April 9, 2013
As you probably know if you read this blog and follow me on Twitter, I’ve been thinking about local commerce, local search and discovery for the last 13 years. That means thinking how to create a better match between consumers and local businesses.
I’ve been following with high interest the rise of vertical peer-to-peer marketplaces like Airbnb and I finally had the chance to try the service a few weeks ago when we reserved a Florida house for a family vacation. As you probably all know, Airbnb offers homeowners the opportunity to rent their home or a room to tourists. You can build a very detailed profile and the site relies on strong identity checks and reviews to build up trust. After doing a lot of research, we finally settled on a house that seemed adequate for our family and it had 16 glowing reviews from strangers. Owner was extremely friendly in all his communications and we were looking forward to a well-deserved vacation.
When we arrived, the house was a little more rundown than expected (be aware that “rustic” has an interesting meaning in real estate) but nothing that we haven’t seen before, as we travel a lot in North America and Europe, and we’ve seen a wide variation of accomodation quality. I’ll skip the next two days for the sake of brevity but sadly, we had to take the decision to leave the house earlier than planned. We found too many ants and saw three roaches-like bugs over a 48-hours period in the house. The solution would have been to spray the house with repellent but we feared that this could be harmful to our toddler. I realize that Florida sometimes brings its lot of “domestic” insects but for the price we were paying, we felt it wasn’t worth it. This house wasn’t for us. We thought of complaining to Airbnb but, according to their policies, they require photos and we didn’t take any (it’s not the first thing you think about when you’re in a hurry to leave a place!) We lost our money and rented a hotel room for the rest of our stay. All in all, a very disappointing experience.
My local search mind started thinking feverishly (or maybe it was the hot Florida weather?): given that it’s probably a recurring problem in that house, why is it that, in 16 reviews, nobody mentioned ants and roaches?
Were they fake reviews? No, I don’t think so.
Were people ok with bugs? Maybe that’s a possibility, although I highly doubt everyone is fine with bugs (you just need to Google for the word cockroach in TripAdvisor)
And that’s when it hit me. In Airbnb, you deal with individuals, not faceless corporations. Tenants might be more hesitant to leave a negative comment about a fellow human being. There is a reason social media experts have been saying to corporations they need to have a human face and voice. It keeps the conversation more cordial. In addition, tenants and owners can review/rate each other, which means a negative rating from an owner can prevent you from possibly renting a house ever again on Airbnb.
Turning to eBay, the grand-daddy of marketplaces, I also realized that reviews from strangers in a peer-to-peer marketplace eventually become meaningless. You can read many complaints about that on the web. In a review site, what’s often missing is a like-mindedness filter, to let you know if people have the same taste as you. Yelp has that same problem.
I also realized that Airbnb is going after a vertical (hotels) that is more complex emotionally than many local purchases:
- Vacation = positive moment in life. You mess up my vacation, I’m mad.
- Dollar amount is bigger. I make a bad choice, I’m mad.
In addition, the hotel ecosystem comes with basic standard:
- You know brands stand for something, a level of quality. Sheraton, Hilton, Best Western.
- There is also a standard 5-star system, where in effect you can opt-in to lower quality (and lower prices) with full knowledge.
It also got me thinking about trust and social media. Ken Larson on Quora says:
“We really do not know who to really trust. To an extraordinary degree the age in which we live is requiring us to redefine trust and the degree to which communication and expectation contribute to it. Consider simpler times a few years past (say 50). Trust was necessary in many venues as a means of survival on a day to day basis. We relied on others extensively for our well being from our local store to our banker, from the policeman to the politician. And we knew them all better, we could reach out and touch them and we were not viewing them in sound bites and web sites, nor were we being bombarded with multiple forms of input to digest about them.”
Through all these reflections, I came up with an equation for trust. To have trust in an ecosystem, you need:
- A strong brand (can be an umbrella brand or an individual brand)
- Real identities (everyone uses real names and pictures)
- Detailed Descriptions
- Solid knowledge about local prices (being able to compare prices for same level of quality)
- Social graph (friends or friends of friends have bought the product/service)
- Detailed enforced standards via a certification program
Looking at this list, Airbnb is executing perfectly on almost all criteria except for one: standards. Airbnb has “host obligations” but I don’t think anyone is really enforcing those. Did you know BestWestern has a 30-page standards book you need to respect if you want to be a franchisee? Without solid standards and a certification program, I won’t be going back to Airbnb. They currently have a great brand, but they’re putting that brand at risk every day.
