Agencies get the OK to use Yelp


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Letting a federal agency know how it’s doing is now as simple as rating your favorite sushi spot.

The General Services Administration’s DigitalGov team announced this week amended terms of service for Yelp, the popular Web and mobile service that prides itself on helping people find local businesses by rating.

Now agencies can decide whether to add Yelp to their customer service strategy, Justin Herman, the federalwide social media lead in GSA’s Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies, told FedScoop in an email.

At first glance, the new Yelp section for “Public Services & Government” looks like a collection of reviews on museums, monuments and federal buildings — there’s not much in the way of agency service ratings.

That, however, will likely change.

“In the coming months agencies will kick the tires on Yelp, just like any other social media platform, to see how they can use it to drive improvements to their programs — and I suspect how that will take shape exactly will look different for each agency that chooses to use it,” Herman said. “A lot of that will be based on how citizens want to effectively use it, because if there’s one thing that’s certain, it’s that agencies are always looking for new and better ways to work with citizens.”

Agencies can choose to either launch their own page or claim an existing one the Yelp community has already created.

Along with the ability to collect citizen feedback on Yelp, agencies can, under the terms of service, also pull the platform’s API to integrate the reviews into their products and services. In fact, that’s how the project came about.

“Some agencies have been eager to use Yelp in an official capacity for years, but it was the recent opportunity to use its API for a drunk driving prevention app designed to save lives over the holiday season that really pushed things forward,” Herman said, referring to the Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s use of the API for its SaferRide app. The app connects those who have had too much to drink to local transportation services and their corresponding Yelp ratings.

You probably won’t see every federal agency rushing to launch Yelp page — for some, it just doesn’t make sense — but for those agencies highly focused on customer service, this is a strategic way to interact with citizens on a platform they’re familiar with.

“Yelp alone may not be the answer for all agencies, but it gives that much more capability to the teams who need it,” Herman said.

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Agencies, Applications & Software, DigitalGov, General Services Administration (GSA), Justin Herman, Social Media, Tech