Promote Your Public Library on Yelp, but Be Careful How You Do It

One of the most useful mobile apps for people on the go is Yelp, the review site for local businesses, from restaurants to museums to yes public libraries. Yelp allows visitors and locals alike to find good places to eat or the best mechanic in town, based on reviews from other users. But it also allows people to quickly find the phone number or opening hours of any public building directly from their mobile phone.

Public libraries should claim their business on Yelp. Its one more way to reach the increasingly digital and mobile community. In an earlier post, I mentioned some key steps for claiming your library on review sites like Yelp. But theres another aspect: Yelp and other sites like it encourage patrons and visitors to write reviews of your public library and post them on your business page.

In fact, credible reviews drive the success of Yelp. All reviews trustworthy or not have the potential of driving traffic to the doorsteps of local businesses. A series of bad reviews can mean a reduction in that traffic or even damage to your reputation. Thats why many businesses encourage their patrons or customers to write good reviews if they are pleased with the service or product. Theres nothing wrong with that, as long as the business isnt paying the customer or dictating what that customer should say in the review.

However, some businesses do try to stack the reviews in their favor by recruiting false recommendations. In an attempt to keep businesses from gaming the system, Yelp recently cracked down on businesses that were paying for reviews. Those that were caught in the companys recent sting operation will have a consumer alert message posted at the top of their business page, warning visitors that the business has paid for good reviews.

Most businesses are tempted down this path either because theyve had a couple of bad reviews or because they feel the competition is paying for good reviews. But its a bad practice because if caught, it can undermine your credibility. It also cuts against the culture of social media, which emphasizes authenticity. And the truth is, it may be somewhat unnecessary because Yelp has put some controls in place to weed out false or untrustworthy reviews and reviewers.

It may be instructive to understand how Yelps filtering system handles reviews. First, its important to know that Yelp recognizes that not all reviews or reviewers are equal. Some are more trustworthy than others (just as you find some of your friends more reliable or expert than other friends in their opinions on issues, products or services). So, Yelp tries to distinguish between reliable and unreliable reviews to maintain the quality of the database. 

The filter attempts to identify unreliable reviews or reviewers by applying several criteria. First, the reviewer must have a Yelp account. Second, they must post more than one review on Yelp. Other factors, like whether or not someone likes their review, probably play a role too. Yelp won’t provide details of the filtering algorithm because they don’t want people to game the system.

However, this video provides a good overview. 

If you get a negative review, your first step should be to determine whether it has any merit. If the reviewer has had a bad experience, the best approach is to correct whats wrong and then apologize publicly to the review on Yelp. If possible, try to reach out to the visitor directly and work with him or her to correct the problem.

If you believe the reviewer to be wrong, respond on Yelp and simply correct the facts. Everyone is entitled to an opinion, so avoid an argument over subjective complaints.

Its perfectly fine to seek good reviews, but do so appropriately. If a visitor compliments your library services, politely ask if theyd write what theyve just told you in a review on Yelp.

Just dont offer to pay them 😉

About Tiffany McClary

Tiffany McClary is the Director of Communications, Marketing & Outreach for the New Jersey State Library. She coordinates marketing and public relations initiatives in order to enhance the reputation of the State Library, and promote the value of NJ libraries and the services and programs that they provide to residents.