First came Patch, an AOL online project encouraging locals to become reporters covering hometown news. Then Yelp emerged with the Elite Squad program to review local businesses. Now Google follows with City Experts, also a network of local review contributors. The reviews will likely support content on Google+ and Maps. A line or two would also work popping up on a Google Glass card.
Qualifying as a local expert means producing at least 50 reviews and writing five or more monthly. The reviews are three to four sentences long and contain specific and helpful information about a particular business.
Aside from a pat on the back for a job well done and a "hey, that a boy (or girl)," the perks for becoming a City Expert range from becoming part of the Google+ Community, where you meet fellow Experts in your city and discuss new tips and tricks for using Google+ Local and Google Maps, newsletters that offer a variety of stuff, including free Google-branded items, online campaigns and contests and special event invites in your area.
The worldwide program will initially launch in the United States in Austin, Chicago, New York, Phoenix, Portland, Raleigh-Durham, and San Francisco. In the United Kingdom the program will start in Bristol, Edinburgh, London, Manchester; Australia, Sydney; and Japan, Tokyo and Osaka.
Writing about brands looking for that authentic voice and actually speaking with someone who authentically loves a brand or can offer a strong opinion on a brand or a business ignites some opinions. After meeting Laina, the Overly Attached Girlfriend and YouTube star, I better understand the importance of finding authentic brand advocates.
Local remains a focus at Google, although sometimes it may seem like Sergey Brin drives the engine into genetically created beef and wind-drifting Internet balloons. In Google's case, it's about finding locals who can objectively write about their experiences in restaurants, clothing stores, and entertainment venues.