Have You Seen the New Yelp Interface?

What the YelpWhat the Yelp is going on?  After 9 years, Yelp has decided to test a new design for their review pages.  I only happened to notice because I manage a number of locations for a business on Yelp and am on their site several times per day.  One day last week I noticed that my Yelp interface had changed and was really perplexed.  While I liked most of the changes, I was really bothered that they changed the picture dimensions from rectangular to square which messed with several photos that had been uploaded to my account.

Since I am a paying customer of Yelp, I quickly emailed my Yelp Account Manager and expressed my dissatisfaction about not being told of the changes.  My ire turned out to be premature as Yelp is just testing the new design for now and only 1% of users can actually see the changes, so I guess I am luck in that regard.  In any case, I still wish they would have been proactive in notifying active users or managers of business accounts that something was up.

What is Yelp saying so far?  Officially, Yelp is not saying anything about the new interface.  Unofficially, here is some additional information sent to me by my Yelp Account Manager.

  • We are testing new ads and a more photo-centric look to profiles
  • By January 2014, the updates will be live across 12% of our user pages, before officially launching at some point in Q1
  • We are testing these so the features are changing each week. We are not officially discussing these today since the design may change between today and the roll out.
  • The roll out date has not been finalized but we hope to make the unveil in Q1.

If you are curious about what may change, I have copied identical pages from Ruby’s Diner – and a Yelp page I managed 3 years ago.  When I sign into my Yelp account and view any pages, I get the new Yelp user interface.  If I use another browser and don’t sign in, I get the old or current Yelp user interface.

What are the key changes?  The key changes in the Yelp interface can be summarized as:

  • Bigger fonts for headings
  • Pictures are bigger, and are front and center
  • Review highlights have also gained in prominence
  • Calls to action are better organized (“Write a Review, Add Photo, etc.”)
  • Summary business facts have moved to right navigation bar
  • Rating distribution has been hidden under Details (to right of review stars under business name)
  • Added more white space under the reviewer’s name and to the left of the actual review

So, do you like the new changes?  I like the idea that Yelp is finally addressing the issue of their ‘tired’ interface considering that all of their social media brethren have gone through multiple user interface iterations in the past several years.  I like some of the features and I am not convinced about some of the others.  Remember my earlier caveat – the final design may change between now and final roll out.  So, what do you think?

Here is the latest version of the new Yelp interface:

Yelp New Interface

Yelp New User Interface as of December 17, 2013 – Tentative

And for comparison, here is the current version of the Yelp Interface:

Yelp Current User Interface

Yelp Current User Interface as of December 17, 2013


What is Your Brand’s Zero Moment of Truth?

Everyone acknowledges that marketing has changed since the advent of social media, and I ran across a free eBook from Google this week that really hammered the message home.  The eBook is called “Winning the Zero Moment of Truth” by Jim Lecinski, Google’s Managing Director of US Sales & Service and Chief ZMOT Evangelist, and was originally discussed in a Google blog post in March 2010.

Essentially, the Zero Moment of Truth (also known as ZMOT)  is an update on the First Moment of Truth (FMOT) coined by Proctor & Gamble in 1995 to define the first interaction between a consumer and a product on a store’s shelf.  At the time, P&G considered this the most important marketing opportunities for a brand.

With the rise of social media, the FMOT is still important but most interactions take place before a consumer ever sees a product on a shelf.  Consumers are now using the Internet to search for products, review product websites, compare products and prices, read reviews and comments, see what their friends recommend, check out technical specs…and the list goes on.

ZMOT Graphic from Google's eBook

The key for all brands and companies is that “the conversation is already going on” whether you as a company are participating or not.  Companies cannot really start or stop it, but can choose to engage or not to engage.  As an example of the growth of ZMOT phenomena from the book noted that 37% of shoppers surveyed in 2011 found online social sources to be an influential driver when making decisions compared to 19% in 2010.   ZMOT is not limited to consumer or retail goods, but applies in B2B situations as well.

