Plenty of analysts predict that the Angie’s List business model — the need to constantly conquer new territory, have local offices and salespeople, and rely on consumers to pay for information they could get for free — is not sustainable. But Angie’s probably has a way to go before it runs out of steam. Yet even review sites not on a pay-to-play model may face difficulties.
For one, experts say that as many as one-third of all online reviews are fake (see Friend or Faux?). At some point, consumers may decide that they just don’t believe or trust what’s written. A new type of review site may change that.
Surveys show that the overwhelming majority of people believe word-of-mouth reviews, so why bother with online reviews that could be phony or come from a stranger when you can get a review from a friend?
Linking through your social media spaces, review site newbies Porch and YouNeedMyGuy help consumers find contractors (and in YNMG’s case, dentists, lawyers, and golf pros) that their personal contacts have used.
Porch — now only in Seattle, with a national rollout scheduled for midsummer — focuses on home services professionals, from plumbers and remodelers to lawn care companies. The service is free for consumers, who can browse project images, search for pros, and also make use of an educational component to help them make informed decisions.
Professionals can create a “Free” profile or opt for a “Partner” profile, which typically receives four times as many leads. They then pay a finder’s fee when they get new business from Porch (the fee is about 5% but depends on profession and project size). Porch has no contracts or annual or monthly fees.
On YouNeedMyGuy, a consumer creates a profile that links to a social media platform of his choosing. If, for example, he’s looking for a remodeler, several names appear along with details about who reviewed the company. The more people the consumer knows who reviewed the business, the higher ranked the business will be. Since the system is based on personal connections, even small companies have the chance to rank No. 1. A business cannot buy a top spot.
Business owners can create a basic profile for free, although there are other inexpensive options: $45 for six months of Premium membership with an enhanced profile that includes video, unlimited photos, better contact and search result options, and real-time social media leads for the consumer: Click “Have [Joe Remodeler] call or text me.”
For remodelers, these kinds of sites help enhance, not control, the online review process — and their use may be news worth spreading from friend to friend.
The Rest of April's Cover Story:
Online Review Sites topic page
Necessary?Evil?: Online review sites are here to stay
Sites for Sore Eyes: Consumer-driven sites leave contractors no choice but to play the game
Site Guide: A quick guide to the dominant online review services
Optimized Engagement: SEO experts explain how reviews can boost your online visibility
I heart Angie (Not): Contractors' love-hate relationship with the online world's biggest player
Leading Lights: A shifting definition of what constitutes a lead
Friend or Faux?: Despite fake reviews, consumers are stll believers—for now
Good Word: Why you should (or shouldn't) pay for positive reviews