The Social Community Driven Search Engine
This week I took on the task of attempting to find a contractor for a broken fence in our backyard. Normally I would go to a number of contractors that my father (whom was an architect) knew to get the job done but unfortunately, most are retired now and well into their years.
Without references, one is stuck between a rock and a hard place in attempt in finding a contractor that has a good reputation and can get the job done. I usually resort to going to places like Craigslist, Angi's List or Yelp to get a running head start. Sometimes I even go to the review websites to get additional information.
One of the problems one can run into with review type websites is that you can't tell if they are real or fake. Some individuals will go out and create multiple accounts and submit fake accolades in attempt to boost their rating. Competitors will do the opposite.
Typically, these fake accounts show up when their ratings have taken a dive below average or after a scathing bad review. A tactic is to create additional accounts and reviews in attempt to drown out the poor ones. Often times you will see accounts with no picture of themself and one or two post ratings. That is a sure sign of a potential fake rating and one which you should be wary of.
While some sites like Angi's List require paid membership from customers and don't let vendors advertise, this does not get rid of the potential to fake a rating.
The solution to this, is to force all entities involved (vendor, customer) to sign up with an authority website like Google+ or Facebook which requires its users to provide a cell phone number. A message is sent to the cell phone inbox which requires the owner to validate him/herself. A question is asked who's answer is submitted on the review website and must be re-entered again in the reply back from the cell phone message. This way, there is a higher chance of the person being real.
Review type websites need to do more of this kind of validation to be taken for real. Failing to do this will result in search engines like Google, Yahoo!, and Bing taking over and providing their own more trustworthy, authoritative model. This opportunity opens up doors for additional revenue for said companies. However, this is by far not ideal when search engine listings do not present a community like feel to it. When review sources come from outside the search engine and streamed in, its not much better For example, we can see in the image below that Google pulls in reviews from BizRate for the Lowes listing.
But is it any more trustworthy or reliable to trust Google's judgement in an outside review source, let alone the review source itself?
A better approach is through validation and verification. This is what Google+ is partly about. That is, to have avatars of your connected friends appearing in the review listings greatly increases trust built on opinions. You can say that the search engine listing becomes an extension of your virtual relationships. So after doing a search for fencing in Silicon Valley, if there is one of my friends who gave a vendor a rating, I'm more inclined to go (or not go) with that company than from someone else.
If you look closely at some of your Google search result pages, you will notice that it includes plus.google.com links for people in your local area. That Google has created separate filler pages for these companies who do not have a web presence, begs for them to sign up and create a Google+ page. By doing so, Google can create additional advertising revenue just like how Facebook is attempting to charge for company pages.
Google+ and Google search magically morphs into a social community Yellow Pages directory, similar to Yelp but with much more utility.
Sure, Facebook could outdo Google here by developing their own community search engine. Google can get blown out of the water if this idea catches momentum. Although old habits do die hard (the act of going to Google to do your searches), Facebook can slowly steal away search engine market share with their own little search box. Pay attention to the words in your Facebook search box. It says "Search for people, places and things". Things being very generic.
But for now, if Facebook is ever going to get me to actually use their search box, they have to give me a pretty darn good reason why.
The battle for a new social community driven search engine begins. In the meantime, I need to get my fence fixed.
About Kerry Kobashi
Kerry is the founder of KerryOnWorld. He lives in Silicon Valley.