Google, the king of the internet, and Portland, OR, also known as Beervana; at first the two may seem unrelated, but at closer inspection it seems as if Portland has been targeted by Google's new service called Hotpot. And it's easy to see why, according to the Hotspot Blogspot:
"Portland is a tech savvy, forward-thinking city with a history of innovation and some of the best coffee houses, microbreweries and parks in the country. Whether you know it as The City of Roses, Stumptown, P-Town, Rip City or just PDX, Portland’s thriving local business community and strong heritage of being a trailblazer made it a great choice for us to try something new."
Apparently Google has targeted our humble town by providing popular companies with Hotpot business kits which include some slick stickers with Near Field Communications (NFC) technology. These stickers are definitely an upgrade from the standard Google Places QR code window decal. The new NFC stickers allow modern smartphones to simply "bump" the sticker to get more information on the business. Cool huh? Other fun Hotpot promo items include neon signs, magnets, fortune cookies, coffee sleeves, hotel key cards, and more! If you're a business in Portland and have claimed your Places page then you're eligible to receive the Hotpot promo kit which you can apply for here.
I first saw this new service from Google on December 1st when in a bit of anger I left a nasty review over poor customer service on Larry Miller Honda's Places page. This is where I noticed the Hotpot smiley face in the rating system but in a consumer tantrum wrote it off as an aesthetic change and left it at that. It took another month for Google to get my attention, this time with a massive Hotpot banner that stretched across the McCarren Airport ceiling with a clever catchphrase promoting the service in Las Vegas, and again with another immense banner in PDX. Got it Google, rate stores, cool deal, I've been doing that already.
All of this Hotpot hullabaloo flew right by until last night when I strolled in to the Deschutes Brewery with my girlfriend for dinner and a pint. Once inside I noticed that the front desk had laid Hotpot promo cards that promised customers a free pint of Red Chair NWPA and a limited edition mug for rating Deschutes Brewery on Hotpot. Oh Google, you know me so well... This was right up my alley, not only do I love Beer, but I also loved the angle Google used to stir up attention.
In retrospect, I wouldn't have expected anything less from the Internet Kingpin. From my perspective Google flawlessly conditioned users to the concept, then strategically placed beautiful banners in spots with a high traveler volume, and when the time was right struck hard and fast at the test city with great promotions to generate a massive buzz (no pun). Their promo at Deschutes caught me completely off guard which caused one of those eureka moments where I wondered "why didn't I think of that?!"
I immediately rated Deschutes 5 out of 5 on their Places page with my Droid, got my free pint and mug, and then proceeded to blast the news across Twitter. Soon after @GoogleHotPot got back to me which i'll admit left me a little giddy since I had so many questions. At the end of the conversation I was left with an email address for a Hotpot Community Manager to answer my remaining questions about their service. I'll post any findings once I get their reply.
So what is Google Hotpot and why do I need it?
Pretty nifty huh? With this massive push from Google to promote Hotpot I'm left to wonder if there will be any sort of clever integration with the upcoming Google Offers which is set to compete with bulk buying service Groupon. The future is wide open on this service and I'm looking forward to what the Community Manager has to say about its future. So, If you're one of those people that's constantly trying new things and is always looking for something new then give Hotpot a try, once you build up your rating system you may stumble upon your new favorite place.<
em>edit 2/4/11 - Q&A with the Google Hotpot Community Manager
In your own words, what is Hotpot and why should Googlers be excited?
- Hotpot is a local recommendation engine (http://goo.gl/FCs2V) from Google Places, powered by you and your friends. I think of it as a personalized layer on top of my Google searches. It's simple: rate places on http://google.com/hotpot -- restaurants, book shops, hotels -- and add friends (http://goo.gl/xRjhe) on Hotpot (the ones you always turn to for great recommendations). Then the next time you search on Google.com, we'll serve you up personalized results based on your tastes, as well as recommendations from your friends.
The exciting thing for users: We're taking something they find valuable, something they use every day -- Google search -- and making the quality of results and information they get even better.
With all the new features being integrated into Places can users expect more in the near future? Will Google Offers be incorporated in to the Hotpot algorithm somehow?
- Google has a philosophy of constant iteration and improvement, so we're always looking for ways to make our Google Places offering better and even more useful - both for people searching online for local information and for local business owners.
Is Hotpot an alternative to Yelp? or are the two completely different beasts altogether?
- There are many excellent review sites out there, each with different strengths. Google Hotpot builds on the power of Google search to provide personalized recommendations based on a user’s tastes and preferences.
Can Portland expect more fun deals like the Deschutes Brewery offer?
The team's always looking for fun new ways to engage business owners and users. Stay tuned about upcoming plans via our Twitter and Facebook channels.
Any last words?
Sure, few things:
- How to get started: On your desktop, visit http://google.com/hotpot to set up your Hotpot profile, rate a bunch of places you know, and teach us what you like and don't like. But it gets really fun when you use Hotpot on the go. Got Android? Set up our rating widget (http://goo.gl/BdYpc). Got iPhone? Download the Google Places app (http://goo.gl/91aYQ).
- You've got until Feb. 10 to enter our Hotpot Jackpot Portland contest (http://hotpotjackpot.com/). Sign up for Hotpot and enter to win a dinner for up to 10 people at any Portland restaurant. The rules: rate a bunch of places you've been on Hotpot, share your recommendations with friends on Hotpot, earn points. The more points you earn, the better your chances of winning. Winners will be announced in the coming weeks.
- We heart Portland! :)
- Special thanks to @vanessagene for the help :)