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SBA, Yelp offering free workshop in Piscataway to help businesses navigate online reviews, engage consumers

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Yelp is partnering with the Small Business Administration to offer a free workshop in Piscataway where businesses will learn how to navigate the new world of online reviews and successfully engage consumers who post comments about their business online.

Darnell Holloway, Yelp's head of local business outreach, will present the workshop with the New Jersey Small Business Development Center on April 2 from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the Rutgers Business School, 100 Rockafeller Road, Piscataway.

Holloway said any business that has face-to-face contact with consumers can generate online reviews through Yelp and other websites, including retailers, restaurants, dentists, doctors, and plumbers, among others.

"Consumers are turning to the Internet more and more to find local businesses, and studies have shown that consumers pay attention to online reviews," Holloway said.

The workshop is for businesses that want to learn how to better position themselves online. He plans to walk businesses through "free tools they have at their disposal when it comes to reputation management."

He wants to counter "the myth that persists out there that people only leave negative reviews." Nearly 80 percent of online reviews posted on Yelp are rated as "okay to great," he said.

Businesses will get tips on how to respond to online reviews either by contacting the consumer directly or posting a public response on the site.

"If you have gotten a positive review, you want to use that opportunity to thank that person for their feedback and deepen that relationship with your customer. And if you have received a negative review, you want to respond diplomatically, thank them for their feedback, and address any valid concerns that they might have," Holloway said.

He said "We have heard from Yelp users that they like getting responses from business owners when they've written reviews – it shows that the business actually cares."

Click here to register for the free workshop.

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Beth Fitzgerald

Beth Fitzgerald

Beth Fitzgerald reports on health care, small business and higher education. She joined NJBIZ in 2008 after a 34-year career at the Star-Ledger and has been reporting on business in New Jersey since 1978. Her email is beth@njbiz.com and she is @bethfitzgerald8 on Twitter.

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