The courtship of social networking and local search will result in a marriage that diversifies the mix of sales tools and empowers circles of families, friends, co-workers and organizations to share experiences and opinions in the local search space.
For a number of years, consumers have had a collective, powerful online voice through ratings and reviews. That voice continues to grow and has never been more powerful thanks to social media. Now, small businesses must learn how to harness “local-social search” or risk missing important growth opportunities.
Social networking has taken ratings and reviews to the next level by giving them a real influence on a local scale. Early local-social search products like Yelp raised the bar. Now Twitter, Facebook and Google’s new local-social search efforts are fortifying the movement. Google recently launched Place Pages, which will aggregate reviews, photos, details and maps. Also, Google Maps recently integrated a user review feature, and Yahoo! Local modified its relevance engine to include review content in its index.
And so it goes. Mobile search has mutated into mobile-local-social search. Some local search destinations have recently launched user-generated content. YellowBot, for example, offers local search results based on networking and tagging. Unique users? One million since March.
While Yelp catered to foodies, and vice versa, should we expect to see such social network forums for florists, dog groomers, hair salons, doctors, etc.? I’d say, most certainly.
Internet Yellow Pages (IYPs) are adding a social aspect to ride the wave and continue to provide up-to-date local content. Idearc has even announced a Twitter feature for SuperPages. Social networking companies are providing local-social search platforms targeted to their unique audience demographics. For advertising and product marketing, local-social search enhances the ability to promote products and identify micro-target markets. And for business listings, local-social search provides a fundamental change in how listing information is collected.
User-generated content not only enhances the local-social search experience, it changes the game. And local search companies not embracing social search are ignoring an important avenue in how local information will be found today and tomorrow.
As local business information becomes less static through the partnership of social networking and local search, businesses must take advantage of the growing and ever-changing environment to help consumers and businesses connect in meaningful ways, whether it’s Facebook or Twitter, or new platforms that have yet to be launched.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.