Plaintiffs in multiple lawsuits have unsuccessfully argued that Yelp is a “shake-down” racket that manipulates reviews to encourage SMBs to advertise and punish those that don’t. At the heart of these claims is Yelp’s controversial and often misunderstood “review filter.”
Now a new crowdfunded documentary seeks to make the same argument to the broader public. A press release and several articles on it yesterday were being blamed for a drop in Yelp’s stock. (The stock has recovered today.) The kickstarter project has raised roughly $17,000 of its $60,000 goal.
The claims in the trailer (below) are pretty sensational — all of which have been made multiple times before. There’s a good deal of merchant resentment (even bitterness) out there against Yelp and that continues to fuel what might be called “magical thinking” about the operation of the review filter.
Nonetheless the persistence of these rumors and beliefs about the connection between reviews and advertising on Yelp suggests that some of the often inexperienced salespeople have contributed to the misperceptions that continue to plague Yelp. And I continue to be surprised by the strength of these rumors and the fact that many industry insiders believe them as well.
Why do you think these rumors and beliefs about Yelp persist despite waves of unsuccessful litigation? Do you think it’s a “rogue salesperson” issue or is it a function of salespeople under pressure implying an ads-reviews connection to close new accounts? Do you think it’s a more systemic sales training issue that the management is not addressing? Or do you actually believe the “extortion” claims are real though unproven?