Category Archives: Social Media

IAB Leadership Meeting: Facebook, NY Times Defend Native Advertising

Native advertising — the insertion of contextually relevant advertising amidst other content — is viewed with suspicion by much of the ad community, which sees it as unscaleable, and perhaps the opposite of its drive towards programmatic (automated) sales.

During the Summary Panel today at the IAB’s Annual Leadership Meeting in Palm Desert, one hypothesis by moderator Terry Kawaja, CEO, LUMA Partners, playing devil’s advocate, was that “agencies cannot create the volume and quality of native content necessary to populate every native ad.”

New York Times Executive VP of Advertising Meredith Levien, rising to the bait, strongly disagreed. “Good native advertising puts the onus on the reader to decide whether to engage or not,” she said, noting that The Times, Buzzfeed, Forbes (her former employer) and others have set up native ad areas that are clearly differentiated from other content, and highly successful. “It’s not like we have (columnist) Thomas Friedman writing for Pepsi,” she said.

Facebook VP of Ad Products, Monetization and Atlas Brian Boland, a keynoter at BIA/Kelsey’s ILM show in December, vigorously defended native advertising – not surprisingly, since Facebook is banking heavily on it. Native advertising, when combined with personalization, provides unprecedented value, he said. “People are going to a place where they want to discover what is important to them. It creates an opportunity for people to be excited about what they see.”

Boland noted that Facebook has recently been criticized for pushing the envelope with native advertising by having video ads. But critics should have done their homework, like Facebook has, Boland said. He noted that it did reams of testing and research, and the feedback has shown that the video ads are totally engaging viewers.

Going forward, Facebook is developing a set of formats to enable people and advertisers to express themselves via native advertising on every platform – especially mobile. Boland acknowledged, however, that such formats are better suited towards larger media concerns. A handful of publishers will similarly see how things evolve, he said. But it remains “a challenge for midsized publishers.”

Local’s New Year: Some Thoughts and Predictions

Over the years, we’ve seen some major paradigm shifts in the transition of local marketing to digital. In 2003, it was the rise of Google search as applied to small business –to this day, the biggest thing that ever happened to local. In 2007, the paradigm shift was the rise of Groupon and prepaid deals as a way to drive customer acquisition. This opened the door for all kinds of non-advertising marketing, from Facebook and Twitter to Card Linked Offers.

Right now, mobile is THE paradigm shift – both as a media channel, and as a geolocation device (Mobile hasn’t been a factor yet as an ewallet. But that is sure to come, with a whole new set of implications.)

Nothing happens in 12 month cycles, but this is what I see happening in 2014:

Hyperlocal Fails to Win Destination Status, Gets a Better Life as Feature
Hyperlocal seems so compelling; contextual content that can draw users who can be microtargeted on a block by block basis. But on a super hyper local basis, it hasn’t scaled as a business model or as a compelling destination site. AOL’s Patch is reported to be winding up as an independent entity, and National Local hybrids such as haven’t made an impact either. The one remaining super hyperlocal site is Next Door Networks, which has raised a $100 Million war chest. The site is based on user generated content and local cells of 30+ users. It is a much cheaper model than Patch’s local staff. But will it win sustained participation from users? My bet is that it won’t. But does that mean that hyperlocal is dead? In fact, hyperlocal is everywhere – in reviews, posts, articles, maps and enhanced listings. Its use is sure to grow.

The Sharing Economy Spawns Multiple Vertical Sites
One of the big local breakthroughs has been the development of shared listing sites for apartments (Airbnb), vacation rentals (BRBO) and rides (Uber). In 2014, we expect to see shared listings become more ubiquitous, with multiple entries per verticals, and the addition of many more verticals. We also expect to see an entire ecosystem grow around these sites. As AirBnB’s Joe Zadeh noted at Interactive Local Media in San Francisco, solutions are being added based on need. For instance, Airbnb has developed a freelance photographer program because hosts need good pictures of their apartments.

