How to make friends with Yelp -- and why you should

Editor's note: Richard Geller's column, Marketing Madness, appears regularly on the advice and opinion page, Second Opinion.

In my last column, I showed you how social media can backfire if you are not careful. And I outlined five steps on how to become "best buds" with social media. Hopefully you are now implementing those steps.

In this column, I want to explain to you an overall strategy for dealing with Yelp. I will do the same for other big social media sites, notably Facebook and Twitter, in an upcoming column.

Yelp is a Web site where users review local businesses and professionals. Yelp can kill you because if someone Google's your name, your Yelp review could easily come up at the top of the results, even before your own Web site.

And most people believe Yelp reviews, even the ones that are anonymous and untrue. They believe them.

So you must use Yelp to your advantage. And if you do, I believe you will see a lot of new patients you wouldn't otherwise get.

Step 1: Register with Yelp

You have to register to play the game. Open a business account on Yelp. You'll probably get a phone call from a salesperson trying to sell you a package costing several hundred dollars.

Don't buy it, at least at first. For now, just go with the free listing and update your information and engage with Yelp.

Step 2: Answer anything negative

Yelp will send you e-mail alerts when someone posts reviews on you. Pay close attention to these e-mails and make sure to log into Yelp whenever you get such an e-mail.

Anything negative, respond. Answer it. Deal with it. It will make you and your team better anyway.

The most lethal thing you can do is ignore a negative review. If you respond positively, you can often turn things to your advantage. At worst you mitigate what otherwise can be very damaging.

Step 3: Get positive Yelp reviews from patients

I would hand out a paper at your front desk when patients are leaving. It is a Yelp promotion. It should read something like this:

Spread the word and get $50 off next treatment.

Spread the Yelp word. Go to and write a review for us about your experience here with the whole team -- Dr. Joe, Carolyn, Meghan, and LuAnn.

Next time you come in, we'll be happy to give you $50 off any treatment. Thank you so much as you are helping other folks in our area learn about us and we deeply appreciate your help.

That should stimulate a stream of reviews on Yelp. And that is a great thing. The more reviews, the better. Probably nothing is more important in social media right now than a bunch of good recent reviews on Yelp.

The next step, after you've accumulated reviews, is to make a Yelp advertisement, a promotional offer, so that folks who see you on Yelp get, say, a free whitening or free bitewing x-rays on their first visit.

But you don't want to do this until you've built up a bunch of positive reviews.

This strategy is so powerful that you can work it and forget about the rest of the social media universe and watch your production increase like nobody's business.

And please get my dental marketing best-selling classic by visiting and opting into my super private e-mail list.

The comments and observations expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the opinions of, nor should they be construed as an endorsement or admonishment of any particular idea, vendor, or organization.

Copyright © 2010

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