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Social, Local, Mobile (SoLoMo) Innovation or Evolution

  |  September 22, 2011   |  Comments

Much of the recent activity surrounding social, local, and mobile seems to center around refinement or evolution versus innovation.

August and September provided us with a great deal of news on the social-local-mobile fronts. I thought it would be beneficial to catalogue some of the big changes and then ponder what this means for SMBs and national brands marketing locally. Here are a few of the top developments:

Facebook Deals. After a four-month trial in five cities, Facebook is winding down its daily deals offering. Christopher Heine's news story quotes a Facebook statement; "We've learned a lot from our test and we'll continue to evaluate how to best serve local businesses."

Facebook Places. Just one year after introducing Facebook Places, which enabled users on mobile devices to check in using their smartphones, Facebook announced it was doing away with the functionally. Instead, Facebook is now providing location sharing from all platforms by allowing users to tag and share their location on posts.

Yelp Deals. Similar to Facebook, Yelp has signaled that it will reduce the sales staff that supports its one-year-old daily deals product. Another sign that the crowded daily deals market is suffering from SMB and consumer overload to offers from numerous media outlets.

Groupon. And while the above developments of Yelp and Facebook exiting the daily deals space should benefit the category leader, Groupon announced that it is delaying its IPO. According to The Wall Street Journal article, Groupon has "canceled its investor road show and is reevaluating plans for an initial public offering in the face of stock-market volatility."

Google buys Motorola. Larry Page, CEO of Google, said, "Motorola Mobility's total commitment to Android has created a natural fit for our two companies. Together, we will create amazing user experiences that supercharge the entire Android ecosystem for the benefit of consumers, partners and developers."

Google buys Zagat. Marissa Mayer, VP, local, maps and location services wrote recently in Google's blog; "So, today, I'm thrilled that Google has acquired Zagat. Moving forward, Zagat, will be a cornerstone of our local offering—delighting people with their impressive array of reviews, ratings and insights, while enabling people everywhere to find extraordinary (and ordinary) experiences around the corner and around the world."

Eric Schmidt. The executive chairman of Google stated at Salesforce.com's Dreamforce cloud conference that the future is mobile, local, social. In an interview keynote session with Salesforce Chairman and CEO Marc Benioff, Schmidt said that the next big innovations will be mobile, local, and social technologies and they will provide true real-time access to local information.

Clearly, the past couple of months of moves and countermoves are providing insight into the SoLoMo strategies of these large media outlets. Interestingly, much of the activity from the above companies seems to center around refinement or evolution versus innovation. This spells a good sign as the market makers focus on improving user experience and delivering value to consumers and SMB advertisers.

One of the major players that I have not seen a lot of activity in the SoLoMo arena of late has been Apple. IPhones and iPads generate a large volume of maps, local, and social traffic via apps and mobile browsers, yet these have largely been powered by other companies like Google Maps, YellowPages.com, etc.

However, in early March of this year, Apple was made a patent application, published in the beginning of September, that may well be a game changer in the SoLoMo space. Here is the abstract from the U.S. Patent filing:

The following relates to ranking search results consisting of locations or recommending locations to visit based on recorded data representing visits by a plurality of users to the locations represented as search results or recommended locations to visit. The data representing users' visits can be recorded by receiving data anonymously reported by handheld communication devices carried by the plurality of users. A handheld communication device, which is carried by a user, can report to the system the user's present location optionally associated with a time stamp. The handheld communication device can report either a single location coordinate or a collection of coordinates gathered over time.

In a nutshell, this technology could provide all sorts of useful functionality including automatic check-ins, location targeted promotions, directories, etc.

Sorting It All Out

One of the questions I am most often asked by SMBs and national brands is: "How do I ensure my business/brand is early in the 'Next Big Thing.'"

My answer: today's environment has two components - innovation and evolution, which require fundamentally different approaches. Targeting innovation requires that a business trials a large number of new concepts continually seeking out the diamond in the rough that can become a game changer. Additionally, many businesses have been successful "fast followers" once the concept takes hold and develops. Targeting evolution as your strategy on the other hand requires investing your time, energy, and dollars on the large platform players as they sort out what consumers want and use in the SoLoMo arena.

Philosophically, I target both components with the understanding I have to listen to a lot of pitches and test numerous products that will never develop to become meaningful branding or lead generators. I remember in 1998 while presenting at a GE Internet Initiatives Conference viewing the importance of Yahoo directory listings and a few new search technologies from start-ups Google, Excite, and Hotbot. Two out of four is not bad.

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Gregg Stewart

Gregg Stewart is founder and president of 3rd Act Marketing, a full-service marketing agency and consultancy, specializing in digital solutions, headquartered in Connecticut. 3rd Act supports businesses and agencies of all sizes, including Fortune 500 companies. With more than 20 years experience, Stewart applies his successful tenured career in interactive advertising and local search to the ongoing development of digital and mobile solutions for his clients' online-marketing campaigns. Through his strategic counsel, national and local brands become better equipped to target and reach niche consumers for increased leads and sales. In addition to his ClickZ columns, additional columns can be found in the Search Engine Watch archive. In 2013, Stewart was recognized with the ClickZ Hall of Fame award.

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