On a recent lunchtime visit to Mot & Ed’s, the restaurant at 1354 Madison Ave. specializing in Southern food with a popular stuffed burger, Joelle Pittman immediately got the owner’s attention after the owner introduced herself and found out Pittman works for Yelp.
Pittman is the Memphis community manager for the reviews and recommendation service, and the scene at Mot & Ed’s was typical and plays out many times in similar ways over the course of weeks and months: The owner began questioning her about how to merge multiple Yelp listings, how to optimize them and how generally to get more out of the service.
Those are exactly the kinds of questions Pittman is paid to answer. Her job, which she’s had for a year and a half, makes her a frequent point of contact among local businesses. Part of what she does is constantly seek out new local businesses to visit and post a Yelp review about them.
She has posted several hundred reviews and a similar number of tips about businesses to Yelp since 2012. Meanwhile, Pittman also serves as a kind of roving help desk for business owners and even conducts something called Yelp University, presentations she gives to inquisitive business owners about the service.
Her job also entails helping plan Yelp events and compiling a regular newsletter that’s packed with snapshots of local businesses.
“It’s fun to work for a company where you are getting to really discover your city,” Pittman said. “Memphis gets a bad rap sometimes, and here I am, where it’s my job to find where all the cool hotspots are, the hidden gems. And it’s wonderful to be able to introduce Memphians to great local businesses they may not know about.”
She’s unmistakably prolific in that regard. Following her on Twitter – @memphisyelp – will bring someone a constant array of food photos, like the close-up of a Cobb salad from Bardog Tavern she posted a few days ago, plus a mix of news and images promoting local businesses and institutions.
She mentioned the Mot & Ed’s owner in a Yelp review after meeting her and partaking of the restaurant’s fare for the first time this month: “So sweet and she sure knows how to cook some soul food,” Pittman’s Yelp review reads. “And they have lima beans! My absolute favorite veggie, and she does it right.”
Reviews and recommendations like these, plus images and photos that users and business owners can upload to Yelp, help raise the profile of a business and potentially bring it more traffic. Kevin DeMarcus Woodard, the owner of Monsieur Demarcus French Creperie in Victorian Village, is one such business owner.
“It’s tremendously helped me – we’ve actually built a lot of the business off of Yelp,” Woodard said. “Being able to see pictures of the food there and all the five-star reviews is what’s causing a lot of people to come.”
That’s not idle talk. The PowerPoint presentation Pittman gives shows business owners the wide mix of tools potentially available to them to track a variety of customer data, including calls made from the Yelp app and visits to the business’ website from the Yelp site and apps.
Pittman’s presentation also seeks to dispel such myths as “most Yelp reviews are negative.” The company’s data show that nearly 80 percent of Yelp reviews are actually three stars out of five or higher – part of the reason Pittman says “people can use their Yelp profile to definitely help their business.”