Update 1: less than 30 minutes after I posted this online, I was contacted by Airbnb to discuss my case.
November 10, 2011
I moderated a panel yesterday at the Local Social Summit on the real-time Web and its impacts on the Local/Social space. Details here.
Don’t have much time to write a long post but one of the key insights that came out of the panel was:
Main benefit of the real-time Web for consumers: convenience. You get your needs/wants answered in quasi real-time, you live a more efficient life, etc.
Main benefit of the real-time Web for businesses: differentiation. It’s difficult for businesses to adapt to the demand of the real-time Web but those that will might be able to build a strong business on that differentiating factor.
November 2, 2011
I recently shared with a potential Needium partner the volume of local tweets we’re indexing daily in major (and some smaller) North American cities.
Atlanta, GA: 709,427
Austin, TX: 116,756
Calgary, AB: 60,603
Cary, NC: 153,315
Charlotte, NC: 171,001
Chicago, IL: 712,399
Cincinnati, OH: 110,975
Columbus, OH: 221,920
Commack, NY: 116,145
Creve Coeur, MO, 43,829
Denver, CO: 172,762
Des Moines, IA: 28,702
Fort Lauderdale, FL : 118,670
Indianapolis, IN: 224,871
Laguna Beach, CA: 58,186
Long Beach, CA: 113,404
Los Angeles, CA: 1,126,143
Miami, FL: 509,411
New York (Metro): 2,746,757
Ontario, CA: 59,705
Phoenix, AZ: 230,260
Redondo, CA: 66,490
San Bernardino, CA: 36,799
San Francisco, CA: 354,707
St. Louis, MO: 255,415
Tampa, FL: 125,341
Toronto, ON: 546,470
Vancouver, BC: 173,340
Washington DC: 551,126
West Palm Beach, FL: 31,665
London, UK (Central): 60,128 (more than 1M tweets per day when you index the greater London metro area)
Paris, France: 346,197
Remember: these are tweets PER DAY per city. As you can see, those numbers are quite impressive and we’re just starting to scratch the surface in terms of implicit geo-location. We’re adding new geo-clues like neighborhood names, points of interest, foursquare check-ins, etc. to help us increase that volume. And we’re slowly getting to a point where our community managers know what’s going in specific cities and neighborhoods.
As I wrote earlier this year, “With more and more people joining the service, Twitter will discover that its real utility is at the local level. Twitter will become the often-wished for democratic and commercial local space we’ve been expecting since the beginning of the Web. Citizens/consumers, merchants, politicians, and news sources/journalists becoming an intrinsic part of the same communication and relational system.” That’s even truer today as more people are joining Twitter (100M montly active users at last count), people use it more (250M tweets a day) and they geo-localize themselves more.
Dev is probably using crude tools (maybe Twitter Search?) to retrieve the info and he’s starting to see “local” value. Imagine when we’ll be able to surface that information in a much more substantial way!
The same day, Mark Suster (a VC who invested in Twitter) wrote “We Have Only Scratched the Surface of the True Value of Twitter. Here’s What You’re Missing“. He starts by explaining that there’s more to Twitter than “what am I eating for lunch?”. As my readers know, I wrote a whole presentation on “why you should care what @joepublic had for lunch” but that’s another story…
Mark goes on to talk about Identity, Object Communications, Predictive Data, and Augmented Data. A couple of quotes stood out for me:
“I believe that Twitter is becoming the most interesting and predictive dataset in the world and that every large company (and many small ones) will consume the Twitter stream in order to gain insights, determine actions to take and gain competitive advantage.”
“The future of data interpretations will be augmented. We will look at both the steam and the “meta stream.” We will want to augment with: location, demographics, affiliations, authority by subject area, gender, topical interests and a whole lot more.”
