Where do people go for local referrals, and where should they go?

Here at WhoDoYou we’ve been asked more than once ‘why not encourage people to ask friends for referrals directly on social media?’ i.e. why bother going to WhoDoYou, if most of the results on WhoDoYou come from social media to begin with?

Well, I’m glad you asked. Er, well, I suppose you didn’t ask, but I’m happy to answer because it’s yet another nuanced layer in the WhoDoYou solution that really creates user delight. Perhaps the most important part of the answer is this somewhat surprising, but eminently understandable fact: most of the time, we are consumers of, and not contributors to, social media.

Think about the percentage of time you spend reading what others have written, and how often you write. Now it’s true there are a small percentage of people that speak loud – and often – on social media. And that’s more than okay – the beauty of these platforms is that it allows each of us to find the balance with which we’re comfortable. For some it’s on the far quiet end, for others, it’s the three-times daily picture of what you’re eating and a running commentary of your thoughts, ideas, meetings and free-flow associations.

For our purpose, however, it’s a reminder that most people don’t actually like to post broadly to social media, particularly when asking favors of a broad group of people. Which is why, it’s very powerful to be part of a group where friends are asking for and giving referrals all the time, and these valuable nuggets can be re-used when the next person needs a local recommendation. That’s almost the dictionary definition of a community, where friends help each other, and in this case, the help keeps on giving because it’s stored, catalogued and searchable.

Which brings us back to the original question – should people go to Facebook or Twitter to ask for referrals, or go straight to WhoDoYou? Our answer: yes. If you prefer (or are willing to put up with) the experience of asking friends for help, go ahead! If the conversation is public, we’ll capture it for the next person who’s searching. And if you prefer to search directly on WhoDoYou, you’ll probably find great information from friends and neighbors. Either way you win, and that pleases us because our main goal is to help people find the best local businesses. If you can do that with WhoDoYou, great!

We welcome your feedback on the concepts here, and are always happy to discuss with our customers, users, partners and friends. Thanks in advance for your thoughts,

Yoav

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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

Finding Trusted Providers – What’s the Worst That Could Happen?

Here at WhoDoYou we can sometimes seem a little obsessed with finding trusted service providers. If you’ve never had a bad experience with a local pro, well, you’re pretty darn lucky. But if you’re like the rest of us that periodically has had some difficulties, you’ll likely recognize how helpful it is to have a service like WhoDoYou – one place to find the most highly-recommended local businesses. And if you’ve ever had a truly horrible experience, you can at least know that you’re not alone.

See below for the true story that a WhoDoYou user recently sent us (this account has not been edited or modified in any way, except to remove the author’s name):

“I know this will sound like a paid or solicited ad but it’s not! Last Monday night we had a terrible experience that would have been completely avoided if we had simply consulted WhoDoYou. I will NEVER make that mistake again. In short, at 9:30 pm when one of our kids finished showering, water started to back up in the bathroom, pouring out from behind a cabinet, filling the bathroom floor. We were anxious having had one other water issue in the house, but we did not have a regular plumber to call, and just that day had received a magnet on our mailbox advertising a 24-hour emergency plumbing service. I did think about logging in to WhoDoYou to find out who friends of ours recommended, but really it was quicker just to call the number and I wanted someone to come quickly to get the situation under control. Well, what an enormous mistake that turned out to be.

They came, the plumber and his assistant. The water issue got far worse before better, at one point water was literally flowing through the upstairs hallway and down the stairs. They claimed a pipe cracked as they were working on it, but they then “fixed” it (we could not see the pipe ourselves), there was an enormous mess and all along they assured us they would fix the problem but that it was all going to be very expensive. When there is water pouring through your house your main concern is that they stop it and get it under control before damage is done. We did not ask prices, they did not offer, we were trying to get the water to stop flowing. Three hours later it was all finished and fixed (so it seemed, anyway) and they quoted us the most outrageous sum of money. Something BEYOND what we could have possibly imagined. We argued and they argued, but at 1 o’clock in the morning when there are two large men standing in your home who have seen your four children (now sleeping), men you really know nothing about and they are demanding money, you do what you feel you need to do. So we paid them this crazy sum, in 3 checks (two post-dated) and they left.

We were traumatized that night and the next day (and somewhat still). The next night water backed up again, and this time we took the time to consult WhoDoYou and found a plumber recommended by friends. He came and was honest and experienced and he fixed one small thing that the previous “plumbers” had not. I told him the story and he confirmed that we were truly scammed by those other plumbers, paying about seven times the highest reasonable rate. We checked with one more plumber who confirmed the same.

We feel so sick about this and we have hired a lawyer now to get our money back, but it is unlikely. We have learned a lot, most of all that we should always get a personal recommendation before bringing workers into our home. We will definitely start checking WhoDoYou from now on when we have to hire people for the house.”

For obvious reasons, we have not included this user’s name, and we hope they do get their money back from the unscrupulous plumbers. It is truly our mission at WhoDoYou to help you and your friends avoid these kinds of situations. So please try WhoDoYou the next time you need a trusted provider. After all, the worst that could happen could actually turn out to be pretty bad…

Comments and feedback are welcome, as always. Thanks!

Yoav

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