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The Invisibly Visible Community of Google Local Guides

Community is something that takes a lot of effort to start building and then it builds itself (if at all you start it right). But, how incredible it would be if someone just leverages the pre-existing community! That automatically nullifies the huge efforts required at the start.

That’s exactly what Google Local Guides is all about. Giving a new direction to the old data. This blog post is going to be about my perspective on how Google is changing the world with Local Guides.

Invisible User Experience

It’s only fair to mention how great a job the UX Designers at Google have done in defining how Local Guides work.

“Good design is obvious. Great design is transparent.” – Joe Soprano

Local Guides do not ask you to install a separate app to get started, instead it’s plugged in one of the most installed Google apps–Google Maps. This automatically solved plenty of very major problems like User Acquisition, User Retention, Discovery & Exploration on the app, etc.

Now, when you try to plug-in a new feature (which is a new product in itself) to an existing app, it’s obviously going to be very difficult, because we as users & humans don’t really respond well to any change. But, notice how Local Guides does a commendable job of not over-crowding the very simple Google Maps. They (Team behind Local Guides) just added a link in the hamburger menu saying “Your contributions”.

Your Contributions
Your Contributions

About the activities that you perform on the app like rating/reviewing and adding/editing places still remain the same, with slight updates–for good. This is exactly why you won’t even notice that you’re doing something different from the last time.

Local Guides is also very smart with collecting dedicated data. The yes/no questions like “Is there a wheelchair accessible entrance here?” are asked in a very scheduled & thoughtful manner, usually when the user opens the “Your contributions” tab. This does not overburden a user and allows them to answer when they’re in a mindful state.

Triggered Questions
Triggered Questions

Sure, pushing these questions only when the tab is clicked loses on extensive data collection, but remember, here it’s about the quality and not the quantity. Only those users who’ve shown an intent in Local Guides would be the ones who’d like to contribute genuinely to the community.

Structuring the Data

Google has always been so good at structuring and organising the data that they collect, this time is no different. Google Maps already had a lot of ratings/reviews posted for the places on the map, they did a very smart job at sorting and creating a detailed version for any place listed on the map. They also added those little Local Guides badges to the avatars of the users to show some gratification towards them.

Like how Zomato shows you the details for a place? Check out the same place on Google Maps with live status update on the crowd turnaround at that place. Of course, Zomato’s would seem better overall at the moment since they only focus on food places, but Google Map’s would get better soon. Without a doubt, Local Guides is a possible competitor to Zomato’s restaurant finder.

Live Venue Updates
Live Venue Updates

Gamification

The moment you hear the word ‘Contribution’, the very next thing that would come to your mind would be “What do I get in return of my contributions?”. No denying of the fact that we humans are greedy animals. This is where gamifications comes in play. All that level thingy, cute little badges, opportunity of being recognised within the community, sounds very cool. This does a pretty neat job of feeding your pride. And is a fair game as well.

Points Card
Points Card

You write a review (which would some day prove useful to someone) and be rewarded (More on the rewards, later in this article) for it. Not just the reward, you also takeaway this good feeling of contributing towards a greater cause. This is one of the many reasons why gamification is such a neat solution in order to build a community around it.

I could seriously go on and on about this whole concept of gamification, but I guess you already got the flow.

7 Deadly Sins of Bible

Bible has this very nice chapter on the behaviours and habits that directly give birth to immoralities. Humans inevitably prey on these sins and marketers very nicely use it to their advantages. You may read more on the same on Wikipedia, for now, I’ll just list them down here, for your context.

  1. Lust
  2. Gluttony
  3. Greed
  4. Sloth
  5. Wrath
  6. Envy
  7. Pride

Now, before I give you some context on this, I would like to clarify that I haven’t read The Holy Bible, but I’m aware of these sins just because it’s a widely known technique or theory for that matter within the marketers.

Tease to Unlocking More Levels
Tease to Unlocking More Levels

This is how Local Guides preys on these 7 deadly sins,

  1. Users Lust for Google-branded rewards and would always want to level up in order to get ’em.
  2. People won’t stop eating and they would certainly not mind reviewing what they eat. Food places are a major push to Gluttony.
  3. Greed is pretty obvious. We’ll greed for those cool rewards.
  4. When I can check and review the place on the same app, then why would I feel the need to go on another app. This is where Sloth comes into picture.
  5. Not every time will the user like what they see or eat, this is when they’ll unleash their Wrath in the reviews.
  6. Well, if your friend has higher points than you and is being recognised in the community for the same, you might Envy him/her.
  7. The race to get on top never stops, and that’s what drives Pride.

You might have now started to realise that most of the community-based products rely on these sins to stay in the game. For that instance, Facebook does it pretty smartly.

Community Building

Local Guides, the name itself has its entire business running around the community. It has 5 levels for now, with different levels unlocking different benefits. Once you start climbing the ladder of points, you level-up and unlock benefits like being able to host your own local meet-ups, get early preview of upcoming Google products, earn extra space on your GDrive, see yourself being featured on Local Guides pages and get an invite to Google hosted events and Summits being the biggest of the present rewards.

Local Guides Profile
Local Guides Profile

This is also what I personally love the most about Google. They’re extremely innovative in giving it back to the society. You automatically build-up a nice relationship with the one who gives you back. Not just Local Guides, almost all the Google products give you back something extra in some or the other way.

No Marketing

Did you see that cool advertisement on the internet about Local Guides’ launch? No, you didn’t, cause there wasn’t one. Google has shipped this product so smoothly that they didn’t even have a need to market it. They rolled it out on Google Maps, and people soon started seeing it and using it, of course. They did create this landing page for Local Guides though.

Please note that, I’m not at all with the idea of no marketing for good products. Sure, all good products require marketing in order to be discovered in the first place. Local Guides is just an exception in this case.

Concluding Notes

Google Local Guides is one of the coolest products that I’ve witnessed in the past year. It has great potential and is doing exceptionally well in helping the users discover and explore the world around them, better. There’s a lot to be learnt from the way Google has shipped this product plug to Google Maps.

I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the entire team behind bringing this product to life. It has been solving many problems ever since its launch, at least for me.

Sure, there are a few flaws with its experience. For instance, the questions asked about the place you visited are confusing often times, they don’t really provide the full context and hence result in confused or wrong answers. But, I’m pretty sure that the team behind Local Guides would sort this out pretty soon.

With that, I would wish great luck to Local Guides and really glad to be a Local Guide myself (No, I didn’t have any incentives from Google, just climbed up the levels the usual way–rating/reviewing & contributing).


Have you been using Local Guides too? I would love to hear your thoughts on the same. You can straight-away comment on this blog post or tweet to me @WeirdoWizard.

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