That’s it. That’s what makes Twitter such a powerful communication tool and even though, as the Wall Street Journal writes this morning “Web companies often upend industries but they can labor for years to fully make money on their revolutions”, social networking revenue is growing (eMarketer predicts this morning that “Worldwide social network ad revenues will surpass $8 billion in 2012 and approach $10 billion by 2013″) and will rocket past many online ad categories. As for Twitter, I believe they will find monetization success through local advertising. It’s too good an opportunity to pass.
I will be moderating a panel on day one of the next Local Social Summit happening in London on November 9 and 10 (it’s a two-day event this year). The panel is titled The Right Place At The Right Time: How The Real-Time Web Influences The “local” World.
Its description: The rise of the real-time Web is well documented.Propelled by both the social networking revolution and mobile device ubiquitousness, we’re seeing the birth of new user services and business opportunities. In this panel, we will explore the time element in the local/social Web and will try to discover what kind of content works well in real-time, what are the benefits for consumers and what kind of business models can be deployed to leverage the
- Ryan Mac Jones, Founder at We&Co
- David Ambrose, Mobile Lead at Travelzoo
- Phil Leggetter, Developer Evangelist at Pusher
- Stefano Diemmi at Proximitips/Buongiorno
On day two, I’m also on a panel titled Can Social Media Be Outsourced? headed by Jonathan Ewert from Codero. I’m looking forward to that discussion as well!
It should be an excellent conference with speakers from Yelp, Foursquare, European Directories, Decarta, Mueller-Medien, the BBC, in addition to Greg Sterling, Dennis Yu and Perry Evans.
The organizers have provided me with a 20% discount to my readers but I hear there are less than 20 tickets left. So, hurry up if you want to join us. I will be in London the whole week. If you want to meet, ping me at seb AT needium.com.
September 27, 2011
Flick picture by disoculated
Yesterday, I gave an interview to the Globe & Mail about Canada’s Yellow Media / Yellow Pages Group, the incumbent directory publisher and my former employer (I worked there from 1999 to 2007). Even with the challenges they’re facing, I’m still a fan of the company (and of the industry in general) but the interview gave me the opportunity to put in writing what I think are the core strategic imperatives today for any directory publisher, not just Yellow Media. The list won’t surprise anyone in the industry but it’s always good to remind ourselves what they are.
- Change the culture. “Internet culture” must truly permeate every aspect of the organization. Concepts like speed of execution, innovation, quick iterations, coopetition, risk-taking, failing fast must become second nature (other people on Twitter & Google+ suggested “internet culture” also meant constant learning, openness, willingness to help each other out, adaptability to constant change, sharing, crowdsourcing, diversity, immediacy, learning, and expectation of access)
- The sales force. I believe the sales force is now the major asset of all directory publishers and this sales force needs to be able to sell print directory products as well as a variety of online products including third-party ones like Google AdWords or Facebook advertising. This means recruiting and training are critical success factors. I use to believe the brand was a major asset but not anymore.
- Reinvent the Print. I still believe print business directories have legs and they won’t die tomorrow (and by the way, stop it with “Yellow Pages are dead” please, nothing ever dies, it just becomes niche). Even I still use the neighborhood book once in a while. But the book needs to be reinvented to become more locally relevant, more about the consumer. As Francis Barker (SVP at Dex Media at the time) said in 2004 at a BIA/Kelsey conference, print books design should be influenced by online local search patterns/usage. I’ll add that they now should be influenced by mobile local search/discovery apps. On a related note, book distribution in apartment and office building should be improved to avoid the PR disaster pictures like this.
- Continue investing in the Web. Beef up your dev and product management team, invest in R&D, try things. Facebook has shown that you can continue innovating even when you have huge consumer usage and ad revenues.
- Focus on mobile. The Web is extremely fragmented and some players like Google and Facebook have managed to capture gigantic market shares. There’s probably a bigger opportunity to support the franchise by focusing on mobile and launching various vertical apps. Directory publishers need to invest and build up their mobile team and technology.
- Get serious about social media. I’m obviously biased because of the work I’m doing on Needium, but the time for experiments in social media is over. This is serious business now both from a consumer and an advertiser point of view.
Am I forgetting anything?
