Google appears to be putting in an enormous amount of effort into its City Experts review program. My hunch is that it’s only having modest success (if that) and may not justify the costs involved. It’s a global program.
Years ago (now many years ago) then Yahoo GM of Local Paul Levine and I spoke at some length about how to generate and sustain local reviews. The conclusion was you needed to create a feeling that reviewers were part of a community, that there was an audience and a kind of organic dialogue or discussion going on.
TripAdvisor, Yelp and a few others have managed to create that. Google has so far not been able to. (Amazon is a site with a lot of reviews but arguably without that sense of “community.”) The Yelp Elite-Squad like City Experts program is an attempt to build a community and transcend the anonymity of Google reviews.
However Yelp in the early days had a much “friendlier” brand than Google does today. Yelp’s slogan is “real people, real reviews.”
Google is a big, “cold” brand. It’s the world’s largest media company. And it may be past the time when Google can develop a warm, fuzzy community feeling among its members.
In many ways Google would have been better off simply investing in Zagat and building that community out further across more local service categories.
But what do you think? Do you think Google’s City Experts will fail — or succeed? Do you think Google can successfully build a review community like the Yelp’s or TripAdvisor’s?