Launching The New WhoDoYou

Hello WhoDoYou-ers! Today we’re launching the next generation of WhoDoYou, with a brand new look that is re-designed and re-engineered to make it even easier for you to find and choose great local businesses.

While we’ve been hard at work developing some fancy new bells and whistles to make this the best ever version of WhoDoYou, what really matters is helping you find that trusted business when you need it. Think back to the last time you needed a locksmith to get into your locked out car, or to find a dentist that was open on a long weekend when your tooth wouldn’t stop aching. Where did you go to find someone you could trust? Who did you ask?

Serving up advice that could be used with confidence was the motivator for creating WhoDoYou in the first place. From the beginning we were – and remain – dedicated to helping you find the professionals you need, recommended by the people you trust.

So, what can you expect to see in the new WhoDoYou? First and foremost, it will be easier to find and contact businesses. We heard your feedback that showing conversations from trusted sources is great, but having the business listing is also very important. So, we’ve converted a majority of the recommendations into business profile pages – a mini landing page you’ll see for each local plumber, dentist or photographer when you click to see full details.

We’ve also worked hard to create a ranking and sorting mechanism that shows you the most relevant providers first. Notice the big ‘ol numbers at the right of each provider or recommendation card. These relevancy rankings are customized for each search, and include things like the number and quality of reviews, proximity to your search, and as you’d expect, a social weighting.

Of course we always encourage folks to log in, since that allows us to not only personalize your sort, but we can actually gather private recommendations from your Facebook friends and from people in your groups. These personal nuggets of advice will only show up for you – they are not public – but each one is worth its weight in gold since they come from your personal contacts. Our ultimate goal is to get you the best information. Quickly. And with high trust, so you can choose a great provider

We’ve also had many people ask us how they can view their own list of personal recommendations, and I’m pleased to say, we have an amazing new capability. Look at the picture of my vault below – you’ll note I have more than 1,000 recommendations from friends and groups. Starting today you too can see all those amazing bits of advice, easily sorted by overall category, and if you click on any of those fancy pictures, you can see every sub-category and every recommendation. It’s quite amazing, and we think you’ll be excited to see all that great, shared information available to you in one handy spot. Let us know what you think!

We hope you’ll also appreciate the improved experience across the site, but in particular, we believe you’ll be pleased to use the totally new mobile site. Now if you’re searching on the go it’ll be as easy on your phone to find what you’re looking for as on your desktop. In the coming weeks we’ll be releasing apps for Android and iPhone, so keep an eye out for those as well.

From a company perspective, this launch comes at an exciting time of growth. While there is still much to do, as of this month, we achieved some very meaningful milestones, including:

  • More than 500,000 recommendations converted from public social media conversations
  • Every day, in more than 500 US cities and 50 international markets, people are now finding local businesses on WhoDoYou. Every day! We couldn’t have imagined that just three, or certainly six months ago
  • And we recently closed a $900k seed round from top Israel and US-based angel investors, including Gigi Levy Weiss, Jonathan Medved, Net Jacobsson, HanJoo Lee and others

So, what comes next? Where do we start! We have lots of plans to continue enhancing the experience for our users, and for service providers that create business profiles. We’re excited about building the next stage, while continuing to maintain our primary focus on helping you, our user, find the professionals you need, recommended by the people you trust.

We look forward to keeping you informed, and hope you’ll send us a note if you have any feedback on the company, the product, or this blog. Send to feedback@whodoyou.com, or to me directly – yoav@whodoyou.com.

Thanks for your support.

Yoav

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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!

WhoDoYou trust?

freud

WhoDoYou’s core value proposition can be defined in one word: trust. We consistently highlight trusted recommendations, trusted advice, trusted friends, etc. But in this post we’d like to explore the basic concept of trust a little more in depth. Who defines trust, and is the definition malleable? Does a trusted relationship necessarily infer trusted advice? And most importantly, what are the practical implications for people seeking help in finding trusted local businesses?

Before we get to the research, let’s point out a few obvious truths in the land of reviews. First off, when someone is paid to review a business and does not disclose it, you cannot implicitly trust their review. Secondly, if you can’t establish a person’s real identity, you may not be able to trust their opinion. This is important because many local business listing sites do not require a login (or “identity,” e.g. Facebook login or moderator approved membership). This can often result in people writing biased reviews – negative or positive – on behalf of, or against a particular business.