September 19, 2011
Commenting on a recent Google+ story on Techcrunch, Robert Scoble wrote : “I believe Google+ is all about protecting its search business. It is scared that Facebook is going to become a search engine. It already sort of is. A lot of people are moving behaviors over to Facebook that they used to do in search. Instead of Googling “sushi san francisco” we’ll just ask our friends “hey, where’s the best sushi in San Francisco.”
What it means: Looking at this through the filter of the consumer purchase decision process (see below), this is extremely significant. By expressing needs/problems in social media and having people/companies come to them with solutions, consumers bypass “search” and go straight to purchase. This is a serious threat to companies like Google who have built a huge ad business based on search.
August 24, 2011
Facebook announced yesterday that they “are phasing out the mobile-only Places feature“, a check-in service that was introduced one year ago, and replacing it with the ability to add location to status updates, photos or wall posts. As the announcement says: ” Now you can add location to anything. Lots of people use Facebook to talk about where they are, have been or want to go. Now you can add location from anywhere, regardless of what device you are using, or whether it is a status update, photo or Wall post.” As Techcrunch adds, “Starting this week, you’ll be able to easily associate location with any update, even if you’re nowhere near the location.”
Another big change, again explained by Techcrunch: “Another location-related change: Facebook now prompts users to include a city-level location tag with all of their updates (for example, if I wrote this from New York City, it would prompt me to include that with a status update). You can disable this if you aren’t interested, but city-level location probably won’t present a huge privacy issue for most people.”
What it means: A couple of thoughts: it completely makes sense that Facebook now enables location data to be attached to a shared message. Twitter does the same. Location is a data payload of a status update the same way a URL accompanies one. I also like the idea that most status updates on Facebook will now be geo-tagged at the city level. A huge amount of locally-relevant content will therefore be available for consumption by users but also by Facebook API developers.
As for the disappearance of the check-in, two prevalent thoughts are expressed by experts and pundits. Most people agree that it either means Foursquare has won or that check-ins are useless. I think the answer is probably in-between. On a side note, this report (.pdf) published by White Horse and titled “Lost in Geolocation: Why Consumers Haven’t Bought It and How Marketers Can Fix It” generated four key findings:
- Location-based services have not yet reached the tipping point.
- The chief barriers today are a lack of clear benefit and privacy fears.
- Users are mostly young, active contributors to social networks.
- Marketers will need to create and test new geolocation experiences that are not generic but relevant to a particular brand and audience.
From a volume point of view, Facebook had managed to capture a solid number of check-ins vs. Foursquare. I’m a Facebook Places Editor which allows me to quickly see cumulative check-ins for some places. In Montreal, for example,
- Helm (bar/brewery) has 341 check-ins on Facebook and 502 on Foursquare.
- Hotel Le Crystal has 756 check-ins on Facebook and 351 on Foursquare
- Centre des Sciences de Montreal (Science Museum) has 851 check-ins on Facebook and 715 check-ins on Foursquare
- Brit & Chips (restaurant) has 342 check-ins on Facebook and 439 on Foursquare
Obviously, the sheer size of Facebook usage in Canada makes those numbers quite small (it probably should be 100 times more to be proportionate with Foursquare’s traffic) , but still people were doing the check-ins. Since I acquired my latest smart phone (a Samsung Galaxy S2), I’ve been finding myself doing more check-ins on Facebook than on Foursquare, probably because the friends I want to share my location with are already on Facebook. I’m going to make a prediction: expect the check-in to come back in one form or another on Facebook in the near future.
From a Needium point of view, we’ve found check-ins to be an excellent way to prove that a conversation leads to a conversion/sale/visit. So, we definitely like check-ins as a concept!
One last thought: the fact that Facebook wants you to add locations about “where they are, have been or want to go” reminds me of the past, present, and future concept I discussed in my temporal Web presentation. I wonder if they will start exploring this concept further?
This blog has been extremely quiet in the last 6 months and there’s an excellent reason for that. Turns out it’s much more work operating a company that’s successful than one that’s not! Six months ago, Needium, our social media lead generation service officially came out of beta and it became the sole focus of our company. With a full-team in place (currently at 16), we’ve started conquering the local/social space. But before we talk about where we are now, after 6 months, let’s go back a bit in time to explain the insights that lead to the creation of the service.