The top online social sources include:

  • Getting an online referral from a friend
  • Becoming a friend or follower of a brand
  • Reading blogs where the product was discussed
  • Seeing the brand mentioned on social networking sites
Personally, I am a big user of Yelp when I am in a new neighborhood or city and looking for a restaurant.  I definitely pay attention to the ratings and reviews – and reinforced this practice on a recent trip to Boston and Maine this year when we found two hidden off-the-beaten-path ‘gems’.
The book is well-organized and includes these chapters:
  1. Changing the Rulebook
  2. The New Mental Model
  3. ZMOT All Around Us
  4. Ratings and Reviews: Word of MOT
  5. Equal Thought, Not Afterthought
  6. How to Win at ZMOT
  7. MOT’s Next
This is the author’s final advice:
All you need to do now is get your business into the conversation. Take risks. Say yes. Ask your team the question “Are you ready to win at the Zero Moment of Truth?”

You can download the ZMOT eBook from the Zero Moment of Truth website you can view the PDF below.  You can also get the book on Kindle, Nook, iBook and at the Google eBookstore.

Twitter Messages for Week Ending July 16 2010

This blog post is an experiment on creating a blog post from my weekly Twitter Tweets posted @tomhumbarger.


What You’re Missing By Measuring Social Media ROI Online | BrandSavanthttp://ow.ly/2cyJZ – you need to coordinate with offline too…

The smartest people in tech – ranking of top 50 tech savvy people …from FORTUNE Magazine – http://ow.ly/2ct0l

the 4 Most Popular Videos on Cloud Computing « Data Center Knowledge – from the simple explanation to Larry Ellison… http://ow.ly/2c7OU

Should E-Mail Marketing Stay in Its Silo? – thoughts on how social media & email marketing can play together MarketingVOX http://ow.ly/2c6RW

here’s the original ExactTarget and CoTweet report on digital marketing…http://ow.ly/2c6WT

The Creativity Crisis – Newsweek http://ow.ly/2bYKH – interesting article on the decline of creativity in America including why & how to fix

Please Don’t Start a Social Media Marketing Agency – an alternative view from @pc4mediaat @hubspot – http://ow.ly/2bZu3

How to test your decision-making instincts – from McKinsey Quarterly – Strategic Thinkinghttp://ow.ly/2bYII

Jive and Lithium Top Gartner’s First-Ever Magic Quadrant for Social CRM – destinationCRM.com http://ow.ly/2bBQp

from @maggielmcg on mizz information blog: What Your Facebook Page is Worth…To Vitrue http://ow.ly/2b1QD

RT @TomHumbarger: What’s the Value of Your Facebook Fans? | my latest blog post on options for valuing Facebook Fans… http://ow.ly/2akM9

Twitter worth the extra effort :: BtoB Magazine http://ow.ly/2b1AX – i.e. you have to work at social media to get the real value…

Déjà vu for IT: The cloud wave mirrors the PC wave | @davidlinthicum on Cloud Computing – InfoWorld http://ow.ly/2b1lL

Top 10 Ways Enterprise Marketers can Leverage foursquare – fantastic free eBook from Awareness http://ow.ly/2aZ3X – registration required…

Smart and Social — HootSuite Adds Social Relationship and Support Tools – I love the new Klout filter! http://ow.ly/2aZbu

Architecting for the Cloud – the latest slide deck from @simon – Simone Brunozzi, AWS Evangelist… http://ow.ly/2aZ0r #cloudcomputing

@rubysdiner is getting a lot of free advertising during the All Star Game Home Run Derby…way to go! http://tweetphoto.com/32375470

Rethinking the Wining and Dining of Yelpers – MarketingVOX http://ow.ly/2asxM – it’s a bad idea to ‘pay’ for reviews…

Social Media Shell Game: What Do Those Followers, Fan Numbers Really Mean? – MarketingVOX http://ow.ly/2asv4

Lessons From Using Foursquare In the Restaurant Industry


If you haven’t heard of foursquare and you run a restaurant, bar or other retail location, then you need to run to the foursquare website after you finish reading this blog post and start learning about it now.  This is the 3rd follow-on post in my series of 7 Social Media Must-do’s for the Restaurant Industry.

What is foursquare? – Before I get started, I will provide a short description of foursquare.  foursquare is a location-based game/service that lets people with GPS-enabled smartphones ‘check into’ various venues or locations.  foursquare users earn points for each venue they check into and the person who has the most checkins at a location is ‘elected’ the mayor of that venue.  There is a social aspect of the game as you can announce your whereabouts to your foursquare friends or broadcast it publicly via integrations with Twitter and Facebook.  For restaurants, foursquare is a customer loyalty program that is essentially free for you to leverage and the first (or second) movers in this area can plant a pretty big competitive stake in the ground with a minimal outlay.