Intuitively, we all know these things to be true. But what else do we know about trust that can help us in finding recommended businesses and local service providers?

Contrary to much popular belief, psychological research shows that the Internet and social media are changing the way we encounter friendly relationships in positive aspects. People who use blogs, websites and email to discuss politics and current events become more socially engaged over time. In a 2010 study with 626 children and teens, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology in Australia found that lonely adolescents reported using the Internet to make new friends, and that they communicated online more frequently about personal and intimate topics, ultimately reporting higher levels of self-esteem. Our online friends may be more helpful than expected.

Why is there cynicism towards anonymous strangers anyway?

Studies show that it is mostly based on experience and learning. The vast majority of honest, authentic interactions end in a positive way. But if you’ve ever been betrayed by a stranger (think ‘a bogus restaurant review’) the experience probably taught you to question the type of trust you are going to build in the future. In a 2010 experiment (by Fetchenhauer and Dunning), study participants expected only 52 percent of people – with whom they had interacted directly – to be trustworthy in sharing monetary winnings. But the actual level of trustworthiness was a solid 80 percent. So when there is no ulterior motive, even strangers tend to be more trustworthy than we think.

So we know people are a bit wary of trusting strangers, but do we trust them when seeking advice? And what about friends on social networks, who are often connected to us, but not trusted friends in the traditional sense? In an observational study, Dunbar studied the content of people’s conversations in public places and classified conversations according to such broad categories as politics, sports, technical information and social exchanges. Social topics account for nearly 65% percent of speaking time with little variation due to age or gender, and within that, seeking advice was one of four main social topics. Additionally, according to a large scale study of 58,000 participants done by Forrester Research, 70% of consumers trust brand recommendations from their friends as opposed to 10% who trust advertising.

All of which reinforces the basic intuition we each have, that lies at the heart of our mission at WhoDoYou: authentic advice you can trust. We believe that by building a trustworthy community of advice sharers and seekers, we get the best consensus on local business and service providers.

Getting help from our “online friends” is more important than ever because of information overload. Bottom line, we still purchase based on our friends’ recommendations. That’s why at WhoDoYou, we’ve built a community site of real people sharing the best, most genuine information. Why not come on by and try it today?

Nobody showed up to your party?

Ever been invited to a party and wondered if other people would show up? Virtually everyone can relate to the feeling of arriving at a get-together only to realize that it’s much smaller than expected, or worse, nobody else is showing up. Well, it’s not only you that has gotten hives and broken out into a cold sweat. In fact, in the local search space we use this metaphor all the time to describe a situation where companies build great local sites, but there is no content. When a user comes, their experience may be great on all fronts, except getting local information that’s relevant and useful. Which means, the site is actual quite useless.

This topic was covered very nicely by Mike Orren in a recent article: http://streetfightmag.com/2013/07/12/customization-failure-why-hyperlocal-hasnt-scaled-yet-mike-orren-gp/. Essentially Orren posits that the problem of the party without any attendees was well understood a dozen years ago, and more than 6-7 years ago companies began to try to solve the challenge in various local verticals, including news, events, etc. But most local sites still suffer from a lack of quality content, regardless of the vertical, because it turns out to be pretty difficult to get sufficient “content liquidity” (an over-blown term mean to indicate ‘sufficient information’).

In referring to some recently-announced apps that purport to have great local content, he writes:
“I’m enough of a geek to poke through these apps and see that they have the ability to process more meaningful inputs. The problem is that they (and we) don’t have much more or better local content and advertising to output than we did in the days before social media and smartphones. A tool is built to operate on a national scale, but the landscape of finding the local information is messy and chaotic, lacking structured data, or consistent geographic coverage.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself! Most of these sites are not showing meaningfully more information, or higher quality data, because it’s messy and chaotic. Which is exactly why we’re so excited about the WhoDoYou solution. By plunging deep into the chaos, and by creating order out of the mess, we’ve been able to structure hundreds of thousands of recommendations from the free-form conversations happening on social media. This includes all kinds of categories (dentist, plumber, mechanic, handyman, etc) across hundreds of US cities. Every day we add more, and as we get better at collecting the high quality information, we make the local experience that much better.

We invite you to try WhoDoYou today and let us know what you think (feedback@whodoyou.com) about our great local content. And thanks as always for your support.

