Thursday, December 31, 2009

2010: A Year Closer to the Social Economy

No predictions here. Just an observation instigated by a recent chat with a prospective investor.

He expressed concerns about's ability to scale to a nationwide presence. The reason for his concern? He cited that the businesses we serve (small businesses and independent contractors) tend to be fragmented and difficult to reach.

Here's the irony - the Web actually makes it easier to reach and to help the small and disparate businesses we're targeting. With User Generated Content (UGC), our scalability will be limited by our software design, not by fixed costs of distribution.

With this in mind, I pointed out:

"We have all seen massive amounts of search move from traditional media to the Web in a relatively short time. The social Web is now a main driver of Web traffic, and we envision that people will naturally adopt the use of social media for finding and sharing word-of-mouth (WOM) referrals.

"As the social economy unfolds,
those businesses enjoying the greatest trust will accrue the greatest benefits from WOM. As they benefit, they will be able to eschew traditional, expensive advertising and elect to reward their network responsible for their WOM sales growth. Our vision is to support this.

"True - is targeting the "long tail" of advertisers - those millions of businesses operating locally who already get most of their sales via WOM. And yes - the marketplace is fragmented. However other sites that offer unique value such as Craigslist and Facebook have established themselves in this space and shown what's possible."

People know what they want - high quality, highly filtered information. Having tasted this and the other benefits of social networks, 2010 will see people continuing to demand sites with more and more social functionality. As the Web is used more and more for economic transactions, these transactions will become more tied into our real, local networks of neighbors, co-workers and trusted service providers - as well as into our Web-based social networks.

It's a safe bet to say: The way millions of service businesses, merchants, professionals and contractors will interact with their local customers (& vice versa) in the future will look more and more like

Friday, December 25, 2009

Dan Zarrella's 2010 Perspective

Excerpted from:
My Predictions for Social Media Marketing in 2010
Posted on Dec 23rd, 2009

One of the most powerful potentials of social media is for it to not only connect people online, but facilitate connections offline as well. 2010 will see an increase in location aware apps and games that blur the line between the web and the real world with technologies like Four Square and augmented reality. Driving this will be continued interest in and improvement of mobile web technologies like smart phones and net books. The real world be important again.

Micro-Targeting and Personalization
Every one actively engaging in social networking is sharing a ton of data about themselves and in 2010 companies will leverage this information in increasingly sophisticated ways. Micro-targeting and personalization will take advantage of information on individual people to deliver highly customized messaging and content to small and smaller segments. Opinion mining technologies will begin to mature, allowing researchers to utilize the entire social web as a global focus group for any brand, product, service or idea.

Small Business Social Media Marketing
In 2010 small businesses will continue to realize the high bang-to-buck ratio of social media marketing and will get into it like never before. Social media is a great equalizer in that it allows small companies to compete more effectively with large ones. They’ll take a strong do-it-yourself stance and will demand accountability and effective analytics.

My Take
These are logical forward steps for small businesses to connect online to offline conversations, relationships and transactions. The infrastructure is in place - as more consumers begin to power "real" word-of-mouth with online tools SMB stand to benefit from exponential yields in qualified referrals and new business.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Google Again Antes Up to Buy Into the SoLo(Mo) Space

Will Google Purchase Yelp To Create Its Own Foursquare?

Rumors are that Google is closing in on a potential acquisition of Yelp.According to a TechCrunch report, Google and Yelp are in advanced acquisition negotiations, and while the deal isn't complete, the price tag is suspected to be as high as $500 million.

Why would the Search Engine Giant consider such a move? Might a small savvy start-up like Foursquare be in its cross-hairs?

The next shiny thing on the social network horizon for 2010 is location-based social networks. Foursquare, often described as the next Twitter may also be considered Yelp on Steroids. It not only can surface restaurant reviews, it can accomplish that feat in real time while the user is in transit, and it canreward that same user with discounts and incentives once they get to said destination.

is Google's own location based social network. Introduced this past February, the opt-in feature lets smartphone and laptop users share their location with friends and allows those friends to share their locations in return. Although not pinpoint accurate, Latitude can display your general location based on information from GPS satellites and cell towers.

Yelp founded in 2004 by two former PayPayl employees was one of the first local review sites for restaurants and bars to appear on the Web. Covering every state in the US, users write and read reviews about anything from their favorite hole in the wall restaurant to the finest midtown Manhattan club. It also offers social networking features, that allows for adding friends, group events, forums and instant messaging.

