Extending Word of Mouth
While this sounds like a perfect situation for on-line information like you find in NicaLiving, that is not the case. I know because I had based the idea for a web site on this assumption. I was wrong. This information is typically distributed only in face to face meetings. If you are not deemed worthy of such information, it will not be shared. This is the case with everything from farm workers to high-value professionals.
This system is built into the culture. It's just how things work in Nicaragua and in most of Latin America. What makes NicaLiving special is that it has facilitated word of mouth connections for people who would not have otherwise been offered such connections. Specifically, not living in Nicaragua and/or not having decent Spanish skills is not going to make traditional word of mouth connections available.
I am going to take my dentist as an example. I met him one day when I was walking my dog. I mentioned the meeting in my blog years ago. He said something like "this isn't the place for that kind of dog", in English. Some time later I needed some dental work and decided to give him a try. I have been happy with his work and have mentioned him on NicaLiving. I know of at least three clients he has thanks to my expanded definition of word of mouth to include an on-line community.
Is this good for him? Of course it is. But it is also good for NL members. While his English skills were only a significant advantage for one of the three I know of, it was information distributed to a much expanded word of mouth community.
Without doing much looking here is a short list of things NL has made available for people without traditional word of mouth connections:
- Connect you with good doctors, dentists and vets
- Offer information on typical (and legally mandated) wages and energy costs
- Offer legal information on immigration, importation, marriage, divorce, real estate and more
- Help you locate products such as hardware including an email connection to a person who will talk to you in English about hardware
- Offer help with banking, shipping and other commonly needed services
For those of you who live in Nicaragua, I expect you are aware of the alternative. Typically, you end up spending a lot of time standing in lines, having face to face meetings and getting Gringo-priced answers. If time, money or both are important to you, NL has likely helped you out. I know it has helped me.
Do you have a responsibility in return? I believe so and I believe it is to understand and respect this expanded idea of word of mouth. As a lot of information is here in NL, available to anyone, this makes the recipient of this word of mouth connection the one who needs to be the responsible party. That is, to live up to what would make you worthy in a traditional word of mouth connection. You need to treat these introductions, no matter how passively established, as if they are a favors done for you by a friend. Let me offer an example.
Omar Rugama connects real estate buyers and sellers. He is very good at this in the area he works (Estelí) because he is well known and respected. He gets paid by a percentage of the transaction price should a sale be made.
My responsibility in a traditional word of mouth connection is clear. I am not going to refer someone to Omar who is only window shopping. That would waste Omar's time and lower his respect with the sellers. Now, you should be able to find Omar but without a referral from someone he knows and respects you will have to establish your own credibility.
For those of you from a big city in the US, this will all seem pretty foreign. On the other hand, if you lived in a small US town, all this will sound familiar. Nicaragua is a small country with a total population of less than many cities. If you want the benefits of being part of this extended word of mouth community, you need to treat the expression "I found out about you on NicaLiving" as you would a personal introduction by a friend. If you don't, we will all lose these benefits.