Political Excitement Prompts Yelp's Largest New York Event Yet

Yelp capitalized on political interest and eager vendors to treat its community of users to the Web site's largest New York party yet.

By Michael O'Connell January 22, 2009, 12:25 PM EST

Guests enjoyed tastings of different booze labels in the independent liquor room.

Photo: Keith Sirchio for BizBash

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Few local parties for Tuesday's inauguration came close to the scope of anything in Washington, but for Yelp, inauguration night marked its largest ever event marketing push on the East Coast. More than 1,500 users and guests showed up for a sprawling celebration at Country on Madison Avenue to raise enough money to provide more than 15,000 meals for St. John's Bread & Life.

Yelp, an online hybrid of user reviews and social networking, typically holds events for members of its New York community every four or six weeks—few topping more than several hundred attendees. New York Yelp community manager Jane Kwett first got the idea for a bigger party on election night. “I was down in D.C. for our election party in that market, and there was just so much excitement behind this election,” she said. “New Yorkers always want to be a part of that political excitement, but don’t necessarily want to travel down there for it, so I thought we could do something.”

The announcement of the party brought about a lot of discussion on Yelp’s boards, and more than 2,500 people tried to R.S.V.P. Guests that made the list were rewarded with a carefully selected group of local vendors giving away free drinks or manicures in hopes of good buzz on the site. “We work with sponsors who are gung-ho about it,” said Kwett. “We're on a local level, so we like to work with people who get the experience and get that this is an opportunity for them to talk to their consumers.”

Manicurists from Spa Chinois buffed and painted nails in one room; craftsmen from Staten Island’s the Little Cigar Factory hand-rolled stogies near the bar; representatives from small distilleries Pipeline Brands, Loft Organic Liqueurs, and Luna Sueño gave samples in the independent liquor room, and lead sponsor Saaga Vodka poured cocktails named after Kennedy, Nixon, and Obama. Guests more intent on dancing had stiff competition in the form of the Sugar Shack burlesque crew and balancing acrobats from Imaginaerial—both hired to perform on the dance floor.

Though there aren't any immediate plans to duplicate the size of Tuesday's party, the New York team is already working on projects for the next two months. Yelp will hold a masquerade party during Mardi Gras and then a beauty week with discounts at local participating spas in March.

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