In San Francisco Next Week for the Conversational Commerce Conference

I will be in San Francisco most of the week next week for meetings and also attending Opus Research’s Conversational Commerce Conference. The conference is February 2 and 3 in the city.

Conference description: “Marketing and customer service are on a collision course. Social media now shine a bright light on customer service interactions, which increasingly have brand implications. Customer care can also offer valuable insights for marketing and product development. How many companies are adapting and turning this to their advantage? Still too few as old modes of thinking remain entrenched in organizations. Opus Research’s Conversational Commerce Conference (C3) brings together a diverse array of interested groups and stakeholders to discuss the new social media landscape and its joint impact on marketing and customer care. Beyond showing how these organizations must now collaborate, C3 will offer successful case studies and explore the new rules of engagement as companies deploy social media for marketing, sales and customer support.”

I’m speaking on the “A Parallel Universe: Social CRM for SMBs” panel on Thursday with Brendan King, CEO, Vendasta Technologies, Craig Donato, CEO & Founder, Oodle and Perry Evans, Founder and CEO, Closely, Inc. I’ll be sharing some of the insights we’ve generated since we’ve launched Needium, our social media lead generation service.

I do have a bit of free time on Monday and Tuesday for additional meetings.  I am also available to meet during the conference. If you’d like to connect, please send me an e-mail at seb AT needium.com

Where Will We Be In Five Years?

Mike Boland over at The Kelsey Group’s blog posted highlights of the “The Change Imperative” panel in which I was a participant. I was joined by Geoff Avard, GM, Strategy, Sensis, Perry Evans, President, CEO, Local Matters and Ken Ray, CMO, AT&T Publishing & Advertising.  Every question asked by Charles Laughlin and Neal Polachek started with “In five years, …” and all statements were designed to get a reaction out of the panelists and the attendees.

Examples included:

  • In five years, SEM bid pressure will rise to the point that advertisers will see more value in print advertising.
  • In five years, small businesses will use self service online advertising like AdWords to a much greater degree.
  • In five years, Like many of the rumors that continue to circulate, Google will have bought a yellow pages publisher to gain a direct local sales channel.
  • In five years, no one under 30 will be using the yellow pages.
  • In five years, more listings will be accessed by mobile than on the PC.
  • In five years, what will follow the iPhone as the next big thing?
  • In five years, where will you be?

You can see of our answers in the Kelsey Group blog including the one related to where I think I will be in five years…

What is "The Real Future of Yellow Pages"

Crystal ball

(flickr photo by Napalm filled tires)

I’m happy to announce I will be a panelist at the next Kelsey Group Conference, DMS 2008 . Happening next week in Atlanta, I will be sitting on a panel in the last session of the conference called “The Change Imperative“. I will debate with Geoff Avard, GM, Strategy, Sensis, my friend Perry Evans , President & CEO, Local Matters and Ken Ray, CMO, AT&T Publishing & Advertising “the real future of Yellow Pages. “

The bottom-line question from Kelsey: “What does the long-term future of directional media look like, and what are the respective roles for directory publishers, search engines and other key players?”

Update (from May 2009): I just wrote a post explaining what I think is the future of local media in general.

What it means: I’m honored to be sitting on a panel with distinguished industry luminaries like Geoff, Perry and Ken. This will be fun! I’d like to ask you, the Praized blog readers, what you think is the future of Yellow Pages and directional media. What are the big game changers coming up in the next five years?

What is “The Real Future of Yellow Pages”

Crystal ball

(flickr photo by Napalm filled tires)

I’m happy to announce I will be a panelist at the next Kelsey Group Conference, DMS 2008 . Happening next week in Atlanta, I will be sitting on a panel in the last session of the conference called “The Change Imperative“. I will debate with Geoff Avard, GM, Strategy, Sensis, my friend Perry Evans , President & CEO, Local Matters and Ken Ray, CMO, AT&T Publishing & Advertising “the real future of Yellow Pages. “

The bottom-line question from Kelsey: “What does the long-term future of directional media look like, and what are the respective roles for directory publishers, search engines and other key players?”

What it means: I’m honored to be sitting on a panel with distinguished industry luminaries like Geoff, Perry and Ken. This will be fun! I’d like to ask you, the Praized blog readers, what you think is the future of Yellow Pages and directional media. What are the big game changers coming up in the next five years?

