“Crowd sourcing” is when you rely on the “wisdom of crowds”. The idea is that if many people think that a business or service is good, then it probably is. You might also call this “stranger sourcing”.
“Friend sourcing” is when you get recommendations from people you know and trust, rather than from strangers. This can be a very efficient way to get good recommendations. More on the reasons why later.
Crowd sourcing and friend sourcing each have their strengths and weaknesses, and are best applied to different kinds of businesses, but are most powerful when used together.
A numbers game
Crowd sourcing works best when there are many reviews, when it’s difficult for fake reviews to overwhelm the real reviews. You are more likely to get an accurate picture of a business when the business has hundreds of customers each day and offers fairly standard products and services. Restaurants and retail stores are good examples of businesses where crowd sourced reviews work well.
Friend sourcing works best when a business has fewer clients and offers more personalized and high-value services. Financial professionals, doctors, attorneys, auto repair, and people who care for your home are good examples of services where personally knowing the person making the recommendation makes a significant difference.
Using crowd and friend sourcing together
The most powerful combination is to use both friend and crowd sourcing together. This will get you good recommendations quickly. You can start your search with recommendations from people you know (friend sourcing), and then make your final decision after double-checking some crowd-sourced reviews to see if they agree with what your friends recommend.
For example, you might have a friend who is a “foodie” who knows the best restaurants for dining and stores for ingredients. As it turns out, you frequently you agree with this friend’s recommendations, so you start with a short list of their recommendations. Next you check other review sites to see what others (people you don’t know) think. This allows for a more informed decision and a quicker search than if you had to sort through hundreds of recommendations.
Check licensed professionals
Last, but not least, when you are looking for a professional to do valuable work for you, make sure to check their credentials, licenses, insurance (if needed), and any disciplinary actions if they are regulated by an agency (for example, financial advisors, contractors and doctors). Even if a business comes highly recommended from someone you know, you still want to be fully informed.