Social’s Impact In Local Is Too Fragmented, But Dedicated Word of Mouth Sites Make a Dent
Social leaders like Facebook and Google+ have tremendous volume at the local level. Facebook, alone, has over one million SMB advertisers. But its local usage is so fragmented that local can’t be a real focus at the vertical level. Review-based sites such as Yelp and Angie’s List get closer to the mark, and have broadened their reach beyond restaurants and service professionals, respectively. But they leave plenty of room for smaller Word of Mouth sites that can specialize in certain sectors (i.e. Plumbers) and really dig in. Look for some of the industry’s most innovative leaders try to break through with new models in 2014, including Justin Sanger with SupportLocal; Gib Olander with Local Viewpoints; and Matthew Berk with Lucky Oyster.

‘Big Data’ and Non-Advertising Marketing Boost Local Leads
The ability to base marketing on user engagement and behavior is a fantastic opportunity. Big data, specifically, mixes and matches various data bases to determine the likelihood of engagement. It has been successfully applied to support advertising campaigns. But can users be targeted as a substitute for advertising budgets? And looking forward, can transaction activity, store inventories and user location be wedded to search behavior as part of e big data? This is a greenfield opportunity in all respects. What we are looking for is the transformation of retail email and social lists to leads and promotions. Look for big data players such as Radius Intelligence, Retailigence, xAd, Urban Mapping and LocalBlox to showcase new opportunities in leads and geotargeting.

The Hunger for ‘Attribution’ Drives Big Data and Transaction Marketing
One of the biggest problems for local marketers is proving attribution – especially as users effortlessly move from a banquet of “spreadable media” – everything from articles to email to social media posts to YouTube. It is another reason we are keen on transactional media and loyalty media – the receipts say it all. Look for the gatekeepers of transaction media and loyalty marketing–everyone from Living Social to First Data, Bank of America, MasterCard, Amex , Google Wallet, PayPal and Square – to edge their way into consumer marketing.

Online Shopping Goes Local via Delivery
Interactive Local Media has largely been defined by tech factors, such as geofencing . But the growing use of online by commerce giants such as WalMart, The Home Depot, Amazon and eBay; their development of regional warehouses and delivery networks; and use of Facebook Connect-like one stop shopping suggests a new front in the war for local commerce. The imposition of local sales taxes also suggests a level playing field with local businesses. eBay’s purchase in 2013 of the Shutl courier service, and its expansion to multiple markets, really showed where this might lead.

Happy New Year everyone, and thanks for reading and being part of the local community.


Closely Launches Perch 2.0: New Focus is on SMB Solutions, Rep Management


What we hear from everyone is that SMBs can’t figure out what marketing solutions they should employ, how to go mobile, or measure how well they’re doing on the Web.

That realization is driving the direction of a number of new services, including an upgrade this week of Closely’s Perch product. Denver-based Perch, a 10 person startup lead by industry vet Perry Evans, continues to evaluate real time streams coming from Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Yelp, FourSquare and Google+ as well as various promotions aggregated by the Yipit deals network.

But the new version extends the product focus, measuring and comparing SMB marketing and social activity via social, mobile, promotions and reviews. SMBs are also able to compare themselves to select competitors, while providing referrals to solution providers based on shortcomings seen in the SMB traffic (i.e. lack of Facebook traffic, reviews, coupons etc.). The referrals seem to represent a new revenue stream for the company.

CEO Perry Evans, in a discussion with BIA/Kelsey, says his team has positioned Closely to “provide value to businesses. We are not there to sell them things. We are just showing them areas they should pay attention to.” He also notes that the referral network is based on actual needs and goes way beyond standard affiliate models. “It is a deeper level of integration,” he says.
One thing that has been deleted from the new version is a “near me” features. Consumers don’t search for businesses base on immediate proximity, says Evans.

Evans also notes that Closely has added YellowBook founder Joe Walsh to its advisory board.

Facebook/Google Vertical Wars: Facebook Recruits a Google Auto Exec

Facebook isn’t obvious as a major competitor for auto advertising. But Google certainly watches Facebook’s every move in autos, as it worries that advertising that might have otherwise gone to its services is being cannibalized by social media.

Is it paranoid? We don’t think so. The car makers are definitely focused on digital spending, but social media represents a real alternative to Google’s assortment of search, video and display. Facebook represents 65 percent of all social media conversations about autos, per JD Power.

