A new Facebook application recently launched by a Boulder entrepreneur is helping students get business recommendations from their social network friends.
The application, Fidatto — a slightly altered version of the Italian word for trust — allows Facebook users to find and request recommendations of restaurants, mechanics, doctors and other services from their friends list.
Boulder resident Fiona Schlachter, founder of Swirly Dots Limited, the company that produced Fidatto, said her idea may not be unique, but the social networking aspect is the key to her success.
“I know there are other sites out there where people can find recommendations,” Schlachter said. “But this way you’re getting them from your friends, people you trust instead of random reviewers.”
Similar to a beta version of Yelp, Yahoo! Local or Google’s Hotpot, users can write comments about the service they received from local businesses. The format is simple, with only a place for a profile photo identifier and comments. Other features are being considered and will likely be added in future updates, Schlachter said.
“I noticed people were already using Facebook to ask for recommendations like this, so I thought, ‘Why not make a way to do it that is more efficient?'” Schlachter said.
The reviews are categorized into sections like automotive, beauty, professional, sports and wellness. A Facebook user will see any recommendations or reviews written in any category by everyone on their friends list.
And the most unique feature of Fidatto is its positive attitude.
“We don’t have a place for negative reviews,” Schlachter said. “That’s not what we wanted to provide, so we’re just keeping it positive right now and allowing only recommendations.”
“We don’t think there’s a reason to see the bad,” she said. “You don’t need to see where not to go if you have friends telling you where you should go.”
University of Colorado graduate student Joe Quaglia said he tried Fidatto early this week after a friend on Facebook recommended the application to him.
“I like that the comments are from your friends and not just anonymous,” Quaglia said. “There’s so many restaurants and places to go out there and everyone has different opinions and if you’re trusting anonymous people, they’re less likely in line with types of places you’re in line with.”
Fidatto is available for any Facebook user, but Schlachter said she expects it to be most popular among college students and young adults who are already using Facebook often.
Restaurants, bars and coffee shops will be the most used feature by students at CU, Quaglia said, because that’s where students spend a lot of time and there are so many local options to chose from.
Quaglia said he has already used Fidatto to recommend a gym in his neighborhood and he visited a coffee shop on Pearl Street he’d never heard of thanks to the recommendations of his friends.
“I use Yelp because of the user base,” Quaglia said. “But if Fidatto can build a strong user base too, then I would prefer to use it as my primary review source.”
Schlachter has launched an awareness campaign to students at CU and the University of Denver through Monday with online raffles for gift certificates to highly recommended restaurants in both Boulder and Denver.
After a slow launch in June, the company — mainly consisting of Schlachter and a few part-time freelancers — updated the application with the request feature in January, giving Fidatto a solid base for growth.
“The request feature is really great,” Schlachter said. “It posts a request for recommendations on your wall and your friends can comment on the post but all the information is kept in the application so you don’t lose it.”
There are active users in 10 states at this point, though users can make or request recommendations for any business in the United States.
CU senior Kara Miller said she thinks many students will chose not to use the application because of privacy issues.
“I don’t use apps on Facebook because you have to allow them access to all your information,” Miller said. “I don’t want advertisers getting my personal information and using it to target me.”
But CU junior Ann Marie Stauber said she thinks Fidatto will be a successful application, especially for college students and young adults.
“I think it’s a great idea,” Stauber said. “Who better to give you advice on where to go than your friends.”