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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

To have, or not to have...Reviews?

It's a question that has come up from time to time. I'm no expert in how anyone else should manage their business, to be sure. But I am an expert on examining what works and what doesn't for myself and weighing the benefits versus the risks before making any decisions that could be as impactful as having reviews of my personal activities.

There are risks and rewards to just about everything. Risk management is a consideration we all have to make in anything and everything we do. I'm looking for the best possible experience with the lowest possible risk. The end result I have in mind is to meet great people that I truly enjoy spending time with, without attracting a lot of public attention to myself. In developing my own approach and objective, it was the quality of the experience that had value to me. The foundation had to be discretion and respect for each others privacy, and there had to be a level of attraction, communication, compatibility, chemistry and skill for it to all come together. It's such a personal thing when two people get together.

First, I examined who reads reviews, who wrote them and where they would be seen. They are written by and for the hobbyist community in sites where there is advertising as well as message board activity along with a review system. I tried on a couple of these sites for myself for a while to see what was going on and to get a feel for the people who participate in them. I learned a lot in a short period of time. The unique benefit I found on these sites were the friendships and shared information between the girls. We shared safety information, touring advice, beauty secrets and business tips. Good information that I still use today.

In the case of reviews, however, there was a mixed bag of reasons why one should or shouldn't participate. I could see the obvious reasons the hobbyists preferred them, but I was interested in the provider's perspective. How well did reviews work for them? I was sorry to read story after horror story of bad experiences ranging from the very dangerous, to the untrue or incomplete and just plain made up. For what? What could the benefit possibly be? I could see two; an increased number of hobbyist clients, and possibly more money based on higher volume. At least that's what I think providers were hopeful for in setting themselves up for reviews. They felt that it was a marketing strategy for them to be more reputable with hobbyists and widen the marketing base for their advertising to a targeted audience that was looking for their services. For some I'm sure it works and may even work well, but having reviews was definitely a double edged sword, of sorts. First there was the documentation of an experience taking place that may or may not be used against both the provider and the hobbyist if law enforcement were to get a hold of it and secondly, unfortunately, providers didn't have any recourse against a reviewer writing damaging stories about them, true or untrue, or manipulating them for favorable or unfavorable reviews. There were plenty of cases where the review system was failing the providers and actually hurting their business and increasing their risks.

After carefully examining all of the information available to me, I concluded that having reviews didn't meet my objectives. It didn't seem to me that quality, on any level, was going to be assured by any review that someone else posted about their personal experience. Increasing the quality of clients or the quality of the experience, for either the provider or the hobbyist, just wasn't going to be gained from a review.

Personally, I was finding that the best experiences for me were taking place outside of the hobbyist community - with the friends I was meeting who had never heard of these sites and didn't have any interest in becoming involved with the community of providers and the gentlemen who see them. It turned out that there were plenty of people looking for services on non-review sites who were able to find me and I've been able to establish and maintain exactly what I want for myself. Choosing not to have reviews has worked for me and I completely understand that it absolutely has kept me from meeting the few hobbyists who insist upon them before deciding who to see. That's the risk I take and it's a risk I can live with.