What I did on my social media vacation

January 31, 2012

Want to know a secret? I’ve never really understood Yelp. Sure, I know it’s a place where you can review businesses, but it never really clicked why anyone would use it. That all changed over the weekend.

It was time for a mini-vacation. I had a lot of fun (and some great food) with friends in Portland and New Hampshire, but there was a chunk of time from Saturday through Sunday afternoon when I didn’t really have any plans at all. When it came time for dinner on Saturday, I stopped in a parking lot in Saco and tried to decide where I wanted to eat.

The first option was easy: head toward the huge, glowing signs on Main Street and the chains I knew well. That’s what I’d normally do. There are so many great, local restaurants around that I’d love to try… but I don’t really know enough people in the area that’d be able to give me a quick recommendation on Twitter. What should I do?

Then it hit me: it was time to check Yelp. I pulled out my phone and searched for restaurants within a few miles with good reviews, and sure enough, I found some great options. I decided to head to downtown Saco and try the Run of the Mill Public House & Brewery, and it turned out to be one of the best meals of my trip. (For extra social media bonus points, I checked on foursquare and noticed that a few of my friends had eaten there in the past.) It worked so well that I checked Yelp again when I drove into Manchester for lunch on Sunday; I even earned a 10% discount on my lunch for checking in with Yelp on my phone!

The morals of the story? If you’re in a new place, Yelp is a great way to find places to go with recommendations from both locals and visitors. And if you’re a business owner, check Yelp to see if your business is listed (and if it is, see what people are saying about it). Yelp lets you claim your business and respond to reviews.

One final lesson from this tale: it’s perfectly OK if you don’t “get” a social network, whether it’s Yelp, Twitter, foursquare, or anything else. But don’t completely dismiss it; chances are there will come a time when a site like Yelp can turn a good vacation into a great one.

If you’d like, you can read my reviews of the restaurants I visited this weekend. Rest assured, my Yelp history will keep growing!

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Justin is a web and mobile developer at Sephone. He's interested in user-driven design, social media, and web services. He also enjoys learning and exploring new ways for businesses and people to use the web.

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