A typical foursquare dashboard

Why is foursquare important? My reasons for experimenting with foursquare are based on the traffic I’m seeing in our test locations and mentions I am seeing in our social media feeds.

Traffic is increasing dramatically – Looking at the last 30 days at our two test locations shows that check-in traffic has increased by 2 to 3 times over the previous 30 days.  It is  too early to tell if this trend will continue, but it is a good and encouraging sign that foursquare is rapidly gaining mindshare and traffic.  As a comparison, Twitter also started off slowly over 2 years ago but it quickly gathered momentum like a snowball rolling downhill.

Free mentions – Another great side benefit of foursquare is that 10 to 25% of the users have integrated their foursquare accounts with either Twitter, Facebook or both services.  This means that they publicly broadcast their whereabouts whenever they check-in, add a tip or brag that they become the new mayor of a location.  These mentions are ‘free’ publicity for your brand, increases your brand awareness and could encourage other potential customers to visit.

Automated foursquare tweet on Twitter

What reporting does foursquare provide? foursquare excels at providing simple yet powerful information to owners of business accounts.  Access to the Stats alone should be worth it for business owners to claim their business listings on foursquare.  The statistics are very visual and appealing, and foursquare gives kudos for the inspiration of their dashboard to Nicholas Felton’s amazing Feltron Annual Reports.

The top line stats include the cumulative number of checkins, unique visitors, the mayor and business details.

Example of Summary Analytics in foursquare

The detailed stats for each claimed foursquare location include Key Metrics, Top Visitors and Most Recent Checkins, and there is a simple filter to view the data from today, yesterday, last week , last 30 days, last 60 days and all time.  One feature that I like is to see the most recent checkins along with the users Twitter handle if they have added it to their profile.  One of our rules is to follow everyone on Twitter who mentions our brand or who checks in to a location via foursquare, so this feature makes it very easy to follow new fans.  In any case, foursquare offers some great insights to frequent customers and a way to recognize and connect with them.

Example of foursquare Detailed Stats

How do I add an offer on foursquare? It is pretty easy to add an offer on foursquare.  A typical offer consists of a promotion for someone who checks into your venue and a more valuable promotion or spiff for the location’s mayor.  If the offer is perceived as valuable enough, the competition to claim the mayorship will result in many repeat visits and publicity which should more than offset the cost of the promotion.

Add A Special Promotion on foursquare

What else have I learned? The biggest insight so far is that not all locations are created equal.  Within the 40 location chain I am working with, there is a wide range of checkin activity.  Some locations have less than 10 checkins and others have more than 100.  The locations that seem to have high traffic correlate to high foot traffic and locations near clusters of young technology-inspired professionals.  For example, our location in Redmond, Washington across from Microsoft is our most active location.  Another minor challenge is that you need to determine how to handle the checkins from an operational standpoint especially if you want to track foursquare usage through your POS system – and you’ll have to educate your staff on the foursquare service and recognizing when someone has checked into your establishment.

What would I like to see changed? I’d like to make it easier to claim locations or at least speed up the process as I started the claim process for a bunch of locations 2 weeks ago and just one was approved.  Part of the reason is that foursquare is experiencing growing pains and probably can’t keep up with the administrative task of validating business who are claiming venues.

foursquare currently uses 6 digit venue numbers for each location and from an ease of use and SEO standpoint, I would like to see natural URLs that include the name and city of each location.

I would also like to see more information, including pictures, of a business.  Right now, the information is limited to the company name, address, phone number, Twitter handle and a Google map.

What’s the future of location-based services? A potentially looming issue is whether foursquare will remain independent, get acquired by a larger competitor or get their service overwhelmed by Facebook – the 900-lb gorilla in social networking.  Facebook has already hinted at adding location based services and other services like Twitter and Yelp have already added location features in addition to other small companies like Gowalla and Brightkite who are also trying to break the code for this market.  And just today, a new location-based service called SCVNGR was launched which will let brands or companies define tasks or treks to engage users.  For example, I saw two articles on SCVNGR published in Mashable and the NYTimes today.

