When I wrote my SEO Trends prediction post for 2010 I knew that mobile was going to be a big player this year. It’s been impossible NOT to see it with the rise of smart phones and the crazed adoption of location-based apps like FourSquare and Gowalla. And now we can welcome Yelp to the geo-location fray.
On Friday Yelp released a new version of its iPhone app which included several new features like the ability to view and edit yourr Yelp profile, Yelp Friend Finder, Yelp Check-ins, sharing via Facebook Connect and updates to Yelp’s Augmented Reality community. While all the features are great adds it’s obviously the check-in feature that has the most people talking.
With the new Check-In Feature, Yelp users will be able to see:
- Their activity via their Yelp for iPhone profile page
- Opt-in alerts including “Push” notifications
- A Leaderboard on Yelp for iPhone
- A Map that will also show the “Check-ins” of your friends nearby and your check-in count next to our Yelp star rating if you’ve written a review on Yelp.com
- Where you’ve checked in on Monocle
- Active users of Yelp Check-ins can also earn “Regular” status of highly-frequented businesses.
If you’ve been following the rise of FourSquare, then you know Yelp is basically incorporating what they’ve been doing for awhile now. And if you haven’t been following FourSquare, then there’s a lot to learn about how location-based apps may be able to help you as a small business owner.
I’m not a big fan of FourSquare which I’ve mentioned over here. From a user perspective, I find it rather cumbersome and annoying. However, as a small business owner these location-based apps provide a huge opportunity.
They give you:
- Another page to rank in the search results for your business name
- Great consumer data to see who your biggest evangelists are and how often they visit you
- A chance to offer special discounts to active patrons
- A look at your digital influencers
- The opportunity to take online interactions offline and put faces to users
These apps give you a way to tie names, faces and actions to the people who visit you on a daily basis. And the fact that Yelp is now signing on to the check-in process is going to make this even more valuable for small business owners. Because while FourSquare is averaging more than one check-in per second, Yelp’s iPhone app is used by more than 1.25 million people. No other service can come close to that. Plus, the ability to check-in to locations is a very natural extension to leaving reviews and one I think community members are really going to like. Yelp also plans to show check-in counts next to reviews so that users will be able to tell if a reviewer is basing their opinion on lots of experiences or a single visit. It’s putting context and relevance to reviews in a way we haven’t seen before.
As a small business owner I think this means you need to be encouraging your customers to use these new apps by rewarding them for their efforts. Offer special promotions, have a Yelp or FourSquare night, highlight those that have been identified as regulars, etc. The more people ‘check in’ to your establishment the more they’re spreading word of mouth and showing people in your area that you’re a trusted establishment.
You also need to be keeping track of your establishment on these sites and finding ways to make the numbers useful for you. For example, perhaps it’s possible to track your busy vs slow days (and then offer promotions on slow days). You can tie events to how many people are checking in and the types of responses left. You can identify your most active customers and track where else they hang out to look for local partnerships. The consumer data these apps offer up is pretty impressive. Instead of looking at analytics to track people on your site, you can use FourSquare to track them around the community. Use it!
I’m really excited to see how the new check-in feature influences Yelpers behavior because it’s combining a huge community with a new kind of location-relevance. And that will mean big things and brand new marketing opportunities for small businesses. It’s another way for SMB owners to connect with customers on their terms and offer exciting rewards.