SocialYell is a new community website for people who are interested in discussing, promoting and discovering ‘good’ organizations, meaning companies that are “socially responsible, environmentally progressive and globally aware”, business or non-profits alike. The website is launching sometime today, but you can already access it using the passcode ‘techcrunch’ if you’re interested in trying it out yourself.
From a technical or feature standpoint, SocialYell doesn’t bring anything new to the table, and simply borrows techniques from other popular social sites like Digg and Yelp to try and turn the website into a real community of engaged users (i.e. giving them the ability to rate, vote, share on other social networks, etc.). The main differentiator with other services, according to founder David Rostan, is that SocialYell users engage in ratings and votings not just for the sake of determining which organizations are more popular, but zooms in on specific company actions and initiatives to eventually surface which companies are on the right track (from a social viewpoint) and which ones aren’t.
To avoid putting too much emphasis on the green aspect of being a non-evil company, the site is subdivided into 5 categories: environment, health, social equity, consumer advocacy and charity. SocialYell aims to become a place where users come together to add, discuss and rate organizations and possibly even individuals (i.e. politicians), but that’s not the whole story: representatives from companies are also invited to participate in the online conversation. From what I could gather, most organizations that want to do that will need to pay for membership, unless they’re a non-profit, and the ultimate goal for SocialYell is to give some of its profits back to charities.
Rostan hopes to “make organizations and business better global citizens” by rewarding social and environmental responsibility and hold companies accountable for their actions, which in turn should make the world a better place for everyone. It’s an admirable goal without question, but I can’t help but smile every time someone thinks a lone web service can have such a big social impact that it would benefit everyone, from consumers to businesses to the entire society, as the news release purports.
Hope springs eternal, of course, although I just don’t think it works that way, and I also think there are far better, more extensive tools on the web today that can leverage the power of crowds to bring about changes in society.