Foursquare has some unique game-like features built into its API. For instance, becoming a "Mayor" of an establishment (bar, restaurant, nightclub, etc.) is a relatively simple process.

Combining Latitude with Yelp could potentially create a super-sized location-based social network capable of running circles around Foursquare (no pun intended). Based on copious amount of venue data amassed by Yelp over the course of the last five years, plus Google's search engine prowess in local search, coupled with their newly acquired real-time search feeds from Twitter and Facebook, the acquisition makes all the sense in the world.

Location-based marketing is the last remaining online advertising markets for Google. Over the course of 2009, it has clearly shown an interest in combining Latitude, Google Maps, search results, and advertising technology.

The Google-Yelp alchemy is like adding one plus one and ending up with three. The combined synergy of the two entities could far surpass what the start-up Foursquare can offer at this point in time. With less than a year under its belt, Foursquare's been able to accomplish remarkable things -- however the Google-Yelp deal could easily replicate the Foursquare model and take the concept to its next level -- in a fraction of the time.

It will be interesting to see in the months to come, who's "local" acumen gains the most "local" cred! (me, personally, I'm rooting for the little guy!)

My Take

Compete with FourSquare?

Google bought Dodgeball - created by the founder of FourSquare ( over four years ago. Why didn't Google cultivate Dodgeball into a robust product?

Instead Dodgeball's founders went off and created FourSquare in the same footprint of Dodgeball. Now Google's contemplating buying Yelp to compete with a service that they had previously squandered?

Is Google showing a lack of creative vision & initiative? Seller beware.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Getting Local/Social "Right"

Excerpted from AlikeList: An IYP for the ‘Twitter Era’

By Greg Sterling

Late last week I got a tour of new site AlikeList, yet another competitor to enter the local consumer destination game. The folks behind the site, who include Jim Delli Santi (once of SBC yellow pages and later Yahoo!) and now Mark Law (most recently of MapQuest but before that Yahoo!), have built something that sits right at the nexus of “local” and “social.”

Jim Delli Santi told me that his revelation was that local was fundamentally about “people and relationships” and not technology. Nothing here exactly is new but they’ve put all the pieces together in a very compelling way — at least I think so.

Many local competitors have tried to add a “friends filter” to local sites, either on their own destination sites (e.g., GoodRec) or as an app on Facebook or by incorporating Facebook Connect (e.g.,Citysearch). But AlikeList does this in a more “organic” and elegant way.

Interestingly, AlikeList can be used as a “memory aid” or “to-do list” of sorts. The “try” list functionality is very interesting: these are businesses that I want to remember for the future, that other people have recommend.

...No feature here is unique or particularly new. But the way these guys have conceived and put the site together is very strong and the totality does amount to something new.

I would encourage others to take a close look at what they’ve done. This is a site that has a lot going on, yet consumers can “get” it quickly and there are low barriers to participation. Oh . . . and they just got $5 million from Syncom Venture Partners.

My Take

ALikeList looks great and easy to use. It also offers SMBs with an online CRM which is valuable.

But since

a). recommendations occur offline as well as online

b). they are based on trust;

c). trust is found in relationships; and

d). the social Web is all about relationships, their approach leaves me with obvious questions.

Is AlikeList built on the foundation of members’ social graphs? Or, like on other “Web 2.0″ local search sites, are relationships treated more like an “add-on” than the starting point?

Can ALikeList capture & facilitate "offline" as well as "online"? Maybe their mobile app will facilitate this.

They may be onto something big if they get it right.

- - Tim

About Greg Sterling - Greg Sterling is the founding principal of Sterling Market Intelligence (SMI), a consulting and research firm focused on the Internet’s influence on offline consumer purchase behavior. He also is a Senior Analyst for Internet2Go, an advisory service from Opus Research tracking the evolution of the mobile Internet.

Before SMI, Sterling ran The Kelsey Group’s Interactive Local Media program. Prior to The Kelsey Group, Sterling was at TechTV where he helped produce “Working the Web,” a national television show on e-business and the Internet. Before that he was a founding editor and executive producer at And prior to joining AllBusiness, Sterling was a practicing attorney in San Francisco.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Your Social Media ROI

Starting with 'the end' in mind is always good advice. And 'the end' for all business people is a favorable return.