When I joined Yellow Pages Group (YPG) in 1999 (actually, its ancestor Bell ActiMedia), one of the first things I learned, talking to an experienced sales manager was that, the biggest competitor to Yellow Pages was actually word-of-mouth, that small merchants get most of their referrals through personal recommendations. At the time, it served as a great answer to show there was indeed “competition” in the business directory space but it wasn’t a real threat (yet!).
That thought stuck with me as we saw the arrival of new social media sites like LinkedIn. I was one of the early adopters in late 2003 (user #46,750 in fact) and I started using the site as a rolodex, adding all my contacts in there. When I quickly reached 200 direct contacts (I’m now close to 2000), I discovered that LinkedIn had become extremely useful in my role as head of online business development at YPG. I could reach out to almost anyone working in the Internet industry and it proved very convenient many times.
I realized that there was something bigger in this nascent social media space. If you could assemble a network of contacts readily available at your fingertips, you were really building this huge word-of-mouth network that you could use to ask any questions, find answers, connect with people, get recommendations and interact with brands and businesses.
In the summer of 2006, when I first met with my co-founders Sylvain Carle and Harry Wakefield (who left the company in 2009), we knew something big would be happening at the intersection of local and social. We set out to build technology to capture, aggregate, structure and make sense of local content being generated in social media, hereby creating value for local media companies and/or local advertisers. Over the years, we developed core technology expertise in local questions & answers, real-time local search and real-time local content which would become the backbone of Needium.
Early 2010, I was fascinated by reputation management software but felt these technologies were too reactive for most small businesses. I’ll oversimplify but with reputation management, you wait until someone express an opinion about your brand/business, the technology detects it and you reactively jump in to thank the person or try to solve a problem. This is not how small merchants see the world. Small merchants are proactive; they’re always promoting their business. They’re not sitting on the sidelines waiting for people to comment on them. They want to engage consumers; they distribute leaflets on the streets, they offer samples in grocery stores, they give away their business cards in networking events. Why would small merchants behave differently in social media?
Another key insights that lead to Needium was all those questions publicly being asked in social media (take a look at one of my 2008 post for an early look at that insight). You’ve all seen them: “Can anyone recommend a North East photographer for a wedding on Sat 27th August?” or “Can anyone recommend a cool/modern or cosy/lovey hotel in Berkeley, CA?”.
Thinking about local search and Yellow Pages usage, we started thinking about those explicit needs but also about life events and situations that trigger an implicit need. You’ve seen those as well. “I need to eat .. I’m hungry”, “Well Since My Laptop Got Stolen Guess I’ll Get A Macbook Or iPad .”. Taken all together, this means that, every day, millions of needs are expressed by consumers in social media. These represent a huge amount of potential leads for local businesses. Yet, very few of these needs get acknowledged or answered. What if businesses could quickly identify local leads that are relevant to them? Could they convert those into real customers? And this is where Needium steps in. We’ve created this short video to clearly explain what we do. Watch it before you continue reading this blog post.
Needium is a customer discovery service that monitors, identifies new local business opportunities in real-time based on expressed explicit and implicit needs found in Twitter. These opportunities are surfaced in a dashboard where Needium community managers select which consumers to engage with and we do that using the merchant’s own social media presence. Needium is invisible in the whole process.
Basically, with Needium,
- We create the social media presence of a merchant if they don’t have one (Twitter and occasionally Facebook and Foursquare)
- We identify business opportunities in social media for them
- We engage in conversations with potential consumers
- We transform those conversations into sales.
- We listen and reply to existing consumers.
Our retail price for the service is $150 per month, no set-up fees.
Using hundreds of keywords and expressions, our semantic formulas surface relevant tweets based on merchant categories (restaurants, hotels, bars, auto dealers, plumbers, etc.). We currently cover 88 business categories in 73 cities in North America. Altogether, we cover 197,548 Km2 of North American metropolitan areas.
We currently have 300+ advertisers using Needium and are growing at 30% per month in the last few months. We’ll reach a thousand advertisers by the end of the year. Our sales strategy uses a two-pronged approach. First, a small local sales force in Montreal has enabled us to quickly build up revenues but most of all, it has allowed us to refine the sales process iteratively.
