It was ostensibly about the Favorite Places announcement but it was largely about explaining to SMBs (apparently 200 in the room) why they should claim and enhance their profiles on Google Maps through the Local Business Center. Citysearch and Yelp were also there.
Yelp encouraged business owners to “join the conversation,” while Citysearch was selling its reach and reporting (“we’ll tell you how many calls you received”).
The really difficult thing to gauge was whether the pretty basic information being presented was appropriately calibrated to the audience’s sophistication level. Among a couple of the SMB attendees — who were invited based on their inclusion in the Favorite Places lists compiled by celebrities — I spoke to were two people from the St. Regis hotel, part of the Starwood chain. They said they were there largely to get a better understanding of AdWords, which is managed on their behalf out of a Seattle office.
Even though they’re part of a major hotel chain they saw themselves as a local business trying to get attention within their organization and from local consumers in specific markets.
I could imagine Google doing a series of these events around the US, especially in “secondary” markets where they would be likely to get considerable media play. From talking to several Google execs and employees there it was fairly clear to me that this was a kind of experiment. They said that they would follow up with the attendees and evaluate the event accordingly.
I also asked how the Google LBC Dashboard was being received and I was told that it was being very favorably received. I said “what about call tracking?” (which it doesn’t offer) and got a non-committal response but that’s probably being looked at.
Related: In reaction to a new PR campaign around Maps, Mike B says:
It is fine to educate and promote your products in an easy listening style but don’t try to tell folks that “we hear you” as a solution to real, concrete bug fixes and human support.