‘Social Network’ certainly isn’t the term that most people think of when they hear the word Yelp. From my 3+ years experience working for the website, the word “restaurant” probably comes to the forefront of most minds when you hear the name.
Even upon searching online for some of the most “popular” or “well known” social networks, Yelp seems to be consistently left off the list entirely. But I argue that Yelp is a social network, and could easily be included in those lists as it fits the definition of what an online social network is today and has the traffic to compete.
What exactly is a social network?
So we have to ask ourselves the question: What exactly is a social network? My college professors might slap me for using Wikipedia for a source, but…
Wikipedia’s definition is: “A social networking service is a platform to build social networks or social relations among people who share similar interests, activities, backgrounds or real-life connections.”
The majority of the 162 million people who visit Yelp on a monthly basis through the Yelp mobile app & the desktop site use Yelp as a resource. They are trying to find the best local pediatricians, physical trainers, dog walkers, and of course restaurants in their city.
But the most interesting thing about these resourceful users is that they are essentially tapping into a vast social network of Yelpers who are passionate enough to post their opinions about local businesses online. Really what this boils down to is: the non-contributing users are using the voice of the Yelp Community to make buying decisions. The Yelp members who are contributing their opinion online have joined a vibrant community of reviewers who are using the site to amplify their word of mouth.
So how powerful is Yelp?
Well, I can tell you that in the past 90 days, my own profile has garnered 183,119 views from the 511 reviews that I’ve posted on the site.
What’s really remarkable is when you dive into the deep end of Yelping, you are not only digitally adding other reviewers as friends on Yelp, but you are complimenting their work and following their adventures throughout their local community. You quickly find you share common interests on food, shopping, and travel.
Not only that, because you can check in digitally on the Yelp mobile app, your Yelp friends get alerts about all the hot new places you’re visiting. You can comment and interact with someone’s activity, but it also works as a great tool that gets you excited about the future reviews that your friends will soon post on the site. Been meaning to visit that hot new pizza place in Rockville? Mike B. just checked in there and he’s gonna let you know all the ins and outs about the best pizzas to order later in his review!
Is there any offline component to this community?
Yes there most certainly is, and that’s where I, as a Community Manager come into play. I get to throw crazy events for all these awesome reviewers. The point of these events is to introduce them to great local businesses in the community on a different level then what you as a consumer would get just walking into the business. Key players of the business get to speak about the history of the company, what makes it special, and cool stuff that the business has planned for the future. Yelpers get a complimentary taste of products, more often than not food and drink, and an exclusive opportunity to be in the know about all things local. The site’s mission is to connect people with great local businesses in their community, and we don’t stop online.
So back to the question: Is a Yelp a social network?
Considering the tons of Yelpers that are connecting online, sharing their love of local businesses, favorite foods, and getting together in real life and partying offline… Yes, I’d say that Yelp is a social network and a pretty awesome one at that.
The social networking aspect of Yelp is truly what makes it the useful local guide it is today. Most of the reviews that are posted on the site are coming from a rich network of people who are connecting and expressing their love of local. And with over 100+ million reviews to date, it’s no wonder why more and more people continue to join the network to share their experiences in their own communities.