Keep It Real: Yelp’s Perspective on Social Selling and Brand Promise

By: Samantha Wood

December 8, 2017

A critical mass of great reviews on Yelp can catapult a brand’s image in the public’s imagination and become a key piece in a customer’s path to purchase.

But the social-selling dance between customer and brand is a delicate one. Companies often get into trouble when they artificially hype their marketing efforts to promise more than they can deliver—a fact laid bare in many a Yelp review.

We recently sat down with Yelp’s John Carroll, manager of local business outreach, to get his perspective on trends in social selling, his predictions for the coming year and how Yelp has changed its own approach to content marketing. Carroll, who will be speaking at The Social Shake-Up Show May 7-9 in Atlanta, says that social selling is all about brand promise.

“When most people think of brand promise, they point to the mission statement,” he says. “But that’s just one part of it.”

Social Shake-Up: How should a brand close that gap between marketing and sales?

Carroll: Everything—from the iconography in your ads, to the font you use, to where your ads show up, even the storefront experience—all goes into the brand promise. Another aspect is social proof: other customers who feel the same way. You don’t want someone saying “I went in expecting a Michelin-rated restaurant and I was really disappointed.” It’s about what or who a brand thinks they are versus what they are actually delivering.

Social Shake-Up: What are some brands that you look at as good examples of social selling?

Carroll: I like REI, Sephora and Whole Foods—brands that invest in their employee knowledge. No matter who you speak to in the store they will be knowledgeable. Your customers are probably in a retail store instead of buying online because they know what they want but they need more recommendation and education.

Social Shake-Up: What are your top predictions for 2018?

Carroll: The rise of automation has been huge. I think chatbots are going to play a huge role in 2018. I know I feel friction when I try to call a 1-800 number, and chatbots will make customer service better and easier.

Also, feedback is no longer linear. You can’t get feedback from one place and expect it to cover everything. If you want a true glimpse of how people see your brand, you need to be constantly listening on all social channels.

Social Shake-Up: What are your biggest lessons learned this year?

Carroll: We used to have seven to eight types of webinars, but when we started looking at the analytics we found that we weren’t presenting vastly different content from one webinar to the next. So we narrowed it down to three webinars per month. If you can tailor your content to the audience, it is so helpful.

Also for our blog, we’re trying not to spread ourselves too thin. I think it’s worth it to really invest in super-dense quality content that you can update every three to six months and continually push it out rather than 10-15 short-form pieces. If it’s easy to write, it’s probably not useful.

Social Shake-Up: What does your typical day look like?

Carroll: My job is primarily to educate business owners on all of our free tools. I joke that my job is basically, “I’m not going to send you on stage with your makeup smudged and your wig crooked—I want to help your business look good!” So that means in the morning I might write for our blog or host a webinar, and in the afternoon I’ll prepare for speaking at events. I also stay up to date on the latest trends in the industry—not just related to Yelp, but to small businesses as well.

Follow Yelp: @Yelp

Follow Samantha: @samantha_c_wood

At The Social Shake-Up