I attended and spoke at the Local Social Summit today in London. Aside from getting soaked by the rain in the morning and an unreliable WiFi set up, the event was really good. It ambitiously tried to sit in the middle and capture the intersection of social media and local — with a healthy dose of mobile thrown in.
Much of the discussion throughout the day was provocative, trying to assess where the local and social media markets were headed and what the products of the near future would look like. For example, one of the panels I moderated was:
Local Gets Social – The Impact of User Generated Content and the Promise of Real-Time Search
- Seb Provencher, Co-Founder Praized Media
- David Ingram, CEO Brownbook
- Sokratis Papafloratos, CEO TrustedPlaces
- Andrew Hunter, General Manager Qype
These guys had lots of interesting things to say about whether and how “real time” content would make its way into their sites and local more generally. And there was lots of healthy disagreement.
The crowd was an interesting mix of pure Internet marketing people, agencies, YP publisher representatives and local online media (such as those above). Yelp, Yellix, MobilePeople and Cloudmade were also there among the mobile contingent.
Most people stayed until the very end, after dark, for a final session led by Seb Provencher, who was presenting a vision for what the ideal consumer local offering would look like in 2014 (the slides I previously shared). The discussion with pretty free-ranging and encompassed most of the themes raised earlier in the day. Nothing was resolved definitively and there were many sharply opposing views.
While we can argue that the presence of a dominant Google in search may for the time being make local search a “solved problem,” it’s evolving before our eyes, especially when mobile is thrown in. And despite the challenges local is definitely not a static segment.
What’s arguably emerging is the possibility (and perhaps eventually necessity) of a richer social media “layer” evolving out of reviews into a collection of tools and capabilities that enable consumers to access networks and data in new ways. One of the products I discussed with a couple people during a break was a “federated” local-mobile Q&A offering that would include real-time community response, archived UGC data and traditional local database listings.
Even as the consumer side threatens to become more complex, the “old” issues and challenges surrounding SMB ad sales remain. Along those lines, one of the most interesting panels of the day from my point of view was:
Local Content & Monetisation – A View from Europe
- Simon Greenman, MD – Online, European Directories
- James Thornett, Development Manager Location Services, Mapping, BBC Local
- Ben Barney, Akesios
- Joachim Helfer, Müller Medien
- Roland Bryan, Associated Northcliffe Digital
Joachim Helfer of Müller Medien impressively described a build out of vertical properties that help form a network for its advertisers. The company is thinking very actively and creatively about how to serve advertisers and where traffic will come from in the future.
Simon Greenman teased the audience with some discussion of European Directories’ deal with Skype but said it was still too early to report any results. At dinner after the event he got into some very provocative scenarios, hypothetically.
Another highlight was the afternoon keynote by Oxford research fellow Bernie Hogan: “Making sense of the networked audience: The case of Facebook.”
There were two big light-bulb moments for me, but no definitive conclusions that emerged and much disagreement about particulars among the speakers. However, the level of discussion was high and very interesting because of the “hybrid” nature of the event. In addition, because it was intentionally small the final session was highly interactive, with audience members asking questions and making comments drawn from data and presentations throughout the day.
Overall well done. There’s much to think about and it’s clear that the local segment remains as exciting and elusive as ever.