 

Yoav and the WhoDoYou Team

Reflections on building a great team

For anyone that’s read this blog even somewhat consistently, you know that our primary focus has been on the product value we are trying to build, and the need for a solution like WhoDoYou. While this stuff gets us pretty jazzed, there may be some for whom the local, social search space isn’t so interesting.

And now that we are actively looking to bring on some great new team members, I thought it would be useful to highlight a recent article: http://linkd.in/122sZon.
The primary focus is on the difficulty of hiring, which seemed compelling enough on its own merit to share. In addition, it’s worth talking about this article as a means of highlighting some of the values we like to promote at WhoDoYou.

So, high level, the article describes Google’s big data approach to finding hiring best practices. Biggest surprise #1? There are no consistently good hiring managers (though there are some consistently bad ones). It turns out that hiring successful performers tends to be very, very difficult, and mostly random. Biggest surprise #2? GPA has almost no correlation with successful performance. Although this one didn’t surprise me so much, it’s an important reminder that people change a lot over time. Looking at one’s degree, or GPA is only one small factor in considering a person’s potential contribution to an organization.

Finally, what does this say about the values of WhoDoYou, and our desire to build a great company? Well, it may sound pretty basic, but we like to think of ourselves as a fairly humble group. We work hard, push the limits of what’s possible to do – technically and otherwise – and are open to great people of all types. We believe there is not a single mold for greatness, and if there is, we certainly haven’t found it.

With that said, we are currently looking for great talent. If you are passionate about helping people find great local businesses, love social media, and want nothing more than to delight customers (or if you’re a super-geek developer who eats code for breakfast), then please drop us a line to feedback@whodoyou.com. We want to speak with you!

As always, thanks for your comments and feedback,
Yoav and the WhoDoYou team

What are the top recommendation requests on Facebook?

Facebook handles one billion search queries every day. That’s a heck of a lot of searching, and you might be wondering what people are searching for, and what are they finding? Well, social search is rapidly moving beyond keywords and tags to people wanting answers to specific questions, such as “Can anyone recommend a good mechanic to fix my car?” WhoDoYou is leading the charge to provide great responses to these kinds of questions by collecting and organizing recommendations from friends, groups and the local Facebook community.

An interesting by-product of our method for gathering questions and answers about great businesses is the ability to see what service provider categories are most requested on Facebook (only in relation to local business recommendations). We are happy to share – mostly to satisfy curiosity – that the number one category people search for on Facebook is, drumroll please… Dentist!

It makes sense if you think about it because most people who are searching for a local provider prefer to get suggestions from their friends. While some categories might not be a fit for asking a Facebook friend – you can use your imagination here – there are others which make a lot of sense. Dentist is one of them. You want to find a dentist that your friends trust, rather than sit quivering in the dentist’s chair afraid to open your mouth because you picked your dentist blindly out of the Yellow Pages.  Obviously there are many more insights we are gathering, and we’ll be happy to share more info with you over time.

Stay tuned for more interesting updates and don’t forget to subscribe to the feed if you’re interested in hearing more.

Yoav and the WhoDoYou team

What Gets Us Excited?

When we founded WhoDoYou, our mission was to create a trusted place to find great local businesses recommended by friends & neighbors. So, it isn’t surprising that one of the things that gets us most excited is seeing people use our service and finding providers they can trust.

Traditionally people search for a service provider based on proximity or availability. Very often we lack information about whether the provider is actually someone who has given good service to a friend, or someone you know. But directory- based search has begun to take a backseat to social search. Most of us want more than just a phone number or a warm body. We want someone we can trust, based on a personalized recommendation. These word-of-mouth recommendations are at the very heart of what WhoDoYou is about.

FB recos from web (Copy)

As we continue to evolve the WhoDoYou service and improve the site, one of the things that we look at most carefully is how successful our users are when they come to find a local service provider. We’re excited to say (and a little proud) that lately we have found that most people who come to the site end up finding someone in their area that can help them with a local service. This makes us super happy. Here’s what a recent user wrote to us, unprompted:

“Thank you to WhoDoYou for your recommendation – Mishaan Plumbing – they were here EXACTLY when they said they would be. Finished the job, cleaned up after and were well priced!!!”

We hope WhoDoYou makes it easier for you to find great local businesses and as always we welcome your feedback! Just email feedback@whodoyou.com.

