Written by AMA Event Reporter: Olivia Devadas

Ali Schwartz, a Senior Marketing Manager at Yelp, was our third Signature Speaker Series presenter for 2022. Schwartz discussed the topic “Five Star State of Mind” in March.

To start, Schwartz provided an overview on Yelp consumer behavior. My favorite statistic she mentioned was that 85 percent of users trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. This shows the huge shift in how much our engagement with online platforms has shifted over the past decade – Online reviews have changed from just a trend to a common shopping strategy.

Schwartz emphasized that with the pandemic, it is hugely important for businesses to communicate their status digitally, whether it is with Yelp or other social media platforms. She highlighted it is important to create a “clear, concise, and consistent message.” Important business updates include:

  • Hours
  • Offerings
  • Cleanliness
  • Special safety measures
  • Best way to make contact

Yelp specifically rolled out new features to adjust to pandemic-related changes. One of these was a COVID-19 Banner Update, for businesses to share any updates they have about their COVID response. Another was a Coronavirus Safety Measures addition, which includes any safety measures the business is taking to keep both staff and customers safe. The last feature mentioned was the COVID-19 Related Service Offerings, which included any virtual service offerings such as classes, consultations, or tasting sessions.

During the event, Schwartz also discussed strategies to leverage Yelp. She recommended that users take full advantage of their profile, and overcommunicate with consumers. This includes refreshing basic information as needed, any changes in hours, extra information about history or the owner, photos, and interacting with reviews.

Schwartz heavily emphasized responding to reviews and having strategies to do so. In terms of critical reviews, she recommended that if the review was legitimate or inaccurate, to leave a public response. As consumers rely so heavily on reviews, it is important to recognize that responding to a review is not just responding to the commenter, but also anyone else who is looking on the page.

In terms of rant reviews, Schwartz recommended to either direct message the commenter, or tag the review, as viewers can see when a person is being unreasonable, and it is important to not get into any online battles. For positive reviews, users should respond with either a public comment or a direct message.

Schwartz concluded with some general digital marketing strategies that businesses should take advantage of. Businesses should set goals for consumer success and find where people are already discussing them online. They should identify trends and themes across reviews, develop strategies for dealing with customer feedback, and amplify positive through sharing good reviews. Schwartz also discussed the importance of upholding the integrity of online reputation and warned against fixing reviews or offering incentives for positive reviews. To end with, she included a checklist to attract customers while embracing a five-star state of mind:

  • Claim and manage your free business page at biz.yelp.com
  • Complete your profile including category, website, and hours
  • Add high quality photos to grab the attention of customers
  • Don’t attempt to interfere with the natural flow of reviews
  • Do respond to reviews authentically within 24 hours
  • Explore paid options to boost leads and customers

I really enjoyed this event and learning how the digital marketing aspect of business has changed in response to the pandemic. Yelp is a great example of a platform that has successfully adjusted, while maintaining its value as a reliable platform for consumers and businesses alike. Ali Schwartz was a fun and knowledgeable speaker about this topic – watch her presentation here on the AMA-Madison YouTube channel.