That’s key because our core sales and distribution strategy is executed via large-scale local media sales channels. We have a white-label platform and processes and a wholesale price based on volume. Reseller either bundle the service within an existing offer allowing them to increase share of wallet by having a solid proactive social media solution or as a standalone service. Eight sales channels are presently reselling the white-label version of our service. That includes four large North American local media publishers who have started reselling the service in the last 8 weeks and we’re starting to see some explosive sales from a few of them.
We’ve pitched the service to hundreds of potential advertisers, sales channels and venture capitalists. Here are the most frequently recurring questions about our business:
Q: Right now, you’re mostly focused on Twitter. Is there enough activity in Twitter to create a robust and scalable lead generation business?
A: Yes. Twitter recently disclosed that they generate 200 million tweets a day. Out of those, in all the cities we cover, we’re indexing 10 million tweets a day (and growing as we expand into new cities).
Q: How do you know if a tweet is “local”? And are there enough “local” tweets?
A: we use implicit and explicit geo-location. Explicit is obvious enough. It’s the location shared by the Twitter user. Implicit is derived by words used in tweets like city names, neighborhoods, points of interest, merchant names and local events. And if you’re wondering about volume of local tweets, these examples are telling:
- Los Angeles: 1 million+ tweets
- London, UK: 1 million+ tweets a day
- Atlanta: 800,000+ tweets per day
- Chicago: 700,000 tweets per day
- Washington, DC: 600,000+ tweets a day
- Toronto: 500,000+ tweets a day
- Boston: 400,000+ tweets per day
Q: Are there enough local needs being expressed?
A: Yes in every B2C business categories. For example, we’ve been able to extrapolate that about 10% to 15% of all local tweets are related to food, entertainment and travel needs. Right there, you find a substantial volume to sustain thousands of advertisers in every large metropolitan area in North America and the UK. Other more specialized categories like dentists for example will see a few hundred leads per day. We are also working on integrating other social networks where “needs” are expressed: Facebook, Yelp, LinkedIn, Foursquare, Localmind, etc. to increase that number even more.
Q: Do small merchants understand what Needium does? Do they require a lot of education?
A: They understand quickly because they already know what Facebook is and they’ve heard of Twitter. They’re often Facebook users through a personal account and understand that Twitter is similar. Most of them don’t have a corporate Twitter presence. We show them in real-time the local opportunities they’re missing out and they understand the need to have a proactive presence. Our direct sales team can close the sale in one meeting if the right decision-maker is in the room.
Q: Is Needium generating return on investment for the advertisers?
A: Yes. Needium helps increase consumer awareness, strengthen loyalty, increase social media follower count and drive store visits and sales. As soon as you can show a few great conversations where consumers say they’re going to come visit you or tweet that they visited following a merchant suggestion, advertisers are extremely happy. Most telling, our churn rate is in the single digit percentage, much lower than other popular online products.
Q: Can you prove that you’ve generated an actual sale?
A: Yes and no. We can anecdotally but we don’t purely sell the product on “leads”. We sell the service on a variety of metrics, number of tweets sent, conversations, number of followers being three key ones for most merchants. Advertisers see the value of the conversations we’re generating but they also see the value of having an active Twitter account and new followers joining month after month. We’ll soon be indexing Foursquare and Facebook check-ins to track actual visits following a Needium conversation but we want to get closer to a pay-for-performance model. We want to explore the pay-per-call model and the pay-per-action model. Is there a pay-per-check-in model in the future? A revenue share on transactions? Maybe.
Q: Don’t consumers think what you’re doing is spam?
A: We’ve sent over 40,000 tweets so far and only a few hundreds have generated a negative reaction. This is much lower than I expected originally. This is key for us as we don’t want to create a product that’s seen as spammy or in a negative light. We want to add value to the ecosystem and even if that number is extremely low, we’ve learned from them and know which situations trigger negative reactions.
Q: How different are you from the hundreds of social media monitoring tools out there?
