Just so you know, I’m getting paid $50 to write this review of iBegin. I belong to the ReviewMe service, and get an invitation to review a product or site every couple of weeks. I accept about half of them.
Here’s why I decided to do this review of iBegin:
- I went to the iBegin site
- I clicked on Washington state, where I spend a significant amount of time
- I clicked on Bellingham, a city I’m in frequently
- I clicked on Landscape Contractors … a service I’m currently in need of
- … and there were 15 or so businesses listed
‘Nuf said: I clicked accept review and started this article.
Available where I am
Why? I’m fairly used to new online businesses coming out that are going to revolutionize XYZ offline category … but when you go visit, they offer services in San Francisco, New York, and maybe Mountain Village, CA. Then, over the next few months, they add major cities around the US – usually in order of population. In other words, they’re only useful if you’re in a major urban center.
Seeing that iBegin is useful in a smallish Pacific Northwest city is pretty cool. If it wasn’t, I wouldn’t have accepted this review.
Plumbers aren’t online
The other thing, however, that interests me about iBegin is that it addresses a major problem: plumbers aren’t online. Joe Butt-Crack doesn’t have a website … and that’s a problem.
Why? Because when I need information, I go online – and so do an increasing percentage of people. White pages, yellow pages – I don’t like pages. I like Google, and I like the web. So it’s important that local businesses have an online presence. Since Joe’s never going to start a blog and is probably not too likely to pay his teenage cousin $50 to put up a cheesy 1-page business card … someone’s gotta do it for him.
Taking it deeper
When you actually click on a business name, you get all the basics: address, contact info, etc. You also get a Google Maps view of where they are.
What I’d like to see in addition to that is some social media features. In other words, feedback from clients … “I used Joe, and he’s great,” etc. etc.
In other words, do for local businesses what TripAdvisor does for hotels. I’m sure iBegin has that in mind and will likely add it … I’d like to see it sooner rather than later.
You can actually do something like now, because it’s a wiki and therefore editable, but that might not be totally obvious to people. Some kind of simple star rating might be a little easier, and some slightly more structured way of adding feedback and giving businesses a score (like buyers/sellers on eBay) would be useful.[tags] ibegin, paid, review, reviewme, local, business, john koetsier [/tags]
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