Ordering the Needles After Finding them in Haystacks

Finding just a few bits of useful information within a vast sea of data is a pretty neat trick. Here at WhoDoYou we specialize in filtering out the millions of posts across social networks that have nothing to do with local business recommendations. The good news is, out of all that hay, we’re able to come up with hundreds of thousands of needles – high quality bits of advice shared between friends.

But believe it or not, it can be difficult to display the resulting information in a logical and ordered way that meets the needs of a person searching WhoDoYou. I’m sure many of you can identify with times when you are most interested in ordering search results by price. At other times, quality is your first criterion, and when searching on mobile, often proximity is the primary variable. WhoDoYou introduces a social layer on top of these considerations, not to mention the precision of the user’s search and the category we have stored (e.g. CPA versus accountant, HVAC vs plumber).

So there are indeed many calculations to factor in when thinking about how best to display the most fitting results to each user, to ultimately help in making a hiring or purchasing decision. We’ve been working on this problem and are excited to soon be rolling out a whole new way of ordering our results – in a way that we believe will make it much quicker and easier for users to choose the business that best fits their needs.

Funny enough, it turns out we’re not the only ones that have been working hard to address this issue. In fact, one of the Internet’s most mature verticals, travel, is still working to make the user experience better when searching for flights, hotels and complex itineraries. Recently the New York Times did a story on ‘How to Choose an Air Travel Search Site.’ They compared the old guard – www.expedia.com, www.orbitz.com, and www.travelocity.com with a handful of newer companies.

The site I found most interesting is www.routehappy.com. They are doing a wonderful job in trying to present useful results in an order that’s meaningful to its users. Try a search and you’ll find they have a ‘Happiness Index’ which attempts to balance the price, schedule and trip duration components (as well as seat recline, in-flight entertainment, etc.). Essentially these are the primary variables used to make a purchase decision, and Routehappy is doing its best to remove most of the work for the person searching.

Coming back to WhoDoYou, our goal is to help people find dentists, plumbers, painters, movers and hundreds of other types of local professionals. Today it’s very difficult on other sites to choose between a list of unknown providers. At WhoDoYou, we give you trusted opinions, and will soon go beyond the bits of advice to showing a more ordered list based on the factors that seem to correlate most with choosing a local service provider.

We hope you’ll like what you see, and as always, we welcome your comments and feedback.

Thanks in advance,

Yoav

Dentists. Do they have a knack for causing people pain?

The short answer is no, generally dentists do not have a knack for causing people pain. Most of them are wonderful people, caring medical professionals, and interested in providing great dental care. So is there any need to ask around to find a good dentist, or should you just show up at the nearest dental practice and open wide?

Well, as most people would probably agree, it’s not quite so straightforward. There are many reasons people want personal recommendations for dentists, along with many other types of local service professionals. In fact, it turns out requests for dentist recommendations are one of the most popular questions on Facebook.

Here is what people are afraid of:

Okay, perhaps that video is a bit exaggerated, although when I think back to my first dentist in Seattle, I’m not so sure. In any case, you might think most people would already have a dentist, but there are a lot of reasons people need good quality dentist recommendations. Whether it’s because of a move to a new city or neighborhood, dissatisfaction with current provider, or price/cost/convenience, people are constantly looking for great dentist recommendations.

And the good news is, as you’ve probably guessed, that we have you covered. There are thousands of dentists already recommended on WhoDoYou. Just surf on over to www.whodoyou.com and do a search in your area. You’ll be amazed at how many high quality, totally authentic opinions have already been shared between friends and neighbors.

So take a look today, and as always, we love to hear from you. Any thoughts, comments or questions, please leave a comment below, or send a note to feedback@whodoyou.com.

Thanks!

Building a local business on the strength of reviews

On this blog we have often focused on how people should find and evaluate local businesses. Of course we believe that WhoDoYou is a great way to find trusted recommendations for local service providers.

But what if you are looking to be found? We have lots of small businesses approach us to understand how WhoDoYou can help their business grow, and often we hear a degree of frustration in the dizzying array of choices, services and options. There are reputation management companies, listings specialists, and campaign managers. As if that weren’t enough, it is increasingly becoming clear to small businesses that they MUST have a strong “review footprint” online.

By review footprint, I mean the ease with which users can find out information about you on various media, platforms and locations. It has become common knowledge that positive, high quality reviews can have a big impact on your bottom line, so if you don’t have many reviews, you may want to get started today.

We always suggest that businesses make sure, first and foremost, that their profile information is correct and up to date on the review sites. But that’s really table stakes – what’s most important is to encourage your customers/patients/clients to contribute their honest endorsements.* Never ask someone to lie, and never (we mean ever!) pay for people to write reviews. Aside from the fact that it’s wrong, the consequences of being caught can be devastating.

It can often be hard to motivate customers to write reviews, since people are busy and have lots of priorities. So, we’ve seen a few things help with the response rate for writing reviews:

  1. Get them at the ‘moment of truth‘ – or put another way, try to prompt your customers right after you provide service. Not only will the experience be fresh in their minds, but also the request will be made in context. And generally speaking, people do want to support businesses, particularly local ones, if they’ve done a good job
  2. Ask for specific feedback – if you are an electrician that takes pride in your punctuality, ask customers to let others know how much they appreciated you being on time. Or if you’re a doctor, feel free to suggest that patients speak about your bedside manner. Again, don’t write it for them, but feel free to prompt (recognition is always easier than recall…)
  3. Remind, remind, remind – As we’ve already established, most people are simply not review writers. There are always people, however, that would write a review if prompted at the right time, and in the right way. So without being pushy, remember to remind them to pay it forward – some percentage always will.

Now this blog post would not be complete without mentioning WhoDoYou. Specifically, where do we fit in this environment of reviews that build up local businesses? Well, we are great believers in the power and authenticity of conversations on social media. That’s why we focus much of our time on surfacing the recommendations already made between friends and within existing groups.

We also encourage WhoDoYou users to write structured reviews, because it’s a way of sharing opinions on WhoDoYou without being asked by a friend. Essentially, this is the equivalent of being asked by a business. And one of the most powerful ways to extend the reach of these reviews is to share them on social media – the exposure and long-lasting effect is hard to quantify, but undoubtedly powerful.

So, if you’re a small business and feeling a bit overwhelmed with this whole business of reviews, relax, try following our 3 simple tips, and watch the referrals start appearing at your doorstep.

Good luck, and if you have any comments, please share.

*Please note, some review sites forbid small businesses from asking for reviews. We think this is absurd. It is not the act of asking which promotes bogus reviews, it is the manipulation and paying which creates fake reviews. At WhoDoYou we strongly believe – if you do a good job, prompt your customers and they’ll write honest reviews. After all, you’ve earned it!