2010 was the year when the next evolution of “local” came of age with the rise of Groupon, mobile applications and geo-localized social networks like Foursquare, SCVGNR, Facebook Places and Gowalla. As I have been saying for four years (already!), all of these came with a very strong “social” component, making social media a game-changer in “local”.
Always a fun exercise, here are my predictions for 2011:
1) The rise of the Social Commercial Graph
I didn’t coin the expression, many people are already talking about this. The idea is, at a basic level, to become the centralized provider of social media presence for small merchants. But it’s also the discovery of connections between merchants and consumers (or even connections between merchants themselves). The theory goes that if you can master and understand those relationship points, you’ll be able to create a lot of value for businesses.
2) The rise of commercial conversations
The openness and egalitarian aspect of a social platform like Twitter creates opportunities for businesses. They can create a presence, start to broadcast information, build a loyal following and monitor what’s being said about them. I’ve found merchant/user conversations so far revolve mostly around customer care issues or favorable mentions. The next evolution is “commercial conversations”, merchants reaching out to consumers in specific situations. Spammers do it in an automated fashion when you mention a keyword. This creates no value for anyone. The smart way to do it is figuring out when it’s appropriate to contact a consumer (when they’re asking a question or expressing a need) and have a human voice. That’s the space we’re trying to crack with Needium.
3) Facebook will start to realize merchants are excluded from the conversation
This is the corollary to the last point. After operating Needium within the Twitter ecosystem, it’s easy to see that the microblog service from San Francisco is a much better communication tool than Facebook for small merchants. In Facebook, merchants create a presence and need to promote that presence outside of Facebook to build their fan base. They can also hope current fans “mention” them in status updates using the @ functionality. They can also buy Facebook ads. All of this is a very passive way of using Facebook when you compare the richness of communication tools available between friends. I suspect Facebook will realize they have this weakness in 2011 and will eventually offer asynchronous follow for friends and businesses.
4) Mobile as a startup within a company
The rapid evolution of the iPhone, the launch of the iPad, the arrival of a multitude of Android Tablets, the new Windows Phone 7 operating system have caused mobile to become a game changer in many local media companies. All directory publishers I’ve talked to about report better search metrics with their mobile applications (vs. the Web). This is a breakthrough opportunity for them but unfortunately, resources are not yet applied at a sufficient level to win the game. Inspired by what Yelp said at the last BIA/Kelsey conference, I expect media companies to start realizing this is really critical and will create a “startup” environment to allow mobile to thrive within a corporate environment.
5) Consolidation in the Yellow Pages industry and in daily offers
Expect directory publishers consolidation in 2011 as the economy starts picking up. I wouldn’t be surprised to see mergers. The same thing will happen in the daily offers (group buying) space.
6) Local expert is the new social media expert
With “local” views being integrated everywhere (blame mobile!), I expect 2011 to see the arrival of hundreds of new “local” experts. Expect social media experts to slowly migrate to “local”. But beware of snake oil. Trust people that were writing and thinking about local before local was cool…
7) Social Media ROI
After a few years of experiment and being told that you can’t measure social media return-on-investment (ROI), expect more pressure this year to prove that social media is delivering tangible results.
8 ) Newspapers will be more successful with daily deals than Yellow Pages
This is based on intuition only but I suspect newspaper companies will drive better revenues out of their daily offers initiatives than directory publishers. The DNA of newspapers ad sales is much closer to the DNA of the group buying ad product: local deals, daily ad product, regular advertiser point of contacts, etc.
9) Facebook will announce their initial public offering (IPO)
As the global economy recovers and stock markets become again a great way to unlock company value, I predict that Facebook going public will be the beginning of the next Internet bubble, the likes we’ve seen in 1996-2001.
10) Cable will have its Napster moment: 2011 will see the emergence of an easy-to-deploy cable-killer combo
We’re getting close to a moment in time when an easy-to-use combo of technology/content/piracy will create a solution good enough to cancel your cable subscription. A good read in Wired on this topic.