American Express Open plans to offer a free social media monitoring and local directory listing tool for small and mid-sized businesses.
"Our mission is to help businesses to do more business," Robert Ciccone, VP, business apps management at American Express Open, said during an interview at CM Summit. "This is bringing the power of online reputation management to small businesses."
The tool, Ciccone said, will enable businesses to view, claim, and edit their listings to ensure that they are correct. It also offers businesses a centralized place to respond to customers and prospects on Twitter, Facebook, Yelp, and Citysearch. He anticipates other sites will be added to the service in coming months.
The tool application, developed by Clickable, will be available to all small to mid-sized businesses, not just American Express clients. It will be available in coming weeks.
Scores of social media management and analytics tools are currently available to marketers to monitor what customers and others are saying about their brands off-site. Adobe Omniture and IBM Coremetrics, for instance, have added social analytics to their website analytics services, but these offerings are typically designed for mid-sized to large companies.
And other vendors specialize in helping small to medium-sized businesses get listed in online directories and optimize their content so they are visible in search results.
The success of the American Express service, called YourBuzz, potentially hinges on several factors: whether businesses find it easy enough to use the service and whether they have sufficient resources, time, and wherewithal to address issues they encounter such as negative reviews.
YourBuzz represents the third digital marketing application offered by American Express. Since 2010, American Express has worked with Clickable to offer a tool, available for a fee, to small businesses for managing paid search advertising campaigns. This year, it added another tool developed by AdReady to help small businesses to create, target, and manage display advertising.
Gregg Stewart, president of 2nd Act Local Marketing, a marketing agency specializing in digital local solutions, said the new service appears to be designed to help Amex support its paid search offering to SMBs. He predicted that directory publishers such as AT&T's YellowPages.com and SuperPages.com will likely adapt similar services so they are not left behind.
"This seems to be a very consistent offering of companies targeting the SMB marketplace. At first several providers charged SMBs for this type of social/review reporting, but the model has shifted to costs being covered by the media vendors/publishers. For example Universal Business Listing, Yext and several business listing services provide the reporting free of charge if you utilize their listing services," he said in an email interview.
He added that there are social monitoring and reporting applications, such as Marchex and Yellowbot, that might benefit from Amex's entry into this sector as more publishers deliver these services as part of their offerings. "Even though the economic funding of these is shifting to the publishers, SMB should expect to see advertising rates increase, because with added services comes added expense and there is no such thing as a free lunch," he said.
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Anna Maria Virzi, ClickZ's executive editor from 2007 until 2012, covered Internet business and technology since 1996. She was on the launch team for Ziff Davis Media's Baseline and also worked at Forbes.com, Web Week, Internet World, and the Connecticut Post.
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