The Internet offers many options for checking reviews and finding new businesses. There’s Yelp, Angie’s List, and now Google+ Local has entered the fray. While Google+ seems to be a fledgling social network whose activity and membership pales in comparison to Facebook, the good people at Google have added a way for users to discover, rate, and review businesses in their local area.
The site works in conjunction with Google’s popular map application. Use the map to find a business you frequent, then click on the business name on the map. A dialogue bubble will pop up with general information about that business, including the address, website, and phone number. Beneath the phone number, you’ll see a link to read reviews. On the review page, you can add your opinion and use the three-point rating system to rank the overall quality, appeal, and service of the business. There’s also a spot to enter more specific, individual comments.
Businesses can add themselves to Google+ Local by simply creating a Google+ account. Then, that account will be linked to their map entry and can be reviewed by its customers. Business owners can respond to reviews, entering into a dialogue with the general public in a way that adds a social dimension to what might normally be static marketing information.
Google+ also allows businesses to stream and record conversations held in Google’s ?hangouts? feature. Hangouts allow video conferences. So, a business owner might chat with a customer and then use that chat as a dynamic testimonial for their enterprise.
The integration of maps, social networks, and reviews makes Google+ Local a true one-stop shop for a consumer looking for goods or services. Consider that you can pull your home address up in maps, then click on the map marker to ?search nearby? for whatever you’re looking for – be it pizza, a chiropractor, or a bicycle shop. From there, you will have virtually all of the local options available for that search term at your fingertips. You can find out what your fellow consumers feel about a business and determine if it suits your needs.
Since the review system is tied into your social network, you can quickly find what your actual friends and contacts think of a restaurant or retail shop rather than a hodge-podge of people you’ve probably never met. Having personal knowledge of a reviewer’s personality will help you best gauge their review.
The power of integration is certainly on the side of Google+ Local. The robust interactivity allows users to gather a wealth of information in a well-organized, social medium. Google+ may still be running behind Facebook, but the development of this reviewing platform may be what wins the social media race.