How to Bulk-Identify Prime Yelp Reviewers with Yelp’s “Find Friends” Feature in 7 Easy Steps

Like my post? Please share!

You may know about Yelp’s “Find Friends” feature, which allows you to see whether specific customers (or other people) have joined Yelp.  This is a great way to encourage customers to write you a review, in a non-pushy way.

You may even know there’s a way to look up customers en masse.  You can connect Yelp to Facebook…

…or you can connect Yelp to your email account…

…and it will show you all your contacts who have Yelp accounts.

But you might run into problems, especially if you go the Facebook route:

Problem 1: You’ll have a bunch of non-customers among your email contacts or Facebook “friends.”  You don’t want reviews from them, and you don’t want to burn up a bunch of time on vetting your list.

Problem 2: Yelp will only give you a way to contact them in Yelp – in a message you can send customers if you add them as a friend – when you may prefer to send them an email.

Problem 3: You might want to be organized about how you contact Yelper-customers: you may want their full names next to their email addresses, next to some notes on their jobs, next to date you sent your first email or added them as a friend, etc.

It may sound like a pain, but working off a list of your customers’ email addresses is the only way (that I know of) to look up a long list of customers.

I recently vetted a list of 2500+ customers for one of my clients.  What could have taken me or someone else 10 hours ended up taking only a little over an hour, with some fancy footwork.

I suggest using my bulk-lookup approach if you’ve got more than about 100 customers on your list.  With fewer than that, it’s quicker just to customers’ email addresses one at a time

A couple other people have written about this – there’s a mediocre Wikihow post here and a decent post here – but they leave out some crucial details that may mean the difference between wasting time and saving time.

Eduard de Boer of Whitespark (and a key part of the LocalSpark service I offer jointly with Whitespark) also has an effective, somewhat different method that involves Yahoo mail instead of Gmail.

But Yelp doesn’t want you to ask for reviews, you say.  You don’t want to run afoul of their rules, you say.  Well, to that I reply:

  • Yelp’s “don’t ask” rule is stupid.
  • Yelp doesn’t filter reviews you asked for; it filters reviews based primarily on how many reviews someone’s written. Yelp doesn’t trust reviewers who’ve written no or just a couple reviews.
  • What you choose to do with the info you gather is up to you. Maybe none of your customers is an active Yelper, or maybe they’re all grumps who never give a business more than 3 stars.  But if you’ve identified some solid Yelpers, you can ask them point-blank for a Yelp review, or give them a nudge, or just say you’d love a review somewhere, or not ask at all.  Your call.

Anyway, here’s a quick summary of the steps to do a clean and efficient bulk “Find Friends” lookup:

Step 1: Create a spreadsheet of all your customers’ email addresses and first and last names, and save it as a CSV file.

Step 2: Create a new Gmail address to use strictly for Yelper-hunting.

Step 3: Import your CSV file of contacts into Gmail.

Step 4: Log into your personal Yelp account OR create a new personal Yelp account.

Step 5: Go to “Find Friends” and sync with Gmail.

Step 6: Scour the list of Yelper-customers and note down anyone who’s written more than 5 reviews.

Step 7: Decide whom to contact, and contact them.

Still not 100% clear on the steps?  Here’s much more detail:

Step 1:

Create a spreadsheet of all your customers’ email addresses and first and last names, and save it as a CSV file.

The first names should be in column A, the last names in column B, and the emails in column C.

Again, make sure to save it as a .csv.

On the off-chance you’ve got more than 4200 contacts you should break up your list into two CSV files.  Yelp can process up to about 4200 contacts, but chokes if you try more than that at once.

Don’t have your customers’ email addresses?  Unless you’re Starbucks and don’t even know their names, not having those emails is madness.  Come back when you’re serious about marketing.

Step 2:

Create a new Gmail address to use strictly for Yelper-hunting.

It needs to be a dedicated Gmail address so that you don’t run non-customers through Yelp’s “Find Friends” lookup.  I’m sure your college roommate and Aunt Ruth would be glad to put in a good word for you on Yelp, but that’s not what we’re trying to accomplish here.

Step 3:

Import your CSV file of contacts into Gmail.

First click the “Gmail” tab in the upper-left, then “Contacts,” then “Import.”  Then select “CSV or vCard file.”

If asked, choose to import from “old” Google Contacts.

Click “Import Contacts” (on the left).  Upload the CSV file you created in step 1, so Gmail imports that list of customers.

Once the import is done, stay logged into this Gmail account.

Step 4:

Log into your personal Yelp account OR create a new personal Yelp account.

It needs to be a personal Yelp account, not a business account (the kind you create at, because there is no “Find Friends” feature in a business account.