Peter Krasilovsky Confirms Presence on Proposed SXSW Panels

Good news! Peter Krasilovsky (Program Director, Marketplaces, at the Kelsey Group) confirmed to me late Friday night that he would join Greg Sterling, Perry Evans and myself if one of the panels we’re supporting gets selected for the next South by SouthWest Interactive Festival in March 2009.

As I mentioned in a blog post last week, you can make a difference by voting for the two proposed panels:

1) Think Globally, Post Locally: The Emerging Power of Local Voice

2) The Local Search Solution: Context or Accuracy?

Register and vote for the two proposed panels (voting closes on August 29)!

You Can Help Make “Local Search” Matter at SXSWi!

Following my blog post lamenting the fact that there wasn’t a lot of panels on local search at the South by Southwest Interactive Festival, I got pinged by Vinicius Vacanti (Yipit‘s founder) who offered us spots on his proposed local-search themed panel. Earlier today, Chris Tolles, CEO of Topix, who had submitted a conference proposal also offered to turn his bid into a panel as well.

I’ve also lined-up two of my industry peers, Perry Evans (CEO of Local Matters, co-founder of Jabber Inc. and founding President of Mapquest) and Greg Sterling (one of the top local search expert in the world IMHO), who, schedule permitting, will be present with me on at least one of those panels.

This should be fun! Does it mean it’s a done deal? No, because SXSWi is community-driven event. Submitting a panel is just the beginning as people vote on their favorite ones. You, the Praized blog readers, can make a difference and send a message to SXSWi that Local Search matters! Register and vote for the two proposed panels (voting closes on August 29):

1) Think Globally, Post Locally: The Emerging Power of Local Voice

2) The Local Search Solution: Context or Accuracy?

Other ways you can help:

  • Blog about these panels. Invite your readers to vote for them.
  • Tweet the news on Twitter or spread the word on Facebook! Hit your social graph!

You Can Help Make "Local Search" Matter at SXSWi!

Following my blog post lamenting the fact that there wasn’t a lot of panels on local search at the South by Southwest Interactive Festival, I got pinged by Vinicius Vacanti (Yipit‘s founder) who offered us spots on his proposed local-search themed panel. Earlier today, Chris Tolles, CEO of Topix, who had submitted a conference proposal also offered to turn his bid into a panel as well.

I’ve also lined-up two of my industry peers, Perry Evans (CEO of Local Matters, co-founder of Jabber Inc. and founding President of Mapquest) and Greg Sterling (one of the top local search expert in the world IMHO), who, schedule permitting, will be present with me on at least one of those panels.

This should be fun! Does it mean it’s a done deal? No, because SXSWi is community-driven event. Submitting a panel is just the beginning as people vote on their favorite ones. You, the Praized blog readers, can make a difference and send a message to SXSWi that Local Search matters! Register and vote for the two proposed panels (voting closes on August 29):

1) Think Globally, Post Locally: The Emerging Power of Local Voice

2) The Local Search Solution: Context or Accuracy?

Other ways you can help:

  • Blog about these panels. Invite your readers to vote for them.
  • Tweet the news on Twitter or spread the word on Facebook! Hit your social graph!

SXSWi 2009: Local Search? What Local Search? Crickets…

South by SouthWest Interactive (SXSWi), possibly the hippest/coolest Web festival in North America (I attended the 2008 edition), just published the list of potential panels and presentations for its 2009 edition. As some of you might know, a large chunk (30%) of the programming for the festival is user-generated. People submit conference ideas (they had until July 11) and anyone can now vote on their favorite conference proposals using the panel picker. 1209 panels are listed there.

Tumbleweed

Flickr photo by Darkstream

Wondering how many were proposing to talk about local, I did a search and lo and behold, none have the keywords “local search” in their title (or description for that matter) and only 6 have the keyword “local” in their title. Only 4 could truly be considered local search-oriented. They are:

Lessons in Local Tech: Sustainable Food 2.0, Rachel Weidinger, Common Knowledge

From Global to Mobile: What’s Next in Local, Contextual Search, Don Turnbull, University of Texas at Austin

Think Globally, Post Locally: The Emerging Power of Local Voice, Chris Tolles, Topix.com

E-Commerce: Cultivating Links Between Local Farmers and Consumers, Andrew Smiley, Sustainable Food Center

What it means: either local search is not sexy enough (I doubt it!) or most of us in the industry (except for Chris Tolles @ Topix) were sleeping at the wheel when came time to submit a proposal for a panel. If local search as an industry wants to be seen as relevant and exciting, we need to be present at SXSWi. Now that I think about it, I should have reached out to my all-star local search co-panelists (Peter K., Greg
Sterling
, Perry Evans) assembled for the last Google Local Markets Symposium and maybe offer to debate the future of local search. That would have been a good panel.