I’d love to hear from others who are experimenting with foursquare to see how your experiences compare to my experiences.

Why Is Yelp Important To Your Business?

People Love Us on Yelp Sign

If you own a restaurant or other type of business location, another important task to do after claiming your locations on  Google Local Business is to claim them on Yelp.  This is the third post in my series of 7 Social Media Must-Do’s for the Restaurant Industry and while my research is based on work in the restaurant industry, it is applicable to any business with a physical location that is visited by either retail or business customers.

Yelp is important because it is emerging as the leading consumer review site for many types of businesses and it currently receives high priority from the Google Search Engine results – generally in the top 5 based on my tests.  My explanation for this high search engine ranking is that Yelp uses natural language URLs for each of it’s review sites.  For example, the URL for the Ruby’s Diner in Huntington Beach is http://www.yelp.com/biz/rubys-diner-huntington-beach and the Yelp listing appears as the 4th item in a Google search.  Now that we have some trend information on page views for my client’s businesses, I can also see that Yelp traffic grew nearly 75% in the first quarter of 2010.  I know that there are other review sites out there including Urban Spoon, CitySearch, Bing and Zagat – but none of these sites seem to have the volume of reviews and comments.  And these other sites don’t have the easy-to-use and pleasant-to-the-eye website experience that Yelp has either.

Example of Yelp Results in Google Search - In the Top 5 For Most Locations

You want to claim your location for several reasons:

  1. Update business details – As a business owner, you can update the business listing including providing details about your specialties and business history.
  2. Set up special promotions or announcements – Business owners can set up offers or announcements that appear at the top of your individual profile.
  3. Review alerts – Once you have claimed a location, you will receive an email message whenever you receive a new review or message for that location.  This is a great feature so you don’t have to keep reviewing your Yelp business page to look for new reviews.
  4. Message reviewers – One of the most important reasons to claim your business is that business owners can reply directly or publicly to people who have left reviews on their site.  My recommendation is that you privately message reviewers and I know that the personal contact is appreciated.  I have received more than several return comments saying that my message was the first they ever received from a review they left.  Engaging customers is one of the top objectives in social media and Yelp really helps you achieve this objective.
  5. View location dashboard – Finally, the business owner gets a  on the number of page views for their business as well as a dashboard with links to reviews and messages.  If you claim multiple locations, your locations are available from a drop-down list to the right of your tabs.

    The process for claiming a location is pretty straightforward.  You click on the “Is This Your Business?” link that appears just after a summary of the location details.  When you click on the link you go to a follow-on page that says it an automated phonebot will call the number listed as the business phone number on your page and you will have to punch in the provided 4-digit code.  This is a simple process, but can be somewhat excruiating if you have more than 10 (or 30 or 300) locations to claim.  Yelp does offer special business owner tools for companies with larger number of locations, but they are quite pricey (about $75 per month per location) and Yelp doesn’t put these details on their website.  I was told by a Yelp representative that the Yelp service is geared more toward businesses with one location (or just a few locations).  I know the $75 per month per location for the extended business services could not be justified by my client.

    After claiming the location, you are able to edit some of the information, fix the business hours, add an announcement or coupon and add your own business photos.  Now that I know what to look for in a claimed business, it is so sad to see unclaimed businesses with incomplete profiles and no pictures uploaded.

    Detailed Business Page on Yelp

    Below is an example of the Dashboard you get for every location claimed on Yelp.  There is a drop-down in the upper right corner that let’s you select which location you want to view in case you have claimed multiple locations.   The information on the Dashboard is as follows:

    • Summary – the Summary page shows the number of  business page views for the last 13 months.
    • Offer & Announcements – displays the current offer for this location.
    • Reviews – lets you easily view all of the reviews
    • Business Information – permits easy access to editing business information
    • Business Photos – this is where you can upload your own business photos
    • Messaging – summarizes the messages you have sent to reviewers

    Yelp for Business Owners - Example Dashboard

    Do I have any recommendations for Yelp? Of course I do.  They need to make it easier (and cheaper) for businesses with multiple locations to claim and access their locations.  Yelp also needs to provide better analytic information to business users (see Foursquare or Facebook Fan Page Insights for examples).  For example, it would be great to have a summary of stats across all of my locations or an easy way to look at all reviews for all locations sorted by date.  Yelp also needs to “play better” with Google and the two of them need to figure out how Yelp reviews can appear in the Google Local Business Pages instead of the lame reviews currently shown.  Finally, Yelp needs to make it easier for a team of people to manage claimed locations on Yelp.  There are no ways to add additional managers to a claimed account or to have the location claimed by a ‘corporate-owned’ user account.

