Finding the best restaurant in town is not easy. Therefore a vast number of applications and websites provide services to facilitate the search. The “online urban guide” and business review site Yelp is the most popular among them. It uses automated software to recommend the most helpful and reliable reviews for its users and to help them connect with local businesses. Like most other recommendation websites, it combines numerical ratings with textual reviews. Yelp contains over 57 million local reviews and attracts around 130 million users monthly.
Companies are aware of the power of word-of-mouth. Online user reviews have become an increasingly important source of information for consumers. However, when it comes to more personal local services such as finding a trustworthy craftsman, lawyer, or the most competent physiotherapist online recommendation websites like Yelp are only used as a last resort. „People don’t go to Yelp for doctors or lawyers because of trust issues“, says Mohit, the founder of GemShare. „Positive reviews from strangers don’t guarantee that you, too, will value what is likely a very personalized and intimate experience.“ Besides the relevance of taste and trust for these services, people are also aware of fraud within online recommendation systems. Especially local services that are not used by a sufficient quantity of people to obtain the wisdom-of-the-crowd-effect, reviews and ratings can easily be manipulated by self-ratings of companies.
The alternative to the time-consuming and sometimes untrustworthy use of common online recommendation platforms is to ask the own personal network for advice, but even with all our social networks and technical devices, this approach can also be time-consuming and frustrating.
GemShare, launched in April, 2014, is a recommendation platform and application that focuses on trust and personal recommendations to solve this issue. “We have several members who have said two thumbs up from a friend is worth more than 40-star reviews,” says Mohit. Users create their own trusted network of friends and like-minded people, via Facebook, Gmail, or phone contacts, for the specific purpose of finding out where to find the best service.
GemShare is not a online review website, it just gives straight forward recommendations with a simplified rating. Users can either recommend a service with a wholehearted recommendation (a “gem”), a recommendation with a caveat or two (gem for some), or an “I’ve heard good things” type of recommendation. Users can also attend certain groups, that share the same interests, such as attend the same university. It’s a less complex, time-consuming way to share your opinion than on most other online review sites.
The application does not offer incentives, such as a personal rating system for the most helpful recommendation or a star-membership for constant active contribution. However, GemShare’s early adopters are heavily engaged. GemShare users are not looking for “glory” or “money” when giving recommendations. In this case, giving and receiving “love”, when helping a friend in need seems to be sufficient. ❤