So who’s more convincing, Ronald McDonald or some stranger on the Internet? Via the Washington Post’s Wonkbook, a Harvard Business School professor suggests that Yelp actually manages to help independent restaurants, at the expense of big chains. Some of the observations aren’t exactly stop-the-presses stuff (Yelp reviews don’t really affect McDonald’s, because the whole point of McDonald’s is that you already know what your Quarter-Pounder with Cheese is going to taste like), but it’s still interesting to see that on a granular level, at least, Yelp reviews and the like may actually have an effect.
The most interesting point the author makes is that what really matters is the overall star rating, rather than the content of the individual ratings (although Elite members apparently have outsized impact); it makes me wonder how many times I’ve simply disregarded a restaurant (or another business) based on mediocre Yelp reviews. This can be overcome if you’re lucky enough to be curated; I can’t be the only person who’s gone to a restaurant with a mediocre Yelp score on the strength of a review with a compelling narrative.
Of course, this goes across the entire Internet; be as good at what you do as you want, but if nobody can find you (or, even worse, the most visible information out there is bad), good luck overcoming that.