New Review Sites: Reaching your Audience

More often than not we look to reviews as the single source of truth in a world packed with advertisements. Whether you’re looking for a hotel to stay at, a new pair of shoes, a family doctor, or a unique place to eat, there is another person out there that has been there, done that, and written a review of the experience. But we rarely ask ourselves the question, ‘who is it that’s writing these reviews?’

Seth Godin (founder of Squidoo) recently wrote a blog post about bacon lovers and Yelp. On the review site, there appears to be a correlation between New Yorkers and “bacon-as-a-topping.” This finding would lead restaurateurs to believe that adding bacon to the menu would be a surefire crowd pleaser, but Seth counters this assertion with an interesting observation. He says, “There are now two crowds. There is the crowd of mass, of everyone, of what the average folks want. And there is the crowd of the loud, the interested and the connected.”

The point he makes is that bacon eaters are often strong and vocal advocates of their pork loving ways and therefore more likely to write a review than your average diner. I’ve noticed the same correlation when I look at bar reviews in San Francisco. Some of the highest ranked bars in the city are edgy, quirky and not for the average beer drinker.

In the second half of the article Seth makes an argument for pandering to the weird and wacky versus the masses, and discusses how it’s becoming increasingly important to differentiate your business to attract more raving reviewers. Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants, for example, has found a very loyal and vocal clientele among pet lovers. The hotels not only allow pets in guest rooms, but they can provide a pet goldfish should you miss your pet and want a friend in the room. A quick look at reviews shows how catering to this group of travelers has paid off.

So where does this observation leave the average restaurateur who doesn’t want to add bacon to all their menu items but still wants to foster advocacy from their customers? The good news is that technology will save the day. The second generation of review sites is aiming to bring a game changer into the fold… segmentation. New review sites, such as Ness, are changing how consumers are finding places to eat by taking into account the user’s preferences and recommendations to deliver a tailored experience based on that information.

TripAdvisor was able to do something similar a few years ago when it allowed you to easily see your Facebook friends’ (and their friends’) reviews. Knowing my friends well and also envisioning what their friends are likely like, I am in a better position to read their reviews and decide whether I would be a similar traveler and whether the hotel would work for me.

The more algorithmic approach Ness has taken towards food recommendations is beneficial to both sides. Users get better recommendations and restaurateurs are able to target their audience in a more poignant fashion. As we usher in the “next Yelps” and new review sites of the world expect to see more and more applications with the ability to created very targeted experiences for users and businesses.

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