These Yelp people sure do know what they're doing. Irene sent me a message this morning to share in a hooray that I am the San Francisco "Pick of the Day!" Of course I got all excited, and I'm even blogging about it now, which is spreading the Yelp word to whoever reads this.
It's no wonder that the founders were featured as one of BusinessWeek's "Tech's Best Young Entrepreneurs." It's an interesting business model. It's like Zagat meets Friendster meets Citysearch meets MySpace meets Craigslist meets blogging meets all sorts of other cool things on the web. Word of mouth works. Word of mouth combined with highly encouraged and easy to use user interaction works really well.
Everyone has opinions. But not everyone is like me, ready to go through the trouble of figuring out how to put together a blog to put their opinions out there. Not everyone wants to write a blog; they think it's too intrusive. Most people, however, don't mind having their opinions known, especially when it comes to things like restaurants or where to shop. Yelp makes it easy to share opinions, and you're welcome to write as much or as little as you want about whatever you want.
Then people can vote if they think your reviews are any combination of: Useful / Funny / Cool. And that's just with the click of a button. Easy! If people want to write a little more and let you know that they like what you've written, then they can send you a "Compliment" and reveal who they are. And that makes you want to write more.
And then you can add anyone as a "Friend" and send a "Compliment" back. It's a little bit of positive reinforcement going both ways. It feels warm and fuzzy. The next thing you know, you have a good group of friends, and you can see when any of those friends have written anything new. You may discover a restaurant you've never heard of or decide not to visit one based on a review.
You can continue to publicly compliment, or you can send a personal message, so no one else will see it. Or you can leave your circle of friends and see what's going on via the Message boards. Maybe someone is talking about sharing bad date stories or where to find the best chocolate.
Oh, those Yelp people are smart ones. They played on my ego, and I bit. And I will continue to bite. I'm hooked. And you should be too...