Here are six trends in 2012 that will impact hyperlocal media and business models. This was originally published at Street Fight last week.
1. Cross platform conversations
Livefyre and Disqus show glimpses of how conversations can move from Facebook and Twitter to online media and blog commentary. Local conversations happening on social media, especially Facebook, simply aren’t crossing over onto local media. Note the interaction on a city community page like San Francisco; it’s huge, but random in topic.
The big opportunity is to organize local conversations that are now happening on, say, the community page above, into topics like sports, culture, movies, things to do, business, family, etc. In 2012, cross platform systems that facilitate community engagement across all social media along these topics will develop. The current best example of local topical engagement is sports media like SBNation and Bleacher Report that encourage sports blogging and fan interaction at the local team level.
2. Influence peddling at a local level
The advent of Klout and other new forms of social influence tabulation mirrors the slow power shift of media influence from traditional to social channels. Anybody with a voice can build a following, and the new business models evolving around influence metrics allow businesses to reward influencers with the hopes of converting them into advocates.
On a national level, social influence has naturally followed the celebrities; Britney, basketball players and Obama come to mind. On a local level, social influence is still up for grabs. Many sports bloggers became part of the SBNation empire simply by being bloggers for their local team. The implied business model is local influencers will attract rewarding opportunities, whether it’s in the form of a media job or simply a perk from a local business wanting to engage them.
The recognition of consumer generated revenue opportunities
A candid consumer recommendation, or a compilation of great Yelp reviews, is far more credible for a business than an advertisement. Local businesses will be able mine and filter local conversations across the social media, and participate in social marketing their services to elicit favorable reactions and revenue opportunities. For example, high school and college students often use Facebook to set Friday night plans. The most influential of them will move crowds, and local businesses, like pizza restaurants and movie theaters, will build relationships with influencers using rewards, loyalty programs, or simply a friendly dialogue.
Startups are developing to provide localized services to filter, monitor and engage consumers on behalf of small business. For example, Needium monitors Twitter for specific keywords and phrases such as “looking for a lunch spot in Union Square”, that signal consumer demand for their local business client, and then converses with Tweeters on behalf of their client. They are basically building a personalized geolocated mobile response system for local marketing.
Local brands move to app development
The rapid adoption to mobile platforms impels brands like Walgreens and Starbucks to create apps specific to the needs of their mobile consumer. Local brands are headed down the same path. Yes, being on Yelp, Foursquare and Google Places provides social visibility but it limits the consumer interaction to just a check-in deal. A local merchant should have its own app complete with loyalty program, special deals, inventory search and topical information that its customers need. Building a mobile app is still beyond the pale of 99.9% of local merchants, and it’s surprising I haven’t seen a startup financed to create turnkey mobile apps for small business.
Emergence of the local social media marketing agencies
The dearth of startups serving local business with mobile app development is indicative of a larger hole to fill: there are still few turnkey social marketing agencies serving the over 4 million small businesses in America. Local business needs turnkey solutions because the resources required to learn, implement and execute a comprehensive social marketing are daunting. 2012 will bring scalable turnkey service companies like Main Street Hub devoted to managing local social marketing for SMBs.
The New Role for Bricks and Mortar
Retailers can’t escape the impact of Amazon Price Checker and Groupon on their business. In-store price checking and daily deals threaten customer retention and profit margins respectively, and they certainly aren’t going away. So how will bricks and mortar remain relevant to, and more importantly, build loyalty from local consumers?
Before social media, the decision to visit a local business was based on personal need. Now, more decisions are based on serendipitous search for things to do, what to eat, where their friends are, and special deals. Bricks and mortar can position themselves to be destinations simply by making sure they are visible, preferably with attractive offers sprinkled here and there, in all the media consumer use to find them. They remain relevant because there are potentially more tangible reasons for people to go out! Foursquare and Yelp check-ins, events planning services like Meetup and Plancast, and mobile location services will be the currency that supplements local traffic to business.