A: We don’t see ourselves competitive to social media monitoring solutions. We’re focused on “consumer need” discovery, which leads to commercial conversations for our advertisers, something that’s highly monetizable. It certainly has more upside in the long term than pure social media monitoring usually priced at $10 to $50 a month. We’ve shown that the service can sell for $150 per month and a performance-based component will probably bring us higher revenues. My experience with local merchants has shown me that only a small percentage (5%?) will be sophisticated enough (or have the time) to operate social media tools themselves. By partnering with large local media publishers, we’re going after that other 95% who will not buy self-serve and will not operate tools themselves. Finally, through the API we’re developing, we will be able to integrate Needium in any social media monitoring solutions providing instantly the local lead gen portion as a paid service.
Q: Any additional learnings?
- SMB advertisers are hungry for social media solutions tailored for them but they need managed service. For the bulk of SMBs, self-serve still doesn’t work.
- Small merchants can outsource their social media efforts without losing credibility or their voice.
- At the intersection of local and context (need expressed), consumers welcome conversations with businesses.
- B2C works much better than B2B because companies and company owners are not yet expressing corporate needs in social media (although nothing prevents them!).
- Large local media companies sales forces can easily sell Needium
When we set out to pivot Praized Media to Needium last year, we knew we were unto something big. I had created DirectoryPlus at Yellow Pages Group, an online ad product that’s very successful, and I know what a great local ad product feels like. Needium is my next DirectoryPlus. This will be a huge space. Our early success has generated a lot of good buzz. We’ve shown the product works, that advertisers will buy it, that it’s generating ROI, that sales channels can sell it and that it can generate explosive revenue growth. We’re now heading for breakeven and, with the support of our current VC firm, we might not need funding from a new VC. Still, we’ve had meetings in Canada, in Silicon Valley and on the East Coast to see if there’s an opportunity to raise a new round of funding to accelerate our growth. The best compliment we often get is “We’ve never seen this” and “you guys are onto something” (if you’re a VC, you can see our AngelList page here).
In addition, we’re always looking for new sales channels to resell our white-label service. If you’re interested, send us an e-mail at email@example.com. This has been an interesting ride and I’ll try to keep you updated regularly over the next six months.
I’ve been very silent on this blog in the last few weeks but it’s not because of a lack of topics to discuss. With the success we’re having with Needium since our launch in January, I am simply too swamped and busy helping the team scale the company! I have a blog post coming up soon that will talk about our first six months of operations.
As a recap, Needium (www.needium.com) is a social media customer discovery service. Our service monitors Twitter and retrieves local business opportunities based on user needs and life events. Basically, we’re identifying and indexing public local tweets that have an implicit or explicit need expressed such as “I’m hungry”, “My car just broke down” and “Does anyone have a good Phoenix restaurant to recommend?”. We then surface that information in a Web-based dashboard where Needium community managers (yes, humans!) log-in to join conversations on behalf of the merchant (using the merchant’s own Twitter account). We converse with Twitter consumers to convince them to come visit us (us being the small merchant). You can see a 1-minute video explaining what we do here: http://needium.com/video
Needium can definitely amplify consumer awareness, strengthen consumer loyalty, increase social media follower count and drive store visits and sales, but we think Needium can also drive phone calls in some business categories. We would like to test that hypotheses and we’re looking to trial Needium on a pay-per-call basis with a few advertisers. If you or your advertisers already use the pay-per-call model and you’re interested in trialing Needium, I want to hear from you. E-mail me at seb AT needium.com.
Flickr Picture by plenty.r.
Exciting times for Needium! In addition to extremely good traction since we launched the service in January (I’ll eventually blog about that), we were recently selected for the C100 “48hrs in the Valley” event happening next week in San Francisco and Silicon Valley.
In addition to mentoring and a visit to the Facebook HQ, we will have the opportunity to present Needium to selected VCs at their offices and at the Plug and Play Expo.
From the C100 website, “the C100 is comprised of a select group of Canadians based primarily in Silicon Valley, including executives of leading technology companies, experienced startup entrepreneurs and venture capital investors. C100 members are passionate about leveraging their collective experience, expertise and relationships to help mentor and grow a new generation of successful Canadian-led technology companies.”
Sylvain Carle and I are already in San Francisco and Peter Diedrich, our CEO, will join us next week. If you’d like to meet us, shoot me an e-mail at seb AT needium.com