DocStoc today launched ExpertCircle, a site where you can find vendors and products for you business, recommended by your peers. You can also suggest vendors and products to recommend them to others.
ExpertCircle is like sharing word of mouth for business vendors, but in an organized central place.
According to Jason Nazar, founder and CEO of Docstoc, “Most small business owners rely on word of mouth for business advice; with ExpertCircle we’re incorporating the ability for those same professionals to share their personal endorsements on a platform accessible by all business owners, so that they can, too, easily find the best products and vendors that are reviewed by their professional peers and based on their given needs. The same way that consumers turn to Yelp and Angie’s List for reviews, ExpertCircle is a free platform for business owners, entrepreneurs and operators to get the most reliable recommendations on business products that their peers recommend and use.”
Finding Products and Vendors
When you first arrive on ExpertCircle, you are walked through a brief decision tree. It asks you such things as the age and size of your business. Presumably that’s to present you with a list of relevant products and services appropriate for your business size, industry or circumstances.
You also can search by category (such as accounting or HR products) or by industry (such as spa, massage, tanning or tattoo services). So, for instance, let’s say you are in the tattoo business. You are looking for an appointment scheduler or CRM system appropriate for tattoo parlors. You can search by industry to find one.
Endorsing or Critiquing a Product or Vendor
Once a product or service vendor is listed on ExpertCircle, users can endorse them with an up vote, or downgrade them with a down vote. The highest recommended vendors and products appear at the top of the list. Alongside each vendor or product is the number of endorsements they have received. See screenshot above, showing the Accounting & Finance section.
One thing I noticed is if you click on something in error — either the blue “up arrow” to endorse or the red “down arrow” to critique something — you can’t seem to unclick. Or, at least, I couldn’t seem to.
For example, I initially clicked the red down arrow for Freshbooks just to try it out. But I really didn’t mean to give it a negative vote.
However, the only way I could figure out how to get rid of my erroneous negative critique was to click the up arrow to endorse Freshbooks. That’s OK because I have a favorable view of Freshbooks. Still, it would be good to have a better way to reverse an erroneous click.
Submitting a Vendor or Product
You can submit your favorite vendor or product. We tried out the process. It is easy and takes just a couple of minutes. The hardest part — which isn’t really hard — is figuring out the proper category to place something in. So for instance, I submitted the TweakYourBiz Title Generator Tool and managed to submit it quickly.
Keeping out spam submissions and ensuring submissions are in the proper categories will be the challenging bit as ExpertCircle scales. When I made my submission, it said that it would need to be approved. I assumed that would involve some kind of manual review. However, my submission appeared on the site in under 30 seconds.
One thing that should keep some integrity in the system is that you must log in with either your LinkedIn account or Facebook account. And your avatar appears next to anything you submit or endorse, so that will tend to keep the results more accurate.
ExpertCircle is free to use. DocStoc, the parent company, is a content site containing over 20 million professional documents such as contracts and business templates, shared by over 30 million registered users. DocStoc, founded in 2007, is headquartered in Santa Monica, California.
This is a fantastic tool. Social proof is a great way to see whether a product is worth-buying or not, and peer recommendations can give you just that!
Hi Ivan, Yep – like I said in the piece, it’s word of mouth but in an organized central place. Instead of hunting hither and yon, or emailing people you can check one spot.
The key will be keeping the integrity in the system, so that people and businesses don’t start gaming it. 🙂
It’s promising to have DocStoc behind it, but I’m interested to see how they moderate the community so that it doesn’t get overrun by trolls and/or overly promotional stuff.
Robert: I would like to have this kind of tool during my time as an experienced purchaser. I agree with the potential threat with trolls and over-promotion. The ExpertCircle needs experts like you and moderators that you could find in business forums, like BizSugar! [Full disclosure: I am one of the moderators.]