Internet directories are searchable online collections of businesses, organized by industry and location. Usually these directories include a rating and review system where users can share their experience with a specific business. They are also location specific and provide maps of businesses. Many directories offer the ability to "check-in" at a location using GPS information on your mobile device, this will share with social networks that you are at their business and shows the popularity of the location.
- Yelp is the largest, most widely used directory
- Yelp is primarily used for their ratings (out of 5 stars) and reviews, so users can see if other people have had a positive or negative experience, before deciding to try out a business
- Yelp applies a filter to their reviews to try and remove any reviews with bad information or are suspected of being falsified
- How the filter works is a secret, so that no one can abuse the system, but active users that post a lot of strong reviews are unlikely to be filtered
- Restaurants are probably the largest sector on Yelp, but they also have many other industries including Spas/Salons, Home Services, Health, Professional Services, etc.
- Users can connect with friends on Yelp, with their Facebook accounts, and also check-in using Yelp
- Yelp lists basic information for businesses, which anyone can request edits to and upload photos
- Owners can also claim and verify their business page to get access to usage statistics and send direct messages to reviewers
- Additional paid business solutions include ads which appear on Yelp search and competitors' pages, buttons that allow users to easily perform an action like making an appointment, coupons & gift certificates, and special deals for checking-in
- Users will often complain about negative experiences on Yelp. If and how the business responds is huge in how the business' service is perceived.
- Foursquare is primarily focused on the mobile "check-in" feature
- Foursquare has similarities to a game in that users try to reach goals for check-ins at different locations, types of locations, and number of check-ins
- Business listings provide basic information, users can also add pictures, rate (on a scale of 10), and leave short comments
- Users can connect with friends and share information from Foursquare on other social media
- Solutions for claimed businesses include sharing news/updates and deals for checking-in
- These are similar in that they are associated with the major search engines and your listings will appear specially in their searches and on their maps
- They also offer similar features to other directories, such as reviews, ratings, pictures, business info, usage statistics, and connections to other social media and directories/ratings
- Angie's List is a directory for only service and health care industries that requires users to get a paid membership
- Free for businesses to manage their listings
- Subscriptions are for specific local areas only
- Anyone can post a review, but reviewers are required to submit personal information to the website (which is not publicly displayed) so that Angie's List can verify to the business that the reviewer was a client and not an associate of the business
- Businesses are rated on a letter grade scale, and only those with an A or B rating can post discount coupons
- Because it is a paid service, Angie's List is primarily used for researching doctors or home improvement providers, services where clients really need to trust their providers
These are just some of the major Internet directories out there. There are many other listings and review sites. Some are industry specific, like UrbanSpoon (restaurants) and TripAdvisor (travel/hotels/restaurants). Your business information may already be listed on many directories. Which ones to use and how to use them will depend on your industry and your marketing strategy.
Thank you for reading this series! :) I had a lot of fun writing this basic intro and comparison of some of the social media tools available for businesses, and I am looking forward to writing about other Internet marketing solutions and strategies for small businesses!