Credibility is absolutely critical for social solution success. If the participants sense that they are being deceived or manipulated they will exit and the community can perish quickly (or never form in the first place). Look at the current crisis that Yelp! is facing (see good article on CNET).
Yelp! Is breaking a fundamental rule of social credibility: Transparency. Yelp! is being accused of “selling” their ratings. The allegations were made in the East Bay Express. (I do not know the merit of the accusation). However, their lack of transparency is fueling the accusation. The Yelp! CEO is saying it is a flaw in their algorithm (no transparency there). He then disputes the story, fine, but he should recognize the need for more transparency. The CEO is actually quoted as saying it is normal and even desirable for “reviews to mysteriously disappear.” Not good.
If you want trust you must be transparent. People simply must know things like:
- How you are using my information (privacy)
- How are you using my information to rate people and things (Yelp! problem)
- How can people rate me or my products (not just commercial products but also work products)
- What can I do if I am unfairly rated
- How can the system be “gamed” and what are you doing to mitigate that problem
- Why are you rejecting my contribution (another Yelp! problem)
- What are you getting out of my participation in the community
Also, the article states that a review is removed if “The consumer deleted the review or his/her account.” Why is it removed if the consumer account is deleted? Isn’t the review still valid? I don’t like the restaurant I reviewed any better or worse just because I deleted my Yelp account. This seems like a little trick for Yelp! to hold onto users. Clearly self serving at the detriment to the community of people and vendors that would be losing valid reviews. This brings up the rub of more transparency. The community might not like what they see and you may need to justify your position. However, it is becoming more prevalent that users, by default, don’t like what they don’t see. Yelp! has some work to do.
BTW, credibility and transparency practices also apply to internally facing social solutions not just consumer side solutions. Trust always matters. Disagree?