Yelp Launch – Their Growth Strategy
The idea began when Stoppelman came down with the flu and needed a recommendation for a doctor, but couldn’t get one.
The experience gave him an idea for a website where people could ask for local recommendations of any kind via email rather than relying exclusively on their personal connections. On Yelp, users would always “know” someone even if they were new to an area and didn’t yet have an established network.
The idea of user submitted reviews for venues and services wasn’t new, but the Yelp founders early on turned their focus to social engagement to grow their user base. Reviewers filled out profiles, friended one another, and exchanged accolades for their reviews.
Rather than relying on anonymous opinions, Yelp users built reputations for themselves and began to construct well thought out and in-depth reviews unlike those seen on other sites in order to preserve those reputations.
So-called “super” users were classed as the Yelp Elite, and were invited to parties and special events, which only helped to incentivize more prolific and positive behavior within the Yelp community.
By 2006, the company’s growth campaign included stickers in store windows. With just this level of engagement, the site garnered 15 million visitors per month by 2008, but then Yelp launched an iPhone app with integration for business owners to manage their own listings.
API integration and apps became Yelp’s primary focus so that sharing information and reviews along with user rewards could occur spontaneously and in any location at any time. The company also hired community managers for its major markets.
Yelp’s rapid growth and popularity hinged on its local approach that put users first while offering them a service they really wanted. That, coupled with honest reviews created a highly appealing perception of accuracy and trust.
By then integrating business owners themselves into the community, Yelp gave small local entrepreneurs a chance to plug into free, goodwill-based advertising through reviews as well as by purchasing ads and offering coupons and daily deals.
Without question the proliferation of smartphones aided Yelp’s growth, like that of many other sites with social components. Well-engineered apps foster social engagement through immediacy, and have proven to be powerful growth hacking tools.
By November 2012, Yelp reported that 45% of the traffic to its site originated from mobile devices, with approximately 1.4 million mobile users signed up by June 2013.
Over the past ten years, Yelp has proven to be flexible in its approach to features, enhancing tools like apps that have worked well for them, while quietly de-emphasizing options like daily deals that proved too competitive with other site features.
This willingness to tailor the user experience remains one of Yelp’s greatest strengths and keeps its community strong and vital.