From Guy Kawaski's blog comes a discussion of how online reviews change the dynamics of business:
Ilana DeBare of the the San Francisco Chronicle wrote a terrific piece (9/3/06) about this phenomenon called “Amateur reviews changing approach of small businesses.” Check it out by clicking here. She starts off with a story of how a new restaurant thought it could work the kinks out during the first thirty days only to find out that customers were already criticizing the place on Yelp after the first weekend of business.
The article points out one of the problems with online reviews: there's no quality control. Anybody (including a competitor) can say anything.
Monitoring these kinds of online review sites should be a part of your regular media monitoring, particularly if you're in a market where such reviews can be influential.
In reviews, as in all other things, there is value in expertise. It's empowering to let everyone become a reviewer, but I wonder how useful these sites are for customers in the long term. As I read Kawasaki's blog and the SF Chronicle article, I thought about reviews for a local high end Latino restaurant that I found while looking for its address.
Here in the land of Tex-Mex, other Latin dining options are kind of limited - and people's inexperience with them showed in the reviews. Many of them complained, "they didn't give us chips and salsa when we got there, and they had no burritos!" Not surprising since it wasn't a Mexican restaurant, but is it fair that this led to negative reviews? (I had a great meal at the restaurant in question, chips or no chips!)
The nice thing about professional reviews is that the reviewer is somewhat more likely to know what he or she is talking about...