This past weekend, the founders of ServingVets.org got together at Panera for the second meeting to discuss website architecture and project planning. These meetings are essential to make sure everyone is on the same page before we start laying the train tracks.
The meeting was a huge success and we came up with one very exciting new innovation that we have yet to see on the Internet involving Twitter. Now, before I get to what the innovation is, I wanted to first comment on a discussion our team had as we thought about how we could build the highest amount of trust into our rating system. Good ratings are all about trust and that is where we innovate the most. Trust is gained through people you know and from experts or others that share similar opinions. As we scanned the Internet and many blog articles searching for Social Media innovations, Facebook connect innovations, etc. - we actually didn’t find a single innovation involving social media of today and online ratings in order to build trust. I think Amazon and Netflix do it the best, but even their ratings systems don’t leverage my social network very well.
Here is what our original plan was:
Innovation #1 - Rankings based on Facebook Social Graph
If I am a user and I log in to see the ratings and reviews of the local VA hospitals or resume writing services as a Vet, I mostly care about people who are my friends (in my social networks) and what they think. It is a known fact that internet user’s attention spans are small, and there could be many ratings to go through before I find a rating or comment that I “trust”. So, the top 3 or 4 ratings and comments on a Service Provider listing get read the most and get the most attention - but how do we determine who those people are? Simple, you leverage Facebook and display people who you share the most connections with at the top of the list. Someday we will integrate Google Plus and LinkedIn friends to do this as well - which the question then is - which social network should be weighted higher? BUT, Twitter is different. Many Veterans and Vet support groups use twitter, but you don’t have “friends” in Twitter, you have subscribers and followers - it is more like a mini blog than a social network. So, our head of development had this idea:
Innovation #2 - Twitter and unique URLs
For our second Trust innovation - which is our goal, building trust. Is to leverage the Twitter community. We do this by creating a unique hash tag for each VSP (Veteran Service Provider) on our site. We then encourage anyone that wants to talk about that VSP on Twitter to use the unique hash tag we provide (example: #servingvets_21) and then we have a special Twitter module digest or block on that VSP’s page on ServingVets that brings in all Twitter posts with that unique hash tag in it. From a programming stand point this is absolutely simple and easy to do. None of us have ever seen this done on the Internet today, so we are excited to be leading the charge in innovation, but more exciting is that we can really bring together conversations about a VSP into one single source from across the most popular social networks. We hope this brings about amazing positive change to those who serve Veterans.
ServingVets.org - Hooah!