    Why Is Google Locations So Important For Your Business?

    If you own a restaurant or other type of business location, one of the most important things you can do is to claim the business through the Google Local Business Center.  This is the second post in my series of 7 Social Media Must-Do’s for the Restaurant Industry and while my research is based on work in the restaurant industry, it is applicable to any business with a physical location that is visited by either retail or business customers.

    Why Is Google Locations So Important? – There are at least 4 reasons why it is so important to get your businesses listed through the Google Local Business Center.

    1.  Google Search – First, Google Search is the most widely used search engine on the planet by a large margin and Google’s own results show up at the top of any search.  This reason alone should be enough to persuade you to make sure you are listed.

    2.  It’s Free –  Google lets you claim your profile for free which lets you make sure all of the details about your business are accurate as well as letting you provide additional information and photos.  So, Google lets you list your business for free while receiving top search engine juice too – seems like a no-brainer.

    3. Google Favorite Places – If you want to become a Google Favorite Places, you must have previously claimed your business through the Google Local Business Center.  Learning more about the Google Favorite Places program was my initial impetus for exploring the possibilities with Google Locations.

    4.  Analytical Dashboard – Google provides you with a great analytical dashboard to track the number of views your business page gets on Google along with the number of actions taken on the page.  See the What Information Do I Receive? section below for more on the Dashboard.

    For example, here is a Google Search for “ruby’s diner redondo beach“.  At the top of the listing is a map to the restaurant along with address, phone number, reviews and a link to “Menu and more“.  When you claim a business on Google Local Business, you get a chance to validate the address, phone number, hours and selected items under Menu and more.  The reviews noted are currently coming from a combination of Citysearch, Zagat and Urbanspoon, but not from Yelp which I consider the leading consumer review website.  Unfortunately, most of the reviews are more than 6 months old and from sites that are not as widely used as Yelp.  On an interesting aside, Google tried to buy Yelp in December but was re-buffed and I imagine that somewhere at Google, someone is working on a product to wipe out Yelp.

    Results of Google Search

    Clicking on the Menu and more link takes you to the location details page and most of this information is added by the location owner.  The captions in the photo show you which items were added by the owner and some of the optional items that can be added to the profile.

    Location Details from Google Local Business

    How Do I Claim My Locations? – Google lets you claim locations individually by visiting this page and entering the information manually.

    I have copied an example of a business that is not claimed on Google Locations below.  This restaurant is missing out on giving customers key information on their business such as a website link, hours of operation, photos and other information that may persuade someone to visit their establishment.  If you are the business owner and want to claim this business, it is as simple as clicking the link at the top of the page.

    Weeman Chronic Taco Is Not Claimed on Google Locations

    If you have multiple locations, you can also upload your information via the Bulk Business Feed spreadsheet which is described on this webpage.  I used this spreadsheet template to upload most of the information for the 43 locations I claimed for Ruby’s Diner.  In either case, there is a manual update process to ensure that all of the information came across properly, to upload business photos and to edit information not picked up during the bulk upload.  The manual update process works very efficiently and is much better than the Bing or Yelp procedure to individually claim locations which can get tedious if you have more than 10 stores.

    Google Locations - Bulk File Upload

    When I claimed the Ruby’s Diner locations earlier this year, it took about 3 to 4 weeks before the listings became active.  I don’t know what happens during the review process  on Google’s side, but it seemed to be a reasonable length of time.  Subsequent edits to claimed locations are processed in under 30 minutes.  And the process is much easier than the location claiming process for other services such as Yelp, Bing and Tripadvisor.

    What Information Do I Receive? – Google is always into analytics and providing their users with great analytical tools, and the analytics for Google Local Business Center are no exception.  The top Dashboard page lists all of the businesses or locations you have claimed under the same email address.  The high level stats include store code, location status and statistics for the last 30 days that include the number of impressions and actions.  The Dashboard is also where you can edit your claimed listings.

