InsiderPages, one of the top "social directory" sites, has launched its equivalent of Yahoo!'s Answers: "Insider Advice." It's only available to members but allows people to ask open-ended questions of the community. The press release offers an explanation and some examples:
Posting a question on Insider Advice is quick and easy. Members simply click on the Insider Advice button, type in a question and hit “submit”. They can add as much detail or background to their question as they like. Insider Pages alerts them to replies to their queries via email and then they can sit back and read the thoughts, ideas and experiences their friends and neighbors have to share on the topic.
- “Good places in the Bay Area for a father-son camping trip?” –Mitch G., Los Altos, CA
- “What should I pack in my very picky 5 year old's lunch?” –Kathy S., Valencia, CA
- “Where's a pretty, outdoor place to take wedding photos in the area?” –Suzanne A., Garden City, MI
- “Could you share your experiences at the labor and delivery ward of the hospital where I plan to deliver?” –Rachel S., Longview, TX
- “Who has the best cooking classes in Palo Alto?” –Marcelo C., Palo Alto, CA
- “The Pros and Cons of œ day vs. full day Kindergarten?” –Angela B., Aurora, IN
InsiderPages' competitor JudysBook has a similar feature. And Yelp offers a "talk" feature that is similar but broader. These sites also offer profiles and the equivalent of local blogs for people to share their favorites and recommendations.
At a basic level, traditional yellow pages publishers (e.g., SuperPages) are adding ratings and reviews to their sites, but the social directory sites are far ahead in that game. The traditional publishers would do well to study these sites and take a cue from some of their more engaging features.
The mix of traditional local directory functionality, together with dynamic maps, user reviews and the ability to ask for "word of mouth" referrals is a valuable combination of features that represent the next generation yellow pages product.
Finally, InsiderPages has launched a local "best of" print directory that it mails to members. This "reverse published" directory vaguely resembles a Zagat directory and helps brand InsiderPages and extend the value of its online product. As I've said previously, the combination of online and offline assets is a key to winning in local.