Kathy Hokunson of SiteSeeker lays out a clear and complete primer for anyone considering the use of social media in their business. Follow Kathy on Twitter -

When I start discussing work with my friends and family and they discover what I do, the conversation always turns to social media and people start to challenge me. I get questions like: “You spend time on Twitter? Really? Why?” and “Isn’t it a complete waste of time?” or “How do you know it’s worth it?” When I start to explain why I am fully engaged with Social Media and what has occurred because of it, they really start to listen. So I decided to share my ROI; what I consider to be the top 10 things that have happened to me as a result of twitter.

1) People. Friendships and business connections. Through Tweetups or Tweetcrawls (where local twitter people gather together to network, IRL) I have met some awesome people, incredible professionals, and gained a strong respect for the community of peers I interact with.

2) New Places. Through my husband’s (@ScottHokunson) Horticulture twitter community we went on a Tweetup to the Innisfree Gardens in Millbrook, NY. It was a beautiful place and I met incredibly talented horticulture and garden people.

3) Business. Business opportunities have been referred to me by people I met through twitter and Tweetups. Yes BUSINESS OPPORTUNITIES!!

4) Education. Keeping ahead of my industry. By engaging with those I follow and following those who lead this industry, I have been lead to information and resources that otherwise may have never fallen in my lap. It has helped me to be a stronger and better professional for my clients.

5) Resources. I have developed resources to which I can refer my clients when what they need is outside of my scope of services.

6) Promotion. The ability to effectively promote my events and drive traffic to them. We have had better attended seminars and webinars because of our use of Social Media.

7) Growth. 10 months ago Site-Seeker, Inc. was a company that was completely unknown in the Connecticut / Massachusetts market - no revenue and no clients. We are now a known competitor with a strong reputation, a significant account base, and solid revenue and we utilized social media to help introduce ourselves here.

8) Community Service. Fundraising has been undertaken on a whole new level. Suzi Craig and Lisa Davenport put together a significant fundraiser for Operation Home for the Holidays in under three weeks. With the participation and support of local celebrities – Ann Nyberg & Damon Scott and the twitter community, their one day event raised 12,000 to help bring home CT National Guard troops for this coming holiday break. It was thrilling to be a part of such an incredible event and to be of service to our community.

9) Services. I was in need of a new head shot and avatar. Thanks to Seshu and my interaction with him on twitter, I finally had that done. It was an awesome experience to work with such a professional photographer and it has added a new level of professionalism to my social media profiles and my events pages for our seminars and webinars. (By the way, if you need a good photographer check out @picseshu !)

10) People. Okay I know this is a repeat but you always start and finish with the best. Truly the best part of social media is the people you meet and interact with, and the caliber of these people is top notch - and yes you really do interact both in cyperspace and IRL (in real life).

When people challenge me about the time I am “wasting” on social media, it is easy to show them how it is one of the best uses of time today to promote your company and your brand, to develop authority and become a trusted name in your industry. To me, the ROI is easy to measure.

So, what is on your top 10 social media list?

My Take

Great points, Kathy.

Twitter IS people - real people you can find and connect with.

The coolest thing about this, IMO, is the direct access you can quickly and easily establish with industry and thought leaders.

Social media knocks down walls.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Spread the Holiday Cheer!

A consumer tip for your busy shopping season: Word-of-mouth is your best source for value and trustworthy products and services. It's also the most effective form of advertising for merchants and service providers.

Word-of-mouth starts with your trusted relationships -not randomly or in a vacuum.

So why do Web-based “local” search sites ignore your relationships? How come you cannot start with your network of friends to locate the service providers they trust?

This is where begins - in the trusted conversation between you and a neighbor or co-worker when someone says, “You gotta call ...”

Powered by the Web, makes word-of-mouth more effective at helping you find and refer trusted businesses. And it does good, too.

So spread the holiday cheer along with the good news that can raise money for your favorite charity each time you use it. When talking with friends about snow removal, chiropractors, insurance agents – or even the weather – remember to mention (And please share this on your Facebook wall! :-)

Good referrals. Doing good.

