The very definition of Web 2.0 includes ‘User Generated Content’. As opposed to consuming contents off brand’s websites, online communities and later, social media have helped consumers get a voice on a platform where anyone and everyone can potentially influence the brand’s perception in the minds of other consumers. Not only are companies attempting to listen to consumers on several social media channels, many are attempting to build / tweak products and services that will be talked about by consumers. As they say, nothing beats word of mouth marketing.
One particular start-up that is helping businesses and consumers is YaDig, a local search website in the Middle East that is quickly gaining traction. YaDig community members rate local businesses based on factors such as price and service level. This helps other community members decide if they should visit the local business or not. This is a paradigm shift for many local businesses in the region as they might have relied on more traditional sources to rate them.
In an exclusive email interview with Sovedo, we had the founder and CEO – Saif Zarooni, talk about the website, YaDig community and even how user feedback convinced a local burger joint to stop charging extra for mustard…
Q: Please tell us a little about YaDig and how does it differentiate itself from others?
YaDig is the Middle East’s first community based website that lets the people in their community find the great and not so great places in town. Everyone is tired of going to the same old places or wasting their money on new ones. With the power of YaDig, you can avoid all of that disappointment by reading the opinions (reviews) of your community by making your decisions on other people’s experiences. YaDig is vastly different from other sites because the reviews are based on people living in your community who frequent the places they review more than once, not a tourist for example who has visited a business just one time and gave his opinion based on that. YaDig is also one of the region’s most comprehensive business listings sites where users can engage directly with the businesses like never before, business have the opportunity to respond to a review. People use YaDig everyday to find the best place to go, the first time around and also to ask advice from their local community. The users can also give feedback on their experience directly to the business managers on YaDig. Businesses use YaDig to engage their target demographic, to hear their customers’ voices and to increase brand awareness, footfall and overall business.
Q: How does YaDig keep spammers away to ensure that accurate reviews are posted?
At YaDig we are all about “real time honest reviews”. We never delete a review unless it’s highly inappropriate with bad language or blatantly malicious….these are pretty easily spotted. We check all the reviews daily for offensive/spammy reviews and notify the people accordingly with ways to write more helpful reviews. If a person had a wonderful time, we (community) want to hear about it, if you had an awful time then tell us why. At the end of the day business and costumers benefit from negative or positive reviews.
We have seen a tremendous amount of growth lately. It has been a learning curve for us since “review sites” are still new to this region. I don’t know in terms of successes but I think I will be happy when the community turns to YaDig to find what’s going on or where to go in your city on a daily base.
Q: How would you define a loyal user (‘YaDigger’?) and what insights can you share about average YaDiggers in terms of content creation? Loyal YaDigers are the ones that write multiple reviews in their community and are frequently active on the site. It is still early to tell content generations for registered users, we have a mix bag of the “elite reviewers” with a 100 + reviews to the “just getting started” 1-5+ review range.
Q: Are YaDiggers more likely to write about a positive or a negative experience? As with social media, commenting (about a business) is very easy. What consumer behavior traits do you see among users in the Middle East?
From our 10,000ish reviews I will have to say about 85% so far have been positive reviews…3-5 stars. Because we are a community based website people may make their opinions (review) based on maybe 2-5 visits to a business. They usually give the business the benefit of the doubt if 1 out of 5 times the business was a little off. We do get the reviewer who just wants to vent on our site, but on YaDig you can see how many reviews a user has written and if it is just one then you may not take that review seriously. But if they have written like 10-30 reviews then you know they are an active review writer with many different positive or negative reviews and can trust them more.
Q: How have local businesses reacted to YaDig knowing that they can use their brand pages on Facebook and Twitter to possibly get the same review? Any specific examples of how the ‘Follow’ button is helping businesses connect with customers?
We recently had a pretty cool case study example of how the site works wonders for businesses as far as how useful the user feedback can be. There was a hamburger venue that was reviewed with a generally positive reviews but one reviewer mentioned that the company was charging extra for mustard??!! This set off a tirade of commentaries below the review and people swore to never visit the place again. Eventually the business got involved and responded by saying they’d pulled the staff and management together and decided to change the company policy of charging for mustard because of this reviewer, mustard would now be free. It’s small things like that, giving the voice to the customers. We’re finding that users are giving legitimate suggestions to the businesses they love the most, more than anything. People are suggesting useful information to the business which really does help the business in the end of the day.
Q: What are YaDig’s plans for 2012-2013 and what can we expect?
Going live in Arabic this summer, once we go live in Arabic we’ll expand our marketing activities heavily though Saudi and Egypt where we expect strong traction as YaDig is a free service for locals in their city. We also have a really cool mobile app and mobile site going live in 6-8 weeks that will enable users to find the best reviewed places that are close to them physically. Let’s see what else…plenty of site upgrades and just the usual geeky stuff.
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