Social media opportunities in local online business directories

February 11, 2009 § 3 Comments

Recently had a look at the Ellington CMS which is built on the open-source framework Django. A very slick CMS with many of the features that our news org is looking for. However it is a bit out of our price-range. Granted our price-range is pretty close to single digit. As in $0. Not really but you get the idea.

Also got a chance to see their business directory product called Marketplace. Again a very slick product. Looks to be very user friendly on the customer side and very easy on the business/vendor side. When a local business buys a listing they get a user-name and password that allows them to add as much or as little information about their business as they want. And they can update the information as often or as infrequent as they want. They can also upload photos/videos of their products or services. They can post coupons and information about ongoing sales. How about adding a customer service component?

It got me thinking about Twitter. Recently it doesn’t take much to get me to think about Twitter but this particular thought about how to integrate Twitter as social media/customer service platform into an online business directory. How about if Twitter or CoverIt Live was integrated into the business listing. Or how about a live video stream using Mogulus or Ustream. It would add a human face to the business. Maybe the business can set up a schedule when someone would be available to answer questions – “Customer service avalable Mon, Wed., Fri. 2-3 p.m. Sure individual business owners could set up their own Twitter/Mogulus accounts separate from their business directory listing. But many small businesses have a hard enough time updating an online directory listing or a website much less have the time or inclination to create yet another account on some web service they know very little about. This way it is already built in.

Would that be attractive to local businesses? Would it be added value to their basic listing? Perhaps someone is already doing this?


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§ 3 Responses to Social media opportunities in local online business directories

  • Seth says:

    As a new media person at a news org, I love the idea. I’ve always thought that business directories are under-developed and operate too much like static paper directories. The Ellington Marketplace solution appears to be the cream of the crop. I haven’t seen anyone doing this in a directory product.

    The thing is, if I were a business owner I’d hate this. I’d view it as the directory owner trying to lock me into their walled garden – if I didn’t already have a site. If I did have a site, I’d view this as an unnecessary distraction from running my business and my site. I suppose there are owners who would welcome the features and tools but I wonder what the acceptance rate would be? How many would update beyond the first time?

  • Carlos says:

    Hey Seth,
    Those are good points. In particular I wonder if the traffic and eyeballs that we offer plus the ease-of-use of the product would be enough. We’re in a small town with a relatively non-tech population. Many of the local business don’t even have a website. But they all still have a listing in the local yellow pages. For some I think the idea of an online business directory maybe more appealing and familiar than just a banner ad on our site. And the opportunity to interact with potential or current customers might be appealing as well. But not 100% sure it is appealing enough to have them keep their listing current, etc.

  • christinemasters says:

    You have some very interesting ideas here! I like the customer service idea, but maybe it doesn’t have to be Twitter. Even just a question and answer area could be very valuable (sort of like an integrated Ask The Expert, which so many papers do these days).

    Also, perhaps an integrated Get Satisfaction widget would be very helpful.

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