- - Tim

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Web 2.0 Start-ups Continue to Emerge in the Local Space

Excerpted from Jason Kincaid's 11/25/09 article

Last month we saw the
launch of TechCrunch50 winner RedBeacon, the startup that lets you book local service providers directly from the web. Today it's getting some strong competition from a new startup called Thumbtack, a local service booking engine that's looking to offer both a comprehensive directory of providers and a greater degree of trust than you can find elsewhere.

Featurewise, Thumbtack is a mix between RedBeacon, Yelp, and OpenTable. Like RedBeacon, it lets you sign onto the site and issue a request for a service, which service providers can then bid on. But Thumbtack also offers provider profiles, where these providers can list some of their specialties and price points. There's also a section where you can book a service directly from a profile page as you would on OpenTable, complete with an availability calendar.

One of the biggest issues with local services like Thumbtack is the chicken-and-the-egg problem. These sites generally launch with a relatively small number of services, which means that users can have a hard time finding what they need (and without users, providers have little incentive to join the site).

If a service provider is licensed they can post that in their profile, which Thumbtack will verify for free. Thumbtack is also giving providers a handful of premium verification options. Providers who successfully pass these checks are rewarded with badges on their profile pages, giving users more confidence in their service.

Thumbtack is offering its service nationwide beginning today, but as with RedBeacon their primary focus is the Bay Area, with plans to expand down the road.

Thumbtack is doing a lot of things right with its site - I particularly like the idea of having providers verified through background checks, which helps differentiate it from sites like Angie's List, Craigslist, and RedBeacon (which lets providers display their licenses but doesn't do background checks). That said, Thumbtack faces the same challenges that RedBeacon will have. For one, it's going to have to train users to turn to their computers rather than their yellow pages for these local services. And while 10,000 businesses is a good start, it's going to take a long time for the service to build up a robust community of users and reviews. The background checks are a nice touch, but they don't do much for helping users discern which providers offer a high quality service.

For another service that's taking a different approach to matching users with trustworthy service providers, check out
Workstir, which provides suggestions based on your social graph.

My Take

Jason is right on with his "chicken and egg" analogy. Networks need critical mass to get traction - and traction to achieve critical mass.

The name brand, free social & local sites (CraigsList, Facebook, MySpace) have driven this process by offering unique value and exciting their users. AngiesList, in a slightly different category, charges consumers to subscribe and seems to be spending quite a bit on advertising. It does not appear to be built on a social foundation, so not sure if it's truly "Web 2.0".

Sites that build their functionality around their members' social networks have the greatest chance of facilitating and leveraging genuine trust to drive commerce.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Social Media: Getting Down to Business

Excerpted from "Why Social Media Purists Won’t Last" by Jason Falls

Social media purists have laid down the law and, so, to participate in social media as a business, you must do things like, “participate in the conversation,” “engage your customers,” and “talk with us not to us.”

I’ve got news for you. In the world of business, all that talk will get you exactly nowhere. Conversations do not ring the cash register. Engagement does not sell more product. Talking with people just means you have to take time to listen which prevents you from spending valuable time selling more product.

I am trying to make a point all the social media evangelists out there need to grow up and face: If you don’t stop selling the fluff and start driving the bottom line, you’re going to have to go back to whatever you were doing in 2005.

I’m all for your principles. I’m a big fan of The Cluetrain’s “markets are conversations,” notion. But I can promise you a conversation never paid the damn electric bill.

Make your company blog drive search results to the keywords you want to win. Present calls to action that lead your Facebook fans to buy your product. Entice Twitter followers to subscribe to your e-mail newsletter where you can present similar calls to action for purchase.

Share your content, engage your audiences, talk your talkity talk all you want. But walk the walk, too. Move the needle. And not the UV meter on your virtual stereo, grasshopper. Move the one that makes the cha-ching sound.

My Take

Sure - businesses look to the bottom line. And if social media does not bring in revenue it will quickly be deemed a waste of time and money.

Social media is rapidly evolving. New approaches are yet to be developed that will generate measurable sales from SM relationships and online/offline word-of-mouth. Businesses that adapt will enjoy increased customer loyalty. And they will enjoy dividends as new technologies are introduced and as more purchases are influenced by social media.

The Web and Web-based commerce will only become more and more social. The social Web will impact B2B and B2C advertising by supporting trust and connectedness.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Consumers Open to Online Referrals - But Of Course...

