Some write, some photograph, and some adventure. These folks? They tend to be in the Yelp Elite Squad. Yelp Elites are some of Yelp’s finest writers, photographers, and adventurers—a community of people who share their experiences and help others discover the best of everything local. (Like, discovering food trends, finding hidden spots, and checking out new openings.) This underground collective doesn’t just live their best lives—they share everything on Yelp, so others can enjoy it too.
But, who are they? How did it all begin? And, more importantly, why do they exist? We realized it was time to blow the lid off one of the most awesome parts of joining the Yelp community. Community is what makes us, and we felt that was worth celebrating… so we decided to create a campaign that showcases what the Yelp Elite Squad, aka YES!, is all about.
Some Yelp History
Back when we began, one of the biggest questions was how to encourage people to share their experiences. You’d tell your mom, your friend, even your colleagues about that rad new coffee spot, so why not share that opinion online for everyone to see?
At this time—hey, 2004—most folks got their advice from pay-to-play directories and paid critics. Social networking at large didn’t exactly exist, blogging was coming into its own, and web forums were at their height, but that was it really… Not so helpful in quickly finding the emergency doctor you need (which is where Jeremy’s idea for Yelp came from, but that’s another story). So, we focused on figuring out how to get folks to share their experiences on Yelp.
And The Yelp Elite Squad Was Born
Back then our tagline “Real People. Real Reviews” was part of it—we wanted to underline the authenticity of the people who shared reviews on Yelp. After all, the driving idea behind Yelp was creating a forum for word-of-mouth experiences then amplifying them. The other part of it was making the website a whole lot more than, well, just a website. And so the Yelp Elite Squad was born…
Bringing a social element to Yelp was what helped connect our growing community of reviewers. We wanted a way to truly recognize the tastemakers who were sharing every new opening, food trend, and hidden gem, so we created the Yelp Elite badge to attach to their profiles—a badge of honor, or recognition, if you will. We added a way to “upvote” the most useful, funny, and cool reviews so that people knew they were making a difference. We also wanted these folks to be able to socialize, on the site and offline, so we introduced messaging, talk threads, friending, and an event section.
The Evolution Of YES!
Alongside the creation of YES! came the concept of a Community Manager—someone had to be the person on the ground to arrange, host, and lead these growing communities! In those days we even had physical membership cards to give out, whereas now we keep it digital with the badge. And we went from one Community Manager leading the way to a vast fleet of tireless and talented Community Managers. They now lead communities and host regular events—from the exclusive and intimate to the epic and adventurous—all over the US and Canada.
What are the events all about? Yep, there’s the free sampling, but it’s more than just that—they offer an inside look at some of the unique local spots that make each city so incredible. The bonus? Meeting people, making friends, and trying out a ton of one-off experiences. And when we say events, we’re talking about learning how to throw an axe or attend a playdate with penguins. Not your thing? What about beer brewing lessons? If that’s not grabbing your attention, maybe a food festival sampling session will. Those arejust a few examples of the adventures you can expect to hear about from YES!
But, there’s so much more to the YES! than parties. (OK, OK—that’s a huge bonus.) The bottom line is that joining means taking on adventures across your city, sharing discoveries for the next person to revel in, and meeting new folks along the way.
So, how did we decide to showcase the Yelp Elite Squad? There was no other way to best share their story than with the Squad themselves. We asked three real life Elites—yep, they’re real—to come out to San Francisco and star in these videos. Each spot is simple: you know what you love, you share what you love, and we want to celebrate that. All that remains to ask is… what type of Yelp Elite are you?
Sure, there are writers who review everything, but it’s not just a numbers game! Whether you review in haiku, max out the review character count, or detail everything, words are your thing. Do you live to write? Is Yelp basically your blog? Do you love sharing your experiences?
You’re The Writer.
Sometimes it’s about shooting from the hip, sometimes it’s about getting the whole picture, and sometimes… it’s just about the food porn. Do you capture every moment? Do you take 10 minutes to line up each shot? Do you live life through the lens?
You’re The Photographer.
There are reviews, there are photos, and then there’s just being a total explorer. From hidden forests to brand new local hot spots, you’re all about discovery. Do you barely go a week without finding new adventures? Does that First To Review badge give you pride? Do you come alive outside 9–5?
You’re The Adventurer.
So, How Do You Join?
Want in? Of course. (It was the axe throwing, wasn’t it?) Your next steps are super simple—head over to Yelp, polish up your profile, and then check out the Yelp Elite page. You’ll get the nitty gritty on some of the things that make up a great Elite and you can send your nomination to join the squad! Ready to join? Bon chance!