Google has launched a new service called “Local Guides”. It’s a new incentive-based program that encourages users to review businesses on Google. Testimonials are a critical part of operating a business – word of mouth can allow your company to flourish, or may have very adverse effects. Before print and digital marketing took over, businesses relied on the ambassadors of their clientele to spread the message of their brand. This simply translated to a positive review in conversation, or perhaps a suggestion of your service or brand to a friend or family member. As technology advanced, the way that people can vouch for businesses has changed dramatically, and the incentive to do so has changed as well. Where a local family restaurant may have relied heavily on good testimonials to bring locals into their shop, the internet has created a way to organize that information in a different format. Now, at the click of a button you can search for “Best Ramen in Toronto” and have a list of locations to choose from, including reviews from each one. The businesses that show up likely have good SEO practices (or a great Toronto SEO company!) So, how does a customer choose which Ramen restaurant to go to? Customers will look for other reviews – was the food tasty? Were the portion sizes adequate? Was the wait-time standard? Were the servers courteous and friendly?
As a business, having good reviews is absolutely imperative, because customers trust human experiences more than they trust marketing. This is simply because word of mouth is an older, more reliable form of advocacy. So, how do you get customers to review your Google + page? In the past, the only incentive that could be provided would be from the business itself – some companies will offer exclusive discounts in exchange for a 5 star review on Google. Now, Google has created their own incentive for users to contribute: Local Guides.
It works like this: users are prompted to create an account once they leave a review for a business on Google. The benefits are laid out in (what appears to be) a Pokemon-go, old-school nintendo themed interface. Users have a quasi HP bar that keeps track of progress. Once a user levels up, more benefits are unlocked.
At sign-up, the incentives are limited to inclusion in the Local Guides newsletter, to join Google hosted Hangouts and Workshops, and to be eligible to enter in Local guides contests. It’s not super impressive when you begin, but as you level up, perks include free Google Drive storage space and the potential to test Google products and features before they hit the market.
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