Today I have the pleasure of interviewing Tim Tracey of YouGottaCall.com

Q. So Tim, lets start with the basics, what is YouGottaCall?

A. YouGottaCall.com is a free, web-based word-of-mouth referral service that benefits consumers, the local businesses they trust and the community. Our unique process has pending patent protection.

Q. When and why develop the site?

A. We incorporated in 2007 and launched in 2008.  I started YouGottaCall.com because I saw the potential for consumers and local, trusted businesses to use social media as a superior form of advertising. At the time other web sites were not addressing the $100B annual local advertising market with a social media solution that harnessed the powerful factor of consumers’ trusted, real-world relationships.

Q. So do you provide a similar service to Angie’s List?

A. We are aiming for the same goal – to connect consumers with trustworthy businesses. But our means of achieving this are as opposite as can be.  YouGottaCall.com is more similar to other word-of-mouth social networks like GigPark and LikeList. But we are unique in our voluntary intrinsic monetization and our cause affiliation.

Here’s how we stack up with Angie’s List –
Fees:
Angie’s  List collects fees from consumers. This is their primary revenue source.
YouGottaCall.com is free to join and free to use for consumers and businesses.

Trusted relationships:
Angie’s List features written testimonials about the businesses. But the testimonials are written by strangers.

The starting point for YouGottaCall is our members’ trusted relationships. Recommendations are filtered by the members’ social connections so they personally know the people recommending the business. Because we are integrated with Facebook our members can log-in using their Facebook ID. We plan to expand the integration with Facebook to achieve more referral and search utilization within Facebook.

Effectiveness:
Angie’ s List does not guarantee consumer satisfaction for the subscription fee. In our model consumers are not charged a fee. Our revenue comes from our business members who select the amount they want to pay. For businesses, this is performance based. They choose whether they want to pay for either ‘referrals’ or for ‘new sales’.

Cause related:
YouGottaCall.com enables members to select a not-for-profit organization their referrals will benefit. Eighty percent of all fees go to these charities.

Q.  You are currently only in Connecticut. Are there plans to expand to other market areas?

A. Connecticut is our first market and is where we are proving our concept. Our 200 “Trusted Service Providers” and 400 members are distributed across Connecticut. We plan to scale to other metro areas.

Q. Do business add themselves or do the consumers?

A. Consumers can add themselves and their trusted businesses. Also, business members can invite and connect with consumers who give them referrals (customers, neighbors, associates, etc.).  YouGottaCall.com business members also get a free, powerful, CRM tool box to manage communications with connected members, and stay in touch via promotions and email updates.

Q.  Can you provide an example listing?

A. Here is a popular business that provides home and office PC support. They epitomize ‘word-of-mouth’ with strong business networking and loyal customers. http://bit.ly/YGCWeCare We Care has leveraged their YouGottaCall membership by incorporating it into their social marketing mix.

Q. Looking over the site, I see that a business can claim a listing…

A. Yes – businesses can claim their listing or request that a listing be created. No charge.

Q.  Are your pages/listings, search engine friendly? Do they get indexed by Google, Yahoo, etc?

A. Confession: I initially requested that our developers not optimize our site for search. That’s when I was convinced the viral nature of our community would create overnight, meteoric growth. Now we are planning to optimize. One way will be by adding pages displaying results for commonly searched for terms (ex. ‘plumber’).

Q.  How are businesses added to network? Do you use a service such as Localeze to populate your database?

A. Each member or business owner can request to add a business listing. We add them and notify the owners of their new, free referral page. That is how we reached our 200 active “Trusted Service Provider” accounts. Our 4,000 business listings were acquired locally. As we expand into other markets we will initiate a relationship with a national service.

Q. What sort of traffic and interest are you getting?

A. Traffic is light with unique visitors in the hundreds each month. The metric we most closely watch is utilization – member referrals and invitations. As a social community, growth in utilization will drive traffic. The small size of our network presents a utilization challenge as networks become exponentially more effective as they grow numerically. (http://yougottacall.blogspot.com/2008/10/its-law.html)

Another challenge to building traffic is related to the frequency with which people share word-of-mouth referrals. The average member gives/gets 6.5 referrals annually. This low frequency creates an infrequent need for using the site, and consequently an unfamiliarity with it.

Contrast this with Facebook whose users go there several times per day, creating strong familiarity and increased utility. This is why we are exploring deeper integration with Facebook – to remain “front-of-mind”. Network size will grow toward a critical mass where we experience cross-pollination and self-perpetuating buzz.

Q. How do you feel a service like this would do in smaller towns or larger cities?

A. YouGottaCall’s model will do well in any area, large or small, that can support 2,000 users. This is our estimate for the number of members for achieving a sustainable buzz that leads to cross-pollination. Our strategy for approaching not-for-profits may be effective for uncovering veins of loyal and motivated members who want their valuable referrals to benefit their charity.

Q. Final question, and one I like to ask at all of my interviews, where do you see local search moving in the future?

A. Good search mimics natural behavior. And the ultimate natural behavior is ‘word-of-mouth’. Mobile-powered social technology will soon make search more seamless with the natural way we find information. This will rapidly obsolete traditional advertising as well as algorithmic search.

The Web revolution is based on better ways for people to connect, find information and benefit the community. YouGottaCall’s model occupies intellectual property at the intersection of these trends.

Thanks again Tim for your time. For those in Connecticut go take a look at YouGottaCall.com. Good luck Tim and let us know how things go.