Now running for about 18 months, the Local Guides program is designed to help Google increase the number of quality business reviews on its site by encouraging reviewers to post more often in exchange for a range of rewards.
Local Guides is a well-designed gamification play, and refreshingly so, considering ‘gamification’ has been the buzzword in the loyalty industry for the last decade, yet so few companies have done anything meaningful with it (Kudos to Qantas Loyalty for sticking their toe in the water with Qantas Assure App).
Here’s how to play:
Registered reviewers earn status Points to achieve 5 levels.
Points can be earned in 5 ways:
- Uploading photos of the business
- Posting a review
- Adding a new business to Google Maps
- Fixing incorrect information for existing listings
- Answering questions
It’s surprisingly easy. I found myself with 7 Points (enough to achieve Level 2) just by reviewing shops and restaurants I’d visited over the weekend (including Alpsports for a new snowboard, Anaconda for a push bike carrier for the car and TimHoWan for dumplings).
Each level comes with a different reward suite:
Level 1 (0 Points): Monthly newsletter, access to Google-hosted workshops and Hangouts, and (in select countries) exclusive contests.
Level 2 (5 Points): Early access to new Google products and features, option to promote your own meet-ups on the Local Guides calendar.
Level 3 (50 Points): A Local Guides badge in Google Maps, the option to connect with other Local Guides via an exclusive Google+ community, option to moderate Local Guides community channels and invites to Google-hosted events in select cities.
Level 4: (200 Points): Free Google Drive storage upgrade (previously 1TB but reduced to 100GB in July of this year) and option to be featured in Local Guides online channels.
Level 5 (500 Points): Be a Google insider, testing new products before public release, and option to apply to attend the Level 5 Local Guides summit (which takes place this year in San Francisco, California on Sept 13-14 and is apparently all expenses paid, including flights).
One reviewer made Level 5 in just 13 days by going ballistic on business reviews and photos in her local neighbourhood.
Most interesting is the Communities play. Local Guides allows reviewers to host meet-ups, where they can invite other local reviewers to get together and explore the neighbourhood, then post the experience onto Google Maps. Examples on the website include San Francisco (the group mapped a cool walking path through the city and photographed the whole thing), London (the group mapped out a route of the best coffee cafes) and New York (the group mapped out the city’s finest ramen joints).
I’m an introvert, so this type of ‘getting together with strangers’ thing weirds me out, but I can still understand how others would go for it. In this month alone there’s Meet-Ups at Eleru, San Diego, Lincoln, Kyiv, Old Delhi, Paris and Cebu.
The thing I most admired about Steve Jobs is, by inventing the iPhone and developing the App Store, he harnessed the creative genius of the entire world.
Local Guides feels a bit like this. Google is harnessing the opinions, photos and good-will of a massive legion of inspired contributors, which means Google users have more information and insights at their fingertips when considering whether to engage with a specific business. Google describes Local Guides as ‘win-win’, and I’d have to agree.