekly or biweekly and respond publicly to as many comments as possible, addressing first any unanswered questions, complaints, or customer service issues, then simply thanking folks for their input.

I thank folks for positive reviews, delicately address negative reviews, and ignore aggressive or militant reviews that seem to fall outside the realm of reasonable customer service. I do not have to run my comments through a PR filter. I have a good handle on BSO policies from working at the Hall for 4 years and Tanglewood for 7 and a sense of how to phrase things so that they are clear.

I have the freedom to respond as I see fit, a detail that I hope keeps our voice on social media relatively uniform across platforms. Yelp is well worth the time required to maintain a successful site. It’s especially effective as a tool to correct misinformation and spread the word about special discounts like our $20 tickets for patrons under 40, but also a rare opportunity for a large organization to take on a personal voice and address grievances in a direct, reasonable, and public way.

Van Bree wondered about Yelp’s policies regarding whether or not arts groups should actively encourage patrons to leave reviews.

 Haven’t looked too much into Yelp other than setting up the business profile. Responding to the reviews is a great idea. Yelp’s advertising and highlighting options are pretty expensive ($3 per click for ads!).

Yelp actually discourages companies to solicit reviews. From their Help files:

Should I ask customers to write reviews for my business?<

Probably not. It’s a slippery slope between the customer who is so delighted by her experience that she takes it upon herself to write a glowing review and the customer who is “encouraged” to write a favorable review in exchange for a special discount. And let’s be candid: most business owners are only going to solicit reviews from their happy customers, not the unhappy ones. Over time, these self-selected reviews create intrinsic bias in the business listing — a bias that savvy consumers can smell from a mile away. Don’t be surprised, then, if your solicited reviews get filtered by Yelp’s automated review filter.

Good advice and there is a clear distinction between soliciting reviews and simply letting folks know your orchestra is on Yelp to begin with. Anyone who knows what Yelp is will already know what to do (or at the very least, what they can do) if they make the connection that your group is on Yelp and any Yelp newbies just might make a concert event review their first Yelp experience.

As an aside, if you’re wondering about the automatic review filter Yelp mentioned, you can learn what that’s all about in this video they produced.

Thanks to Heck and Van Bree for weighing in and offering up more detail. If there’s anyone else out there with some direct knowledge and interaction with Yelp, leave a comment and share your experiences (good or bad). I’m sure everyone will appreciate the insight.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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