If you’re doing this on behalf of someone else (e.g. a client or employer) it’s fine to use your personal account, because you don’t need to contact any customers through Yelp, or even actually add them as friends.  All you need to do is identify who the active Yelpers are, so you can match them to names and emails on your spreadsheet.

But if you do want to “friend” them – as your initial way to contact them or as a friendly follow-up – you’ll probably want to set up a separate personal Yelp account and use that here.

Step 5:

Go to “Find Friends” and sync with Gmail.

Make sure you’re still logged into the Gmail account you created in step 2.

Once you click the option for Gmail, just wait a minute.  As I mentioned, Yelp will be able to process a list of roughly 4200.  If you’ve got more than 4200 contacts, make sure you’ve split it up into two or more CSV lists, as I described in step 1.  Compete steps 6-7 for the first list, and hold off on processing the other(s) until later.

Step 6:

Scour the list of Yelper-customers and note down anyone who’s written more than 5 reviews.

Why only pay attention to people who’ve written more than 5 reviews?  Because Yelp usually filters reviews written by people who’ve written no reviews or just a couple.  I’ve found that Yelp starts “trusting” reviewers more after about 5-10 reviews.

Anyway, what I’d do is add another column to your spreadsheet – one with the number of reviews each customer has written.  Put “13” next to Nick, and “675” next to Jim and Suzanne, and so forth.  Again, I wouldn’t bother with any people who’d written fewer than 5 reviews.

So no your spreadsheet should look like this:

Step 7:

Decide whom to contact, and contact them.

Only now can you can decide exactly what to do with those contacts.  What I’d do is prune the list a little.  That means you:

  • Cross off anyone you think had a mediocre-to-poor experience with you. (If you haven’t done so already, you should probably contact them to see what you can do to make things better.)
  • Read at least some of your customers’ reviews of other businesses. Cross off any clearly grumpy reviewers.  Don’t contact people who seem stingy with stars or who gripe too much about minutiae.
  • Contact people who already reviewed you on Yelp, but whose reviews got filtered. Thank them, and ask them to consider posting a review (maybe the same one) somewhere else.

(By the way, if you had more than 4200 contacts and had to break up the list into more than one CSV file, now you’ll want to process the remaining contacts. First log into the Gmail account you created specifically for friend-finding, and delete all the contacts you just processed in Yelp.  Then import into Gmail another batch of them (up to 4200) and repeat steps 4-7.)

Your list is probably pretty short by now – which is good, because it’s payday.  Here’s where I’d send each active Yelper on your list a quick email, in which you ask for a review.

If you’re going to be a goody two-shoes about it, you don’t need to ask specifically for a Yelp review; if you just ask these customers for a review somewhere, it’s likely they’ll pick Yelp by default.

Keep the email short, but as personalized as possible.  Try to allude to the specific job you did: “I hope you’re enjoying your new ___” or “It was a pleasure helping you to ___ your ___” or whatever seems appropriate

If you want, include a link to your “Review Us” page.

Congrats.  You’ve smelted tons of ore into gold, and you’ll probably get some nice Yelp reviews out of the deal (especially if you apply my basic strategy and troubleshooting tips).

Any first-hand experience with finding and contacting “friends” on Yelp?  What were your results in terms of reviews?

Any questions?

Leave a comment!


  1. Thanks Phil, this is an excellent and comprehensive guide. I wasn’t sure if there were any “gotchas” with Yelp on this and I wanted to check before I go to town on a big client list.

    I’m super paranoid with yelp’s filter though so I think I will do the actual syncing process via proxy since: A) I don’t want Yelp to have any chance whatsoever to connect the big email list with the company IP we use to check our Yelp score (in essence they could figure out easily that it’s our customer list and later re-target competitors ads to accounts on those emails etc.) B) I don’t want them to connect those people to my persona IP/personal Yelp location and account either, since then they could infer that I’m an SMO/ORM if I run these lists all the time and possibly flag my account which is very strong.

    I know that’s paranoid stuff but it only takes a little extra effort and makes me feel better.

    • Thanks, Chris.

      Yeah, that’s one reason I suggest creating a dedicated Yelp account for each client. The other reason, of course, is that you don’t want to do a “friends” lookup on non-customers, so you want to connect Yelp to a Gmail account where every contact is a customer.

  2. Phil – this is brilliant!

    Thanks for a very understandable and clever approach to handling our “5-star favorite review site” (please notice the sarcasm) Yelp.

    Obviously, Yelp needs special handling since they handle business owners with their own special brand of bias and you have crafted a very helpful strategy for attempting to at least play by their own rules.

    Great screen shots BTW – really helpful to make sure one is walking through your process correctly.

    Thanks for the great strategy!


Speak Your Mind