Social networks have been turning into review networks as well, and these can be a really good way to get the word out to your community about your wares--especially if you're a consumer service or a retailer.
Thanks to Small Business CEO for pointing us to a ratings service of local businesses called Yelp. You can read some reviews and comments on the service here. The comments on the review also talk about a couple of other services, Judy's Book and InsiderPages, which also let you look up small businesses--or get your business reviewed.
Yelp, launched late last year in test mode (it says it's still in beta), lets people in local communities comment on and rate local businesses, while also doing some social networking. Businesses can apparently use the site to place contextual ads (meaning ads that relate to whatever subject the user is looking at); I've asked the site for details.
It looks like right now Yelp is concentrating on San Francisco, San Jose, Boston, Chicago, and Seattle, but the site also has plenty on New York and Atlanta and appears able to accept posts from just about anywhere in the United States. I typed in a few zip codes in populated areas (Long Island, Memphis, Medford (Oregon), Minneapolis) and found some reviews for all.
The main catch, of course, is that you should have a business that pleases customers. Then you'll tend to get the good reviews. In a later post, I'll talk about a "word of mouth" marketing site that tells you why you shouldn't use dishonest practices to send your ranking higher.