Consumers More Willing To Share Brand Info On Social Networks Than Previously Thought

Excerpted from Laurie Sullivan 11/6/2009 article

...Nearly half of people who saw a brand's name on Twitter went to a search engine to look for the product, compared with 34% on any social network. That's according to a joint study released Thursday by Performics, the marketing arm of Publicis Groupe's VivaKi Nerve Center, and ROI Research, an analytics and technology firm.

Performics Marketing Senior Vice President Michael Kahn says. "Being in a social network is like going to someone's barbecue. People are talking about the experiences of their lives. The sharing experience that happens in the physical world also happens in the social."

Among survey respondents, 30% admitted to learning about a product, service or brand on a social network site. Twenty-seven percent say they remain receptive to receiving invitations for events, special offers or promotions from advertisers through the sites, and 25% admit to going directly to an online retailer or ecommerce site after learning about a product or service on Facebook, Twitter or another social site.

The study found that 44% of people have recommended a product on Twitter, and 39% have discussed a product on Twitter. Facebook skewed a bit higher. Forty-six percent of respondents say they would talk about or recommend a product on Facebook.

"Consumers are open to asking about brands, sharing information and taking action on information they get from social networks," Kahn says.

My Take

Social media is on a fast track to be the top source of local information. Because of its power to track and mine consumers' trust levels, social media will leave other forms of advertising in the dust.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

You Should Take This Style Advice From A Nerd

Thursday, October 22, 2009
Trust Is The New Black
Excerpted from OnlineSpin article by Dave Morgan

Trust is the new black. I wish that I could claim credit for coining that phrase, but it was Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist. Earlier this week, Craig penned an opinion piece in The Huffington Post titled " A Nerd's Take on the Future of News Media."

Craig makes the point that news media has lost its way, having squandered the trust of its consumers and having done a poor job "curating" news. With respect to trust, here is what he said and how he used his new phrase: "Trust is the new black, as I like to say. The great opportunity for news organizations is to constructively demonstrate trustworthy reporting, and to visibly do so."

With the rise of social media, the possibilities for more relationships are growing fast and exponentially. This phenomenon is turning marketers' and advertisers' worlds absolutely upside-down.

When consumers have so many different kinds of relationships with so many different people and companies and products and services and ideas, how can any, or many, of them stand out? There is only one answer now: trust.

Trust is the new black. It is too hard for most people to truly distinguish the complex and too-subtle differences of so many tangible and intangible products and services. Consumers need something else. That something else is trust. Trust is finite. Trust is generally based on experience and time. Trust is quite personal. (emphasis mine) A person's trust is something that he or she controls. While it can be won and lost, it cannot be forced or taken or imposed by recipients.

Craig might call himself an amateur when it comes to news media punditry (he does), but he's certainly not. He's right. Trust is the new black.

My Take

"Word of mouth" is all about trust. Period. That's why it's always been the ultimate form of advertising.

Social media can cut through ad clutter by harnessing this trust. As consumers adopt social media based networks to find trusted businesses, other forms of media will rapidly become obsolete.

Small & Medium Sized Businesses Begin to Harness Social Media for Advertising

BIA/Kelsey Study Reports SMBs Turn to Social Media for Advertising

Excerpted from Rajani Baburajan's TMCnet article

A recent study by BIA/ Kelsey analyzes the influence of various social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and MySpace in the marketing activities of SMBs today.

BIA/Kelsey found that there is growing interest among SMBs to leverage the power of social media to improve the business. About 32 percent of SMBs surveyed in the study indicated they plan to include social media in their marketing mix in the next 12 months by using a page on a social site such asFacebook, LinkedIn or MySpace.

Steve Marshall, director of research and consulting, BIA/Kelsey, said, that as local consumers increasingly gravitate to social networks, local businesses understand they need to be part of the conversation. “This opens up a market opportunity for local media companies that offer products and services that enable local advertisers to easily integrate social media into their marketing efforts,” Marshall said.

As the popularity of social media escalates among businesses as well as end users, service providers are looking towards exploiting the opportunity by offering innovative services.

My Take

This is an early, measurable appearance of the wave which will permanently alter the ad mix. As they adopt web-based social media, small businesses will be able to harness the marketing power of their social matrix. They'll be able to increasingly and economically reach customers "where they're at".
  • Effectively - based on referrals from trusted relationships
  • Instantly - communicate and transact in real time with prospective customers; &
  • Measurably - know their advertising ROI
This is "good stuff!"