The Yelp Elite Squad

Since 2006, the Yelp Elite Squad have been the tastemakers behind creating the ever-coveted local buzz small businesses crave. These role models are relied on to make a difference in their communities, and in turn enjoy some truly excellent perks. These distinctive Yelpers are set apart not just because of their activity on the review site, but also for a myriad of other distinguishing factors. Along with what you would imagine – like lengthy written reviews, good photos, and useful tips – Yelp requires their Elite Squad to be heads and tails above the rest.

David Sax, of Bloomberg Businessweek explains, “the Elite are a chosen people. They’re selected each year through a clandestine Skull and Bones-like process that evaluates the quality and extraordinary quantity of their Yelp.com review writing and their popularity.”

To start, members of the Elite Squad are required to have a detailed, accurate profile. Meaning, they have to be willing to put themselves out there with a clear profile picture and the use of their real name, linked to their personal social media platforms. In short, they have to be personally accountable for what they write. And while their own reviews are important, these Elite Yelpers must also interact within the Yelp community, commenting and rating other member’s reviews with a rating of either useful, funny, or cool.

In order to protect their reputation, these Elite Squad Yelpers also have to play well with others. Yelp looks to see if their reviews are fair, balanced, and polite. So, a one-star giving no-show won’t get this exclusive status. These Yelpers care about the community – the patrons and the local business owners. They share local events, connect with small business operators, and communicate about their experiences, kindly. And, they can’t get too comfortable; these Yelp role models must achieve this honorable place each and every year, without exception.

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To obtain this prestigious title, Yelpers can either be nominated by another Elite Squad member, or can self-nominate. But, it sure ain’t easy to get in. Yelp looks for reviewers with that certain “je ne sais quoi” – something that makes them relatable, real, and engaging.

So, why would someone want to go through all this? It’s an unpaid role, after all.

Well, first off they get a snazzy Elite badge on their Yelp Profile, which is a highly coveted feature on the site – particularly for Yelpers who earn Gold or Black. After 5 years of maintaining the status, Elite Yelpers achieve Gold, and in 10 years, the highly exclusive distinction of Black.

Beyond badges and special placement on the site, the Elite Squad enjoys truly epic experiences, including exclusive parties with free food, drinks, and swag bags in which they may receive gifts or be invited to even more premium events. While Yelp regularly holds local events for all Yelpers and local businesses, Elite Squad parties are certainly a cut above.

Ron Romero, a member of Yelp Elite was recently quoted in and article by Jenn Harris for the Los Angeles Times saying, “When I became Elite, the whole world opened up. I’ve had experiences I may not have had as a regular Yelper, with food and beer tastings, going to new restaurant or bar openings, clubbing, museum viewing. Just great life experiences, and all for free.”

With all these perks, it’s not hard to see why Yelp Elite remains the Holy Grail for restaurant reviewers. In order to maintain fairness, certain individuals are excluded from the Elite Squad — particularly business owners and their families, employees, and investors.