Google+ Local is an online review social layer.My wife and I are expecting twin babies in late November, so I like to post Facebook photos about all the newborn gear we’re bringing into the house, like the Diaper Genie.

Once a picture hits the News Feed, people begin liking it and commenting with their own opinions of the product and how it’s affected their lives (Thanks to this phenomenon I’ve learned what a “Blow Out” is…yuck). Every product picture turns into a conversation that highlights shared experiences, fondness and frustration.

Business owners speak with me every day about the frustration they have trying to get more reviews for their companies. “Joe, we try to get our associates to encourage people to write online reviews for Google, but usually they forget or aren’t motivated to do so,” I heard recently. It’s not easy to build an audience on any social network — that takes consistency and quick, genuine response — but there are some easy tweaks that could improve local review participation:

People Like Photos and Videos

When I traveled to Florida for a conference two years ago, I got a terrible case of food poisoning. While I was sitting in a hospital bed with an IV in my arm, I began searching for reviews of the establishment I visited and was kicking myself for not doing my homework in the first place. Now, wherever I go, I use apps like Foursquare (awesome ‘Explore’ feature) and UrbanSpoon (tons of menus and check-in votes) to guide my food choices.

Increasingly I won’t visit a restaurant unless there’s a corresponding listing on Foursquare of UrbanSpoon that don’t have user submitted photos of their favorite meals. It’s just too much of a risk that bacteria will hit me when I need to perform. So why no in-review pictures on Google+ Local?

Users do have the ability to upload a photo to the businesses they review, but this requires someone to click a separate ‘Photos’ tab that doesn’t make the process very obvious. If there were user submitted photos injected into comments, G+ could be my default review app while traveling.

Even better, make it easy to cross-pollinate other social networks with your feedback, and build a conversation killer for the people who complain about the lack of incentives for making time to write a review.

Here’s that Diaper Genie photo I mentioned posting to Facebook:

The Mescher family is expecting twin babies.

The photo doesn’t even tag Diaper Genie, but it’s nonetheless giving away free impressions of the product.

Google could inspire shared experiences in a number of ways, such as using their Google Offers product as an ‘on-ramp’ for soliciting reviews. Here’s how this might work:

  • Let business owners sign-on to Google Offers with the promise of soliciting reviews from buyers pre and post sale
  • Prompt buyers — yes, the people who are putting actual money on the line — to add photos and tag friends in reviews
  • Think about the disincentive problem — People usually write a review when they’re pissed, but what if you could gain a ‘Mayorship’ for writing the most helpful reviews in your city that local businesses provided tangible benefits for (Or benefits like ‘First Review Karma’ badges, etc?)

Facebook is starting to get there.

For example, last week I noticed a 1-800-Flowers Offer on Facebook, claimed it and bought a nice blue diamond orchid for my wife. Facebook then had permission to use my ‘vote’ for the offer in the News Feed, creating a message to my friends that reads, “Joe claimed an offer from 1-800-Flowers” and encourages them to claim it too. Heck, Facebook requires businesses who participate in their Offers program to buy at least $5 worth of advertising. The business has to spend money advertising, and they are rewarded with an Offer that uses the power of the Facebook effect to gain massive relevant awareness from friends-of-friends.

Back to the main point, though: If Google+ Local allowed users to post in-review photos and videos, encouraged conversations and direct sharing to multiple social networks, it would make the home screen of my iPhone apps.

Do you use Google+ Local? If so, why, and if not, what’s your favorite alternative?

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