Redbeacon, a site that matches users up with service providers (like plumbers, painters, personal trainers, and housekeepers), announced a few new options, most notably Facebook, that’ll encourage a more social use of the site–and hopefully gain some users in the process.
Redbeacon, which won the TechCrunch50 award last year, is less a reviews site than a straight utility. You type in your location and service needed, and Redbeacon finds a local provider that’ll best address the job. It does snatch reviews from Yelp and Google to help you make your decision, but it’s more specific than a search engine.
Even better, it retrieves an actual quote from the business it recommends: not an estimated quote, or a base quote, but an actual quote from the business, directly responding to your inquiry. Redbeacon says that in the few months since their October launch, they’ve been able to secure a 100% response rate for quotes, usually within hours. The service then lets you book an appointment right from the site, like OpenTable, and it’s all free to the consumer (Redbeacon takes 10% off the top from the service provider).
Redbeacon’s announcing a bunch of changes today. Users can now upload photos and more detailed descriptions of the service they need, which should help businesses deliver more exact quotes. But most importantly, they’re now using Facebook to add a social element to the service. It only makes sense; when you’re looking for an electrician, you’d typically ask a friend or relative before just calling someone in the yellow pages. Redbeacon now uses Facebook Connect to allow users to ask questions of friends and post about good experiences.
It’s a bit similar to Aardvark, which we wrote about before–algorithms aren’t necessarily the best way to find out what you want to know, and social networking is one way to get answers from people, rather than a search engine. Redbeacon’s still expanding out from its San Francisco base, and its userbase is still pretty small, but it’s a great idea–and seeing as how Redbeacon is more concerned with the service than with users visiting their Web site, we could start seeing embedded uses of the service in other platforms soon.