    Google Local Business Center Dashboard

    Clicking on the View Report link results in a detailed location-specific Dashboard.  On the detailed dashboard, you can easily select the last 7 days, the last 30 days or select your own custom time period to display the number of daily impressions and actions.  The actions are defined as clicks for more information on the Maps, clicks for driving directions and clicks to your website.  At the bottom of the Dashboard, the keywords for the top search queries are presented along with a map showing where driving direction requests are coming from by zipcode.

    Business owners also have the option of posting a special announcement or creating a special web-only coupon for your business.   For some of our Ruby’s Diner locations, we created special announcements for Kids Eat Free Tuesdays.  I have just experimented with the coupon feature which seems really easy to use, but I have not published any coupons yet.  One nice feature is that coupons can be either printable, displayable on a mobile phone or both.

    Google Local Business Center - Individual Dashboard

    Good luck with claiming your businesses on Google Local Business Center.

    What’s On Your iPhone?

    Whats On My iPhone (you can take a picture of your iPhone screen by holding home and power buttons)

    What's On My iPhone (you can take a picture of your iPhone screen by holding home and power buttons)

    There are so many iPhone apps to choose from and it is so easy to add new applications, how do you decide which ones are considered ‘essential’ and need to be on your home screen.  I actually have 5 pages of applications on my iPhone or more than 75 apps, but many have only been used once.

    So if you could only have 20 iPhone applications, which ones would you pick?  I spent some time yesterday and today winnowing down my list and re-arranging my homescreen to the applications that I either use daily or consider essential.  To make this exercise more fun, I am tagging a couple of friends who have iPhones so they can share their favorite apps and home screens too.

    Derek Showerman, Geoff Brown, Jim Storer and Aaron Strout – what’s on your iPhone?  Feel free to join in, add a link to your list and tag others with this question.

    Here’s what’s on my iPhone:

    Top Row

    • Camera – you have to have the camera in the top row so you can easily share pictures by email, Flickr or Twitter.
    • Settings – I’m constantly turning the wifi on and off to maximize the battery, so it is essential to have my settings in a key space.
    • Calendar – while I don’t really use the calendar function much yet, I hope to become more digital in keeping track of meetings and family events.
    • App Store – how can you find even more apps to add to your phone without having the Apps Store at your fingertips?

    Second Row

    • The Weather Channel – because it’s essential to know what’s going on around you.
    • Maps – I love the idea that my iPhone knows exactly where I am even if I don’t.
    • Citibank – I’m a Citibank customer and this is a great implementation of Citibank’s Internet banking.
    • Wikipanion – because you never know when you will need Wikipedia to settle a bar bet.

    Third Row

    • SMS – I’m not a big texter yet, but I do like the idea of being able to quickly reach out to someone with a text message.
    • Yelp – I think this is the best way to find restaurants and other services.
    • Pandora – this is my favorite Internet radio service – and I’m always listening to my Natalie Merchant mix when I spend time alone in the car.
    • TwitterFon – while I don’t Twitter too much on my iPhone, this app is my favorite choice if I have to.

    Fourth Row

    • NY Times – I enjoy reading the NY Times when I sit in my daughter’s room at night waiting for her to fall asleep.
    • USA Today – this is a great way to get the USA Today and they also let you easily share the stories on Twitter and by email.
    • MLB.com – it’s baseball season again and this is how I keep track of the Angels and Dodgers (and to see whether the Red Sox are losing).  I haven’t sprung for the paid version yet, but the season is still young.
    • Suduko – this is for my wife (who is a big suduko fan) when she puts our daughter down to bed at night.

    Permanent Row – these applications are why you have an iPhone, right?

    • Phone
    • Contacts
    • Safari
    • Mail – and I have 3 mail accounts set-up – my Yahoo and Gmail accounts and my wife’s Yahoo account

    Honorable Mention – these apps were close, but didn’t make the cut as they are ones that I could do without if I had to:  Just Light Flashlight, NPR Mobile, Facebook, LinkedIn, Calculator and Bloomberg.

    BTW, if you need to move and re-arrange your application icons, you can do so by holding down any application icon for 5 seconds.  This will make the icons jiggle and then you can drag the icon to another screen or delete them.