Earlier this year, Facebook added the capability for auto marketers to target shoppers based on car makes and models and their online purchase histories. And yesterday, Facebook grabbed Google’s Detroit-based Auto Industry Director Michelle Morris, a seven-year Google vet, to help lead auto sales. Morris is expected to engage current Facebook clients, including Hyundai, Nissan, Volkswagen, Ford, Chrysler,GM , Toyota and Subaru while also developing new relationships.

“With Facebook’s offerings, automotive marketers can build and strengthen brand opinion, consideration and loyalty while maximizing efficiencies at every level of the purchase funnel,” noted a Facebook press release.

Recent ComScore data shows that social media automotive spending is up 130 percent, and that 14 percent of all online auto ad spending is now spent online. Nissan outpaces the rest of the industry by spending 20 percent of its online spending on social media. Most of the social spending is geared around boosting engagement, influence and credibility, and includes a mix of auto forums and “mass” social media.

At Interactive Local Media in San Francisco Dec. 10-12, we have great keynotes from Facebook VP of Product Marketing Brian Boland and Google Director of Global Mobile Solutions Brendon Kraham. You can register here.

Matthew Berk Rethinks WOM Via ‘Lucky Oyster’

Over the past decade, one of the leading lights in local search and leveraging local content has been Matthew Berk: first as an analyst at Jupiter anticipating key trends, then with his startup , OpenList, which was purchased by Marchex, where he later served as EVP and developed Open View, a local and vertical directory that collected and semantically sorted information for thousands of contextual categories from all over the Web.

Berk’s new project, Lucky Oyster, goes back to his roots in helping people find local information and services – this time by capturing word of mouth reviews. And keeping them top of mind. Berk notes that there has been a rise in popularity in user generated reviews and ratings on the Web. The number one source of reviews is still word of mouth – and it isn’t really supported by technology.

“People receive recommendations all the time,” he says. “But they forget them. And if they ask for recommendations in Facebook, they don’t even see the reply.”

Lucky Oyster, a mobile app, has been in development for less than a year. Based in Seattle, it has been developed to allow people to set up “pearls” of wisdom that can be categorized by apps, categories and by person. Berk notes that the system has been developed as a reminder system as much as a recommendations service – people don’t always remember what they’ve done or seen.

The viral effect is already clear in some ways. Berk notes a local Yoga studio in Seattle picked up 20 new students after a strong recommendation by a new student.

Berk is appearing with Airbnb’s Joe Zadeh and Thumbtack’s Marcx Zappacosta at Leading in Local: Interactive Local Media in San Francisco Dec. 10-12.

Austin Profile: Main Street Hub’s ‘Do It For You’ Social Media

We’ve been looking at Austin’s vibrant tech scene as we prep for Leading in Local: SMB Digital Marketing. There is a lot going on in the “weird” city, with many companies having local tech outposts there (SignPost, Radius,, Hoovers, etc.), as well as a great startup scene (not to mention the annual SXSW event, Whole Foods world headquarters, and Dell).

Last week, we had a great chat with the guys at Main Street Hub, which moved from San Francisco to Austin a couple of years ago. Main Street Hub is backed by Silicon Valley investors in its bid to be a main local social media agency. It also touts board members such as Tristan Walker of Andreessen Horwitz (and former head of business development for FourSquare).

Co-CEO Matt Stuart told us that the company is firmly on the “Do It For You” side of social media, as opposed to companies that provide tools to let their vendors do it themselves. ‘We use tech to understand what’s effective and most engaging,” he said. ”We focus on content strategy. It is paramount to our success.”

The company works across a wide range of verticals, and currently works with “thousands” of SMBs. Its offerings generally range from $225 to $449 a month — pricing that Stuart says is much cheaper than its rivals, who are typically local and regional PR or ad agencies.

A $299 package, for instance, includes the company’s “value plan.” For that, the company will handle all aspects of a local businesses’ Yelp, Twitter, Facebook, Google and FourSquare accounts. Recently, the company has added additional products on top of the social media offering, including mobile-optimized landing pages, and expects to release a “do it for you” email product in the near future.