Word of mouth has long been heralded as the best form of marketing. So when the user-generated content era gave rise to customer reviews, it seemed like a win for consumers and businesses.
According to WhoDoYou founder and CEO Yoav Schwartz, the online review system is flawed. Not only is the system easily gamed, he said, it’s hard for people to get quality information on local service providers. Indeed, a recent study from Maritz research indicated that 40 percent of people who read online reviews are becoming increasingly skeptical because of the increasing prevalence of fake reviews.
“Meanwhile, millions of genuine referrals are shared between friends each year through social networks like Facebook and Twitter,” says Schwartz.
WhoDoYou, which announced it’s official launch today, searches social networks for public conversations where people ask for recommendations from friends. The result, says Schwartz, is a new kind of local search, with high-quality advice between friends within a virtually un-gamable system.
In this way, WhoDoYou bypasses the biggest challenge facing both the local service providers and the consumers themselves. While Yelp and Angie’s List enable users to submit reviews, areas with denser populations are likely to have more reviews, and there’s no way to guarantee recommendations in every category.
Most of the information on the site come from conversations “reclaimed” from Facebook. However, people can still go to the WhoDoYou site and write a review — they just have to use the Facebook social login.
“We want to make sure every bit of content on the site is authentic and has a real identity associated with it,” Scwartz says. He added that anonymity is one of the biggest challenges that enables the gaming of sites like Yelp.
In the end, Schwartz says the goal is to connect customers with local service providers using authentic recommendations between friends.
“On the Web, things can be really anonymous but you’re not really sure what you’re reading,” he says. “There’s something very gratifying to be able to provide a tool like this that we hope will become a reinforcement to communities, to social, to friendships and local businesses.”
*image via whodoyou.com