Yoav and the WhoDoYou team

The Power of Your Vault

real vault 1336 recommendations bigger

When we last spoke, it was to announce our launch of the new WhoDoYou. We were excited about many of the new features and capabilities, but none more than ‘The Vault.’ We’ve gotten some very excited reactions from our loyal users, and a few questions, so it seemed in order to explain in a bit more detail what this vault is really about, and how it can be useful for you.

Let’s start from the beginning. Most Facebook users can relate to the experience of trying to find an old post. It’s awful! Doubly frustrating is when you know someone posted some advice, a link or even a recommendation that you could really use now. Trying to dig back through old posts and find these little bits of gold is somewhere between very difficult, and impossible.

The classic example is when one of your friends posts a comment like: “My car broke down this morning and I’m in dire need of a good mechanic who won’t charge an arm and a leg. Please help Facebook peeps!”  In most cases, friends will reply with a combination of empathy, jokes (you know who you are), and recommendations, e.g. “My guy Joe is amazing, been using him for years. Call him at 555-1212 and tell him I sent you.”

Before WhoDoYou rolled out the vault, there was almost no way for you to go back and find the name and number of that mechanic. But now, when you log in with WhoDoYou, we’ll search through these old comments, and discussions in any of your groups, and automatically categorize the relevant posts for your benefit. In this case, we would identify that a friend recommended a mechanic, in your area, and we would place it in your vault for future reference. Then, if you ever did a search on the site, not only would we show you reviews and recommendations from others in your area, but we’d also show – only to you – the recommendations that come from your personal network.

You can also see how many friendly recommendations you have per category. Just go to the vault, look down the left side of the page, and you’ll see a list of categories with the number of recommendations in parentheses. It’s pretty cool – try it out and see how many you’ve got!

My vault filter new

A few other points to keep in mind. First, the vault continues to get better over time. As you and your friends share recommendations on Facebook, join more groups, add more friends, or write reviews on WhoDoYou, we’ll update your results when you return to the vault. Second, we only process posts that relate to local business categories, so we won’t store any additional information that’s unrelated to the recommendations you care about. And finally, the information gleaned from your friends, and discussed in your groups, is for your eyes only. At some point we may offer you the option to share your recommendations with friends, but that’s not something we would do on your behalf.

We hope you find many good recommendations in your vault, and in the coming weeks we’ll update you on other features and capabilities which may help you in finding the best local service providers, recommended by your friends.

As always, we welcome your feedback, so please feel free to contact us at feedback@whodoyou.com. Thanks!

Yoav and the WhoDoYou team

From huduyou to WhoDoYou

Check out the new WhoDoYou! Today we’re excited to introduce a whole new way to find trusted local businesses. A search on WhoDoYou will now find previously-asked questions (“can anyone recommend a plumber… I need a dentist”) and serve up answers from the local Facebook community. And if you log in (or log back in for existing users) you can see your own personal ‘vault’ of recommendations, already shared by your friends and in your groups.

You may have also noticed that we changed the spelling of our name. Oh, and our website has been completely refreshed. Why all the changes?

Well, we started this journey with one goal in mind: to help people find trusted local businesses. We believed, from day one, that the most important element in helping to find great local service providers is good information. So we initially created a platform that would enable people to write and share reviews among friends.

Along the way, we heard plenty of feedback. One of the most important themes was that people are already sharing these kinds of local recommendations on Facebook. Which works great for people at the time of need. But within a few days or weeks, that information disappeared – there was no way to store or search all these valuable  scraps of information. So we decided to support the method of sharing , but make the information as accessible and as easy to find as a review on the old huduyou.

After a lot of work, we found a way to capture and structure relevant public posts. So now, when you are looking for a handyman in Detroit, or a pediatrician in Dallas, you are likely to find public Facebook posts from others in your area that have already recommended some great providers.

We decided to go even further. Because we are built on top of the Facebook platform, when you log in with Facebook you will also see recommendations shared by your friends, and from your groups. We even created a new page called “My Vault” which collects your personalized recommendations in a place that only you can access. We don’t share these with others, and we never publicize this information. But what better way to tap the “wisdom of your crowd?”

So, try it out today and let us know what you think. We’re pleased with the new direction, and most excited about giving our users an even better way to find trusted local businesses. And if you have any feedback, we love hearing from you. feedback@whodoyou.com.