A boomer CEO’s journey through social media, part 4: wisdom of crowds

Have you ever been faced with a decision and you didn’t know where to turn for advice? Increasingly, I’m finding that I am one of millions who is turning to the wisdom of crowds for help. Wisdom of crowds is based on the concept that if two heads are better than one, millions of heads are better than two. By using the collective experiences of others, my odds of weeding out the bad experiences and selecting a good experience improve significantly. It beats throwing a dart or depending on blind luck.

SXSW, a major interactive, music and film conference, is using this approach in an innovative way. By using a panel picker application that asks the “crowd” to render an opinion on proposed presentation topics, the organizers are improving the chance that the panels ultimately selected for the conference will be appealing. To see how it works, click here and you can give my submission a thumbs up.

I find myself going to many different sites that either incorporate the wisdom of crowds into their functionality, or sites built specifically around this concept. Here are some of my favorites:

  • Yelp.com: This gives good summaries of restaurants with ratings and comments. It includes a location-based service in the mobile version for finding places when I’m traveling. Other similar apps are Zagat.com and Around Me.
  • TripAdvisor.com: I’ve used this site for planning where to stay in places I’ve never been to before. The reader comments and ratings are useful, especially when picking a vacation spot that won’t disappoint the family.
  • Amazon.com: One of the pioneers in using purchase behavior to drive a recommendation engine. It suggests books that others have read who like the same books I do.
  • Angie’s List: This site takes the mystery out of hiring a local service provider, whether it’s someone to fix your back or your back porch. Driven entirely by user reviews, the recommendations are candid and useful, and sure beat a random pick from the Yellow Pages (remember them?).

What are you favorite sites? Please add them to the the list above.

As a marketer, knowing that decisions to buy from you are increasingly being made based on opinions shared on these sites is critical. Refocusing your company to deliver a great customer experience consistently is a must. And developing the organizational capability to listen to, respond to and improve based on comments will be a core competency required for the 21st century.