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Guest Post: Microreview Apps and the Future of Recommendations

2011 December 21
tags: ,
by Greg Satell

I’m an App Store junkie. Every day I check out the latest apps to hit different App Stores to see what apps give me new ways to use my smartphone.

Recently Apple’s App Store curators have put a large focus on “microreview” apps that use photo sharing, character limits, and location-based services to help people discover new products, services, and venues nearby. A wide range of entrants into this field: OinkTinyReview, andStamped are all apps that make it easy for users to review companies quickly and easily through images and extremely short writeups.

From a digital marketing perspective, these apps are a great indicator of how smartphones are changing the way that people discover, discuss and connect with different brands. They truly embody the convergence of multiple trends we’ve seen unfolding online for the past few years.

The Importance of Mobile First

Microreview apps are most similar to services like Yelp. Unfortunately for Yelp, it was designed for the Web first and not mobile first. Microreview apps are totally different and reinforce the growing importance of designing experiences for mobile first.

Yelp reviews can make or break a business. Before going out, people trudge over to Yelp and check out the witty restaurant and venue reviews before deciding where to go.

But when you’re on the go, you don’t want to read through snarky reviews, regardless of how entertaining or useful they may be. You want a quick glimpse at the restaurant, to see the most recommended food items, and to decide quickly if the food looks good or not.

And this is why microreview apps work. TinyReview lets you take an image and add 3 lines of text to give the review. The 3 lines of text actually limits reviewers more than the 140 character limit of Twitter, forcing people to come up with quick, useful reviews that other TinyReviewers will find useful.

Worth a Thousand Words

Photo sharing is another major trend driving the adoption of microreview apps. Apps like Instagram, PicPlz, and others have popularized the use of the smartphone as a camera for creative expression and sharing life with friends without having to use text.

The result is a mobile culture obsessed with photo sharing, and a “pics or it didn’t happen” mentality.

Oink and TinyReview do an effective job at putting the photo front and center when reviewing products, menu items, or even just the look and feel of a store.

The Legacy of LOLCats

Over the past few years, we’ve seen image macro memes like LOLCats, Philosoraptor, and others become an effective way of communicating through an image and a small amount of text.

Microreview apps translate this trend into the mobile space by equipping users with the tools to combine images and text in a way that delivers simple reviews of products.

While some brands may be put off by the fact that their products will live or die by amateur photos, the importance of online product reviews and recommendations cannot be underestimated. As mobile audiences increasingly turn to their smartphones as tools to aid in purchasing decisions, the need for quick, visual recommendations will become just as important, if not more important, than the lengthy reviews we currently see on sites like Amazon and Yelp.

– Simeon Spearman

Simeon Spearman is a Digital Strategist at Moxie and holds a Masters in Future Studies from the University of Houston.  You can follow him on Twitter @srspear

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