With the official sunset of Google Reader yesterday, I thought I'd pay a simple homage with a few stories that have come across my screen in the last few months I've not yet had time to comment on.
The Social Media Reality for SMBs
Small businesses who've done more than dip their toes into the waters of social media appear to be adjusting their expectations of their investment. Several studies have come out indicating that small business owners are spending a lot more time and money on social media, but just aren't seeing a return on that investment, or are finding it ineffective.
As I wrote in December, part of this may be due to the disconnect between why consumers are on social media and why business owners are on social media.
For the business owner, everything is about recruiting possible new customers for their business. Facebook has clearly realized this and in my opinion has the most seamless advertising product of any major platform, but no matter how easy or cheap Facebook makes their advertising, for the vast majority of businesses social media is never going to be the most effective digital channel for new customer acquisition.
The Local Reality of Facebook
Having said that, I'm incredibly bullish on Facebook's prospects in Local, much more so than most of my Local U colleagues. The releases of Graph Search and Hashtags demonstrate that the company is finally starting to realize the potential of the search experience augmented by the best social input layer on the web.
Facebook is already the #2 app behind Google Maps for mobile local business searches and they haven't even pushed Graph Search very hard yet from a UI perspective. They're quickly emerging from their slumber to become the (only serious?) challenger to Google's dramatically improved local search experience in the last two years.
On that note, I'm really surprised I haven't seen more examples here in Portland of local business groups pooling their social efforts to reach even wider audiences. Both First Thursday and the Pearl District Business Association have mildly popular pages, but typically there are many thousands of people at these events, not just many hundreds. If you're involved with a local Chamber or business group, regular postings on behalf of individual members should be a no-brainer as part of your member visibility value-add.
As this ReadWrite article highlights, Foursquare seems to be flailing a little these days. I predicted at the beginning of the year that the service would be acquired in 2013 -- Yahoo was a leading candidate, but their big bet now appears to be Tumblr.
Prior to 2013, I was a very casual Foursquare user and have consciously experimented with more active usage this Spring. The app is definitely more enjoyable than I'd initially given it credit for, and I've since discovered that many of my hardest-core techie friends use it as their primary social network.
But I'm still at a loss for a sustainable revenue model. Selling geofenced ads to SMBs seems like a no-brainer but I question the number of zeroes that will generate, given Foursquare's fairly limited reach and time-sensitive audience. I really enjoy Foursquare & hope it continues to succeed, but with payment processors like Square and Levelup quickly gaining adoption among popular retailers--the sweetspot of Foursquare venues on both the SMB and consumer sides--I worry that the service is going to get squeezed on its primary differentiator: ability to "close the loop" for SMBs based on in-store visits.
A Slick New Website Creator
If you're an agency a) offering fairly low-end optimization packages b) without much design expertise, I'd encourage you to check out Barley. I happened to come across it in a TechCrunch article a few weeks back & it's the biggest advance in website creation I've seen since WordPress. Basically, you log in, choose a theme, create your site, and hand it off to the client. Any edits can be performed on the fly, on live versions of the pages you've created. Seems super-easy for business owners/clients who only need a few-page website to update themselves.
A Fabulous Piece on Local Content Generation
One of the most common questions we're asked by agencies and national brands at our Advanced Local U events is how to scale content generation across dozens, hundreds, or thousands of stores. Though geared primarily towards hyperlocal media outlets, this article from StreetFight's Stephanie Miles gives some great tidbits to get those creative juices flowing.
Well, that's it for this month -- now it's back to work on the 2013 edition of the Local Search Ranking Factors survey, which I hope to publish later this month. Hope everyone has a great Fourth of July!