First out of the gate among local publishers, Citysearch has integrated Twitter to such a degree that the site is now a “Twitter client” — literally.
The new functionality allows businesses to sign up for Twitter (or integrate their existing accounts) and tweet directly from Citysearch. In addition users can interact with business owners or reps using Twitter directly on the profile page on Citysearch. Third party mentions of the business are also integrated on the profile page. Here’s an example to illustrate (identified in the release):
Beyond the three most recent Tweets on business profile pages, there’s a link that take users to a page to see more comments:
The idea being promoted is that you can “manage your online reputation across the web from one location.” There’s Facebook integration as well:
Integration of social media and “online reputation management” is a new “front” in the war to win the hearts, minds and loyalty of local advertisers. Many if not most local publishers operate a “network” of some sort, including Citysearch, which involves managing an online ad spend for SMBs with SEO services and/or distribution to third party sites (including Google/search).
Online reputation monitoring and/or distribution of SMB promotions and communications to sites like Twitter and Facebook is a kind of parallel suite of services that will very soon become a must to complement more conventional advertising.
MerchantCircle was first (in early 2007) with a basic version of something like this: collecting reviews about local businesses from selected sites. GetListed is also in this broader space, although focused on the existence and consistency of listings. And most recently Marchex developed a very rich SMB reputation management and monitoring tool.
The degree to which SMBs “get” social media and sites like Twitter and Facebook is variable but growing. Steve Espinosa of eLