What is Hotpot?

By Matt Roberts, Linkdex

Google has recently launched its new local recommendation service called Hotpot. Hotpot uses the extensive business information already present within Google Places, and adds a personal social layer by incorporating the ratings of your friends and family in conjunction with your own search history.

What’s more, once you have rated at least five places Google attempts to give you personalized recommendations based on your previous ratings. The idea being that over time Hotpot will be able to learn your preferences and ultimately provide better results. Therefore to use Google’s own words, Hotpot aims to be a “local recommendation engine powered by you and your friends. Making local search results for places on Google more personal, relevant and trustworthy.

When you visit Hotpot you will be asked to sign in with your Google profile, as well as being asked to pick a nickname to be used with the Hotpot account. This will allow you and other Hotpot users to maintain anonymity when posting reviews and ratings, while at the same time allowing friends and family to see full profiles.

This is clearly an attempt by Google to protect privacy and to avoid some of the backlash which other sites, most notably Facebook, have had in the past.

How successful will Hotpot be?

Despite Google brilliance, this is a legitimate question to ask. You need only look at recent failures like Buzz and Wave to see why Hotpotp is not a guaranteed success, not to mention the head start and health of competitors like Yelp, Foursquare and Facebook Places have.

However it’s not all doom and gloom. Hotpot’s use of Google map and search functions is way more advanced than its competitors. Not to mention Google’s reach via search results, Gmail, Andriod, Adwords and more.

So chances are Google target users will get to know about it. But will they use it?

The success of social sites like Hotpot relies on quickly reaching a critical mass of interactions. The social tipping point where adoption rises not because it’s being marketed hard, but because users have adopted it as their preferred way of socializing their shopping behaviour.

Services such as Yelp already have huge numbers of individuals taking part, and a huge database of user reviews already present. Is there room for others to play in the increasingly crowded space?

Where’s the opportunity for you?

It is too early to say whether Hotpot will be the runaway success Google wants. But what is clear is that this new release further emphasises the growing importance of location specific services and local search.

I like Hotpot and think it may become a real player, and my advice is to get involved early.

Go and check out Hotpot now, add it to the list of places you encourage your customers to review and share your business with.

Also check out this ‘Local SEO’ blog post, it is a great starting point for anyone wishing to optimise their local presence.


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