Why Share?

It shouldn’t take much virtual ink to make a convincing case that sharing has become an integral part of our online experience. We share photos on Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp; articles and art projects of interest on Twitter and Pinterest, and time-bombed content on SnapChat and the like. And while many reviews are written on a daily basis, there is something strange about this kind of user-generated content: people write but don’t often share reviews of local service providers. Clearly there is a very small segment of the population – the super-reviewers, community evangelists and frustrated writers – that look to publish whenever they can. But beyond this small minority, most people do not write reviews, and even fewer, share them.

Why is it that people are prepared to share so many intimate aspects of their lives, but by and large do not proactively share reviews? Making the question even more difficult to understand, people very regularly help their friends by answering questions about local businesses. When someone posts to Facebook ‘I need a dentist! It’s the weekend and my tooth is killing me!’ within minutes a response can be expected. Similarly when you receive a text message or email from a friend asking where you take your car for servicing, or your child to a pediatrician, you generally respond fairly quickly.

So, why do people broadcast lots of content proactively, yet rarely share that they’ve just had a great experience with an air conditioning repair person? From our somewhat unique vantage point, it’s easy to see how readily and prolifically referral requests made on social media are answered by friends and fellow group members. And we think we know why.

In essence, it boils down to one word: help. Humans are hard-wired to help each other – there’s nothing more basic than answering a friend’s question or helping out someone in need. When we are part of a community – of friends, colleagues, neighbors, team members, anything really – it feels good to help another member of the group.

However, people are much less likely to randomly help someone they don’t know; even less inclined to contribute helping content because it might potentially help some anonymous person in the future. It therefore stands to reason that most people don’t go out of their way to write reviews and share them out with the community unless they know someone in particular is looking for information. At WhoDoYou, our main focus is on cataloguing advice shared when one person is in need, and others respond to help so that everyone can benefit.

As more people come to WhoDoYou every day to find local providers, we get great feedback about the value and trustworthiness of the platform. More important, our users tend to find what they’re looking for, and have a high degree of satisfaction because they can rely on the authentic advice of their friends and neighbors.

So, we’ll continue to try and provide great recommendations when and where you need them. And if you find what you’re looking for, please think about sharing it back with your social network. You may not know when, but at some point, they’re going to need the help you can provide today. So, share the love!

Thanks and from all of us at WhoDoYou we wish you happy holidays,

Yoav

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Crowd-sourced local reviews you can trust

Finding reviews and recommendations for local businesses that you can truly trust is a widely debated topic. The burning question that always crops up is how do you know you can really rely on the recommendation? This is where WhoDoYou comes in.


You can feel fully confident in trusting the recommendations found on WhoDoYou. There is no super-secret algorithm that carefully selects reviews to best reflect collective opinions from the masses. What you see is what you get. Opinions can be relied upon without fear of bias or review manipulation.

When you search for a local business on WhoDoYou we show you every single recommendation relevant to your search. Nothing is hidden. We specialize in finding you all the great bits of advice shared by friends on Facebook, turning them into local business recommendations so you can benefit from this unlimited pool of data. We also recently introduced a pretty neat ranking and sorting mechanism so you can get a more in-depth impression of the business’s rating. The relevancy score, as shown below, is customized for each search, and includes things like the number and quality of reviews, proximity to your search, and a social weighting.


And if you’re a business owner, we do our best to gather any endorsements from your customers on Facebook to link them to your business. We don’t filter legit reviews because they’re deemed unworthy, or change the search result order as a result of businesses paying for their profile.

So, when you want to know who the best pediatrician in town is, find a fair mechanic or relatively pain-free dentist come on by to http://www.whodoyou.com. You’ll find good ‘ol honest advice shared by friends on Facebook, without favoritism towards a reviewer’s pedigree.

Have you found a good recommendation on WhoDoYou? Let us know by leaving a comment!

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

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!

Happy Holidays from WhoDoYou

With the end of the year fast approaching, we wanted to wish everyone a wonderful holiday season, and a happy new year.

2013 certainly has been a great year at WhoDoYou. We collected a massive number of authentic and trustworthy recommendations for local businesses, we built some snazzy new features, and rolled out a redesigned site. But most important (by far), we helped hundreds of thousands of people, just like you, find high quality local service providers. As the success stories pile up and more people write in thanking us for helping them find a trusted local business, we feel more convinced than ever that WhoDoYou is positioned well for success in the future.

We look forward to continuing to provide you with the best service possible to help you find trusted recommendations. Stay tuned as we have lots in store for you in 2014!

From all of us at WhoDoYou, we wish you and your families happy holidays and a great new year!

Yoav and the WhoDoYou team

WhoDoYou selected as a finalist to compete in the BIA Kelsey LOCAL LiftOff Awards

We’re super excited to announce that WhoDoYou has been named a LEADING IN LOCAL future star by BIA Kelsey and selected as a finalist to compete in the LOCAL LiftOff Awards held in San Francisco this week.

The contest will take place at the LEADING IN LOCAL: Interactive Local Media conference. WhoDoYou will compete against 10 startups with the audience voting for their favorite at the end of the three-day conference.

We care a tremendous amount about creating an innovative and trusted resource and to ensure that consumers and service providers find our site valuable. We’re proud and honored that WhoDoYou has been recognized for this by being shortlisted.

It’s still early days yet but these awards will help us spread the word that there is quite simply one place to go for finding and sharing trusted recommendations.

So, wish us luck and if you’re in San Francisco come and vote for us! Find out more about the conference and awards.

From Refrigerator Magnets to WhoDoYou

True story. I began writing a blog post early this morning about some interesting industry trends in the social, local search industry (at least they’re interesting to me). I got partway through, and then it was time to go into the office. I got into my car, drove about 30 feet, and realized I had a flat tire.

A few years ago I would have changed the tire myself. But I recalled a neighbor told me about a great tire repair service – turns out she had a magnet on her refrigerator with the number:

I called Moshe’s Tire Repair service and was absolutely blown away. As you can see in my review below, they came to my house within 20 minutes of the call, put on my spare, took the original to fix, and by the time I arrived at their ‘tire hut’ the original tire was all but fixed. Five minutes later I was on my way, and the whole thing cost me about $15. $15!! Can you imagine?

I was so pleased I went directly to WhoDoYou and wrote a review that gave details of my experience.

But perhaps as important, I posted the review to my newsfeed on Facebook, because I know that people will see the endorsement, and next time they need a tire repair service, they’ll know where to go.

Okay, big deal you say, Yoav is a company founder, of course he’s going to write a review. Well, that’s true. But it’s also true that I experienced a genuinely great service, and I’d like my friends to know about it. Where else would I let them know? Where else would they think to go to get trusted opinions from friends?

You got it, they’ll go to WhoDoYou. While many of the recommendations on WhoDoYou are gathered from public conversations on social networks, we also have plenty of reviews that people write in when they are ‘moved’ by a service experience. Usually it’s a positive, like my tire repair experience, but sometimes it’s negative; these are useful too for the next person to see who not to use.

Most important is that there is one place to go for finding and sharing trusted recommendations. So, the next time you need a tire repair service, a dentist, plumber or other local service provider, head on over to WhoDoYou and see who’s been recommended. And if you have a great (or terrible) experience, feel free to write up a review. Your friends and neighbors will thank you.

Yoav

Giving Thanks at WhoDoYou

As loyal readers of this blog know, I generally focus my comments around the issues of social, local search. I like taking various angles and exploring them in more detail – dynamics at work in the industry, new developments related to our site, the importance of getting the solution right to help people at their time of need. It primarily flows from my passion – and the commitment of the entire WhoDoYou team – to tackle this problem of trusted reviews. We really believe in the importance of our mission, and we’re working very hard to solve the problem in a way nobody else has yet tried.

So, while the complexity of identifying free text conversations and converting them into structured recommendations is sometimes daunting, it is important to pull up once in a while and focus on the big picture. Today, with the Thanksgiving holiday approaching (for those in our US audience), it seemed an appropriate time for me to stop and say thank you to the many folks that are so deserving of our appreciation.

First and foremost, I’d like to thank our users. We really (and I mean really!) appreciate feedback when you send it in. We like hearing all opinions, even if they’re negative, so we can improve our solution. And most of all, we thank you for your trust. Finding and choosing a local service provider doesn’t seem too sexy, but when your sink is clogged at 11 PM and you need a plumber, you really need to rely on your friends and neighbors to help you find a trusted professional. When users log in to our site with Facebook they also put their trust in us, and we hope you’re rest assured that we’re taking careful measures to protect, and certainly not to misuse your information. There too we’re always open to feedback should you have any.

I also want to thank our investors who have faithfully supported us. The ongoing wisdom, questions, feedback, and yes – even criticisms – all help to move the business forward. We’re putting all we have into making this a success, and we appreciate your continued role in making it happen.

I couldn’t write a post like this without thanking the great team at WhoDoYou for your ongoing commitment. It’s not easy doing a startup; there are many zigs and zags along the way, lots of uncertainty, and a pretty small office to contend with. But you keep pushing to make WhoDoYou a success – it’s an honor to work with you (this goes for our extended team of freelancers too!).

And finally, I must say thanks to the families, friends and loved ones within the WhoDoYou orbit. I know this sounds like the tone normally reserved for a note announcing a company closure, or acquisition, but it’s not necessary to wait for one of those outcomes to say thanks. I know it’s not easy to watch spouses, mothers, sons and dads work around the clock. Early stage companies have a way of eating up time and attention, and for the support and understanding, I say a sincere thank you.

I hope those that celebrate Thanksgiving, and others who happen to read this blog, can take a minute and just say thanks to the people around them who provide ongoing support and caring. I don’t know about you, but it sure feels good for me to say a few well-deserved thanks.

As always, if you have any comments, please send ‘em along.

Thanks,

Yoav