When consulting with clients and while delivering presentations about social media, I often mention the imperative that local businesses have to leverage social media as well as - or better than - national brands. I often use Yelp.com as an example of a tool they can use to do this.
Many people remember the Martha Stewart debacle. I firmly believe that one of the tactics that played a major part in helping Martha hit the ground running when she was released, was the website she was using in a blog-like manner. I think it was called marthatalks.com.
Each time there was some information in the media that Martha thought was skewed or she didn't quite agree with, she would go to her blog/site and update it with her viewpoint and the facts as she knew them. It was awesome. It gave the gawkers something to read and it helped her maintain order in the court of public opinion. Because we all know that a rumor left unchecked for more than 24 hours becomes truth in the mind of the public — and Martha just couldn't afford to have that happen. Brilliant. Brilliant.
Light speed to the blog post written by Mace (above) wherein he chronicles what appears to be the abuse of Yelp.com by a few people who didn't agree with the stance of some businesses re: Proposition 8.
If these businesses had their own turf, like Martha, on which to set the record straight about their reviews, the impact may not have been so harsh, there would have been great (albeit challenging) blog content and it would have probably resulted in more media attention for their venue.
They could have joined the conversation on Yelp.com and then used hyperlinks to invite interested parties to visit their own blogs where they could spark a serious, yet respectful, conversation with their patrons.
It's so easy to sit back and throw all your social media eggs into one basket — and for the most part, Yelp.com provides a great service (I use it myself). Thankfully, Yelp saw was what happening and stepped in to manage some of these reviews that were blatant backlashes. Because no matter what your thoughts are about Prop 8, honesty and truth rules the roost otherwise the blogosphere isn't worth the pixels it's written on. What's most important is to manage (not control!) the ink, especially when your brand is at stake.
Please know that this blog post is not about whether I think Prop 8 is right or wrong, but rather this is yet another way of showing why it pays to have a place - that your company "owns" - to keep the ball in your court so you can proactively participate in the conversation.