Update: after writing this post, I got an e-mail from Vinicius Vacanti, founder of Yipit. It looks like his proposed panel ” The Local Search Solution: Context or Accuracy?” just appeared in the panel picker. So, there’s hope after all!  Vote for it!

Google Now Offering Free Trackable Phone Numbers to Advertisers

I’m at the Google Local Markets Symposium today, an invite-only local search event happening at the Googleplex. I spoke this morning on a local search industry blogger panel with my friends Greg Sterling, Perry Evans and Peter Krasilovsky.

Google Local Markets Symposium

In addition to our panel, we heard from Richard Holden, Google’s Director of Product Management, talking about the various Google products targeted to SMEs. One of the major insights (for me) that came out of his presentation was the fact Google now offers free call reporting with any US local business ad. According to Holden, advertisers can choose to replace their regular phone number with a new free “trackable” toll-free or local number. This new feature might be the results of the GrandCentral acquisition.

This is not to be confused with the click-to-call function Google recently removed from Google Maps.

What it means: Google could start assigning new permanent trackable numbers for any media the advertiser chooses to advertise in. This would give Google tons of information regarding the ROI of various local media, allowing them to become a centralized advertiser dashboard. Given that the directory business is all about calls, this is potentially very disruptive to that industry in particular. As this involves serious customer disintermediation, I would recommend local media start looking at offering this option at large as well.

Let me Chime In on Hyperlocal

The same week I receive my Wired magazine in the mail with a great hyperlocal short story by Bruce Sterling, BackFence.com shuts down its network of sites… What a bad timing!

Rafat Ali in PaidContent.org asks: “Is there a real business in this kind of business?”

American Journalism Review answers: “ So far–and admittedly it’s still very early –the answer is no. A few of the estimated 500 or so “local-local” news sites claim to show a profit, but the overwhelming majority lose money, according to the first comprehensive survey of the field”

Jeff Jarvis says “Hyperlocal will not, I firmly believe, happen at one site. It will work only via networks: content, commercial, social. It will work by gathering, not producing.”

Greg Sterling continues: “no one should dismiss the underlying phenomenon that Backfence is a part of because it didn’t succeed financially.” and adds “Nobody thinking about or currently operating a local consumer site – unless you’ve already done it or have tons of cash – should be building a sales force, although a sales force is what it takes to sell successfully in local. (Telephone sales channels might be something of an exception.) Site owners should think about tapping into existing ad networks or sales channels as part of broader, geotargeted Internet distribution networks.”

My friend Perry chimes in: “is a hyper-local destination site the right model? The world of social networking, blogging, portals and news scanning are being thrown into the blender of web 2.0. I think too many venture-backed models are living in the comfort zone of a “destination site” strategy ALONE. I am not knocking it, I just view this as “necessary but not sufficient”. There is a new world being created where users roll their own internet, and the notion of having ONE PLACE for their neighborhood conversation feels increasingly contrived.”

What it means: lots of great insights from great minds. I don’t think there’s any doubt in my mind. Hyperlocal represents the future of the web. I know, I know, it’s almost counter-intuitive to the power of the WORLD wide web but here’s how I explain it. I remember when I first discovered e-mail on CompuServe back in 1993. I was e-mailing people I met in various newsgroups, people from all over the world! How exciting it was to “talk to strangers”! Then, my friends/family/co-workers started to get connected and got e-mail addresses. My volume of e-mail slowly went from people I did not know to people I knew. And a lot of these people lived close by as well!

Now, fast forward to 2007. I don’t know if you’ve had the chance to explore Facebook but it is a fascinating social experiment that resembles CompuServe. Lots of groups/communities are created and people join them if it fits their interest. One trend that I’ve seen is the creation of local groups of interest when it makes sense (i.e. when the equivalent global or national group becomes too big and loses its relevancy). There is a Montreal Tech Entrepreneurs group, a Montreal SEO group, etc. From a purely geographical point of view, I’ve already seen a group for my neighborhood and I’ve seen a group for a street (!?!) in my neighborhood. Now, are there many conversations in those groups? Not a ton, but there’s life out there. As more and more people get the tools to engage in hyperlocal conversations, it will happen. And it will happen in your neighborhood.