Heard on the Hill

California Democrat Gives Yelp Good Reviews

Mark Takano and the platform’s director encourage other members to join

California Rep. Mark Takano has found an innovative way to connect with constituents. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

You go to a great sushi place and you want the whole world to know how fantastic its spicy tuna roll is? You post it on Yelp.

If a constituent of one California Democrat has a delightful time touring the Capitol through his office, they can post that on Yelp, too.

Rep. Mark Takano set up his Yelp page in April 2014 to connect with the people he represents.

“I wanted feedback from my constituents on the work that I’m doing,” he said.

Yelpers have posted photographs and reviews on the three-term congressman’s page, often about how they were able to tour the Capitol.

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And Takano reads the comments.

“The feedback helps us improve the experience,” he said. “Yelp is a great platform for constituent feedback, which is made richer with photos and personal experiences.”

The Riverside, California, native added that it’s also nice to hear good news.

“I also like reading the positive feedback on my staff, who are the first people my constituents see when they come in the office,” he said.

Users are able to call the congressman’s office — or get directions to it — through Yelp. When they use these features, it’s recorded in the Yelp activity feed.

A screenshot of Takano’s activity feed. (Photo courtesy of Takano's office)
A screenshot of Takano’s activity feed. (Photo courtesy of Takano's office)

Takano’s efforts have received good reviews from Yelp.

“We think that Congressman Takano’s office has done a great job of incorporating a lot of different elements to make a great Yelp page,” said Laurent Crenshaw, director of public policy at Yelp. “They maintain accurate information on the page in regards to the constituent services available, have numerous pictures posted by constituents, and a great message from the representative himself.”

The California Democrat is the only member of Congress with a Yelp page. A search of the site shows several others — likely created by constituents, but never claimed or updated by the member.

A claimed vs. unclaimed Yelp page. (Photo courtesy of Takano’s office)
A claimed vs. unclaimed Yelp page. (Photo courtesy of Takano’s office)

Takano said he is encouraging his colleagues to create a page.

“It’s important to reach your constituents where they are, and the ones that are looking for help with tours are on Yelp,” he said.

Crenshaw said he has had numerous conversations with other congressional offices about doing the same.

“Yelp is a great tool for lawmakers to receive honest feedback regarding the quality of the constituent services provided by their offices,” he said. “This feedback generally avoids the political criticisms and noise of other social media platforms because Yelp reviews must be about your actual experience with a place or office.”

Takano said his staff informs constituents about the page through email and a card they pass out in their office.

Takano Yelp
Where some posts are buried. (Photo courtesy of Takano's office)

Some reviews get buried because they either aren’t relevant or are from someone posting for the first time or who isn’t very active, which Yelp thinks is a feature that will encourage lawmakers to join.

“Generally, once offices learn that Yelp’s terms of service and recommendation software don’t allow for reviews that don’t pertain to an honest, firsthand experience, they become much more comfortable with the idea of using the platform,” Crenshaw said.

Takano seems to be the best advocate to get his colleagues on board.

“You never know who is going to post, and we are thrilled when a constituent interacts with the office on this platform,” he said. “It really lets me know they felt like we went the extra mile on their behalf.”

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