I recently attended the Borrell Associates’ 2012 Local Online Advertising Conference in New York, which is one of the biggest gatherings of local digital advertising executives each year. The event provided a great opportunity to interact and share ideas with some of the leaders in the local digital space and to get a sense of innovations in our space.
I’m proud to say that Yodle had a strong presence at the event this year – a genuine sign of our positive progress. Court Cunningham, our CEO, gave a well-received presentation called “Using Technology to Drive Profits in Local”. Court provided an overview of Yodle, covering the unique value proposition and services that we offer to local businesses and an overview of the business model that makes us so successful.
Later, I represented Yodle on a panel discussion titled “Delivering on Targeted Solutions for SMBs” (small and medium-sized businesses). The discussion was part of a Yahoo consortium and was accordingly chaired by Lem Lloyd, EVP of North American Channel Sales at Yahoo. The other participants on the panel were Todd Leeloy of Dex One and Tom Byun from Yahoo’s Small Business group.
Broadly, we discussed how to drive value to SMBs, significant digital marketing developments and trends, and how to keep local businesses focused on what works and the part that social media plays in that picture. I also had the opportunity to talk about some of Yodle’s products and how we keep our clients focused on driving value for their businesses.
One of the more interesting threads of conversation centered on whether local businesses get their best ROI (return on investment) from using social media at the expense of other online marketing channels. Through our testing, of which Yodle does a lot, we’ve concluded that paid social media – specifically Facebook in the case of our most recent test – cannot compete with the economics of search for lead generation. The reason for this is the ad products built by Facebook and also Twitter were designed first and foremost to serve brand advertisers in their search for impressions and engagement, not for service advertisers looking to generate leads.
I shared this finding on the panel and all seemed to agree. It’s this ability to understand intent and then harvest that intent that makes search marketing, for instance, so effective. Facebook and Twitter are occasionally places people turn to in order to vent about a problem or look to their network for recommendations on a service so in this way they may still be great sources of lead generation for small businesses. As firms like Yodle and others continue to delve into this issue, the question though is really about whether there’s enough volume and the ability to harvest the intent at unit economics that can compete with search. We’ll do a post later in the year on that front. In the meantime social media should be primarily considered as a good tool for post-sales customer relationship management.
Beyond Court’s presentation and my panel, I sat in on some other sessions including a talk given by Placecast on geofencing. What geofencing enables is the ability to serve messages to prospective customers that are close to your physical location. This could be very beneficial particularly for retailers that want to target potential customers in specific geographical areas during specific times. Foursquare has been experimenting for a couple years with this approach but regardless of who’s doing it, the challenge will be to have a consumer experience that’s calibrated properly between value and advertising.
The team at Yodle always strives to stay ahead of the curve and part of that process involves actively participating in these key industry events. There will be more to come as we look ahead to BIA Kelsey and other shows later this year.