If you own a local business, be it a restaurant, bar, retail store, or even a local service provider, you might have heard of Yelp Elite. This coveted group of “expert reviewers” gets more exposure on their reviews from others.
Yelp offers “Yelp Elite Benefits” to anyone considered a role model on the site. They achieve this crown by meeting some of the following qualifications:
A large quantity of both positive and critical reviews
A complete profile with plenty of high-quality photos
Detailed personal information
A background of responding to criticism positively
To become a member of the Yelp Elite Squad, it’s clear that you can’t simply hop around from restaurant to restaurant offering negative reviews in exchange for free meals. These people are usually food bloggers, photographers, and digital nomads who spend most of their time traveling and sampling the wares at each location.
Why Your Business Should Work with the Yelp Elite Squad
There are a couple of important reasons why you might want to work with these individual reviews:
These people need to write as many as 40-50 high-quality reviews per year, maintain a large social network of other reviewers, interact with people on the platform, as well as a bunch of other factors to achieve and maintain this status.
What does that mean for you?
It means a lot of exposure if you can provide an excellent experience.
You Could Become the Local Expert
Does your business specialize in something? Elite members love going to places where they can get something that isn’t available everywhere. It gives them something to talk about in the review.
It’s the difference between reviewing a hamburger shop and reviewing a vegan gastropub.
If your business does something a little unique or can generate attention for a specific product, it’s worth it to invite a member or a group and knock it out of the park.
How Your Local Business Can Get Involved with the Yelp Elite Squad
There are a few simple ways to work with the Yelp Elite Squad.
Host Elite Parties
Hosting a Yelp Elite event could be a way to set yourself apart from the competition. Yelp makes it easy to do this because you can message your local Yelp community manager, and they’ll work with you to host an event if it’s a good fit.
No matter what type of business you are, you’ve got some positive reviews under your belt and a unique product to offer, consider reaching out. There’s no harm in giving it your best shot.
Participate in Forums
Commenting on local forums on Yelp is an excellent way to get your name out there, and you can leapfrog over the competition pretty easily this way. Let’s say you own a ramen restaurant in downtown Knoxville, and people are posting in a forum trying to find something unique to eat in the city.
If you’re staying up to date and checking in regularly, you can chime in on the thread to let people know you opened a ramen restaurant, provide the address, and give a little background on the place.
Bear in mind you most likely won’t have access to communication with Yelp Elite members, but discussing this with regular Yelpers might be a great way to get your foot in the door.
Sometimes you might just have to go all-in and message someone directly. If you find there are specific Yelp Elite members in your local area that you really want to get into your business, you can try this easy method.
You’ll want to filter based on location and your type of business. For example, if you own a day spa, you wouldn’t want to message a member who usually reviews restaurants.
You can then filter your competition by reviews, and there should be an “elite” status on there. You can collect all the people who review businesses in your niche and message them one-by-one.
Before you do this, be choosy about who you message. Don’t invite someone who is overly critical. Also, as with marketing of any kind, you need to understand your audience.
Take a look at their profile, see what they like and what some of their personality traits are, and don’t be afraid to butter them up a little.
Don’t just talk about your specials or what you do at your business; talk about the benefits of coming to visit you and how it could potentially be mutually beneficial for both of you.
Businesses That Have Found Success with Yelp Elite
Here is a brilliant example of how local businesses can find amazing success through the Yelp Elite program. In this scenario, six different businesses came together to provide a unique and extraordinary experience for all Indianapolis members.
In this “Friendsgiving,” Elitists were brought together for dinner, dessert, and drink tasting in a unique setting in the Tomlinson City Market Catacombs. They created an unforgettable experience, and if you look, the five-star reviews are endless. This will likely have a positive impact on their business for years to come.
In a different scenario, we see how you don’t need to own a restaurant, bar, or food brand to benefit from Yelp Elite. In Cleveland’s Playhouse Square, Elite members toured 1920’s construction, received information on the city’s past, and learned all about the mystery behind their city.
This resulted in several amazing reviews, positive experiences, and publicity for the city’s art district in exchange for a little bit of their time.
How Does the Yelp Elite Squad Compare to Google Guides
If you’ve heard of Yelp Elite, you’ve likely heard of Google Guides as well. That platform debuted around 2015, and it’s a way for Google to offer incentives for people who regularly review local businesses. It encourages those people to write more reviews so Google can provide a more pleasurable experience for its users.
Local guides receive a badge on their profile, social media features, and even an annual thank you gift of unknown value.
The one issue I see with Google Guides compared to Yelp Elite is that anyone can receive this badge on Google when they surpass a certain number of reviews. Many of these people only write reviews when they’ve had a poor experience. The reviewers aren’t manually reviewed like they are in Yelp.
The program seems to be a lot more “open” and less coveted than Elite status, but they’re still important because of the visibility a badge can bring.
It also doesn’t seem like Google creates much of a community out of their Google Guides as Yelp does. There’s no way to create events or persuade these reviewers to visit your business other than scouring the internet to try and find their contact information, which might come off as weird to the individual.
Other Ways to Work with Influencers
We live in the age of the influencer. While we tend to focus on Instagram and TikTok today, Yelp Elites were the original influencers, and they’re still relevant today. As a business owner, you should not ignore these people or Yelp in general.
While it might seem painful or even torturous to appeal to “professional reviewers,” it’s beneficial for your business. Though it’s not guaranteed, one great event or a few positive reviews from well respected Elite status members can give your business more visibility in Yelp search results.
If you’re looking for a few different ways to work with influencers, here are a few quick tips to help:
Just like on Yelp, send DMs to people in your local area by searching relevant hashtags that apply to your community. Find influencers in your niche and location and send a bunch of DMs asking for them to reach out in exchange for a free product or service.
The good thing with Instagram is you don’t have to follow the Yelp community guidelines stating you can’t exchange goods and services for reviews. You may be able to find a new Elitist looking to conduct more reviews, and this could be a great way to get your name out there!
On TikTok, you can become an influencer yourself. The platform is ripe for people who are interested in making a name for themselves. Post some of the most interesting aspects of your business, and be sure to follow trends.
Post whatever is currently trending on TikTok and try to get attention from local influencers. Once you do, find a way to contact them by searching for them on other platforms. If they’re on TikTok, they’re probably also on Instagram, and it’s much easier to get in touch with them there.
As much as we like to keep our pride intact, sometimes it’s beneficial for us to set it aside and do what we know we need to do for our business. Yelp Elite members are the first influencers, and they’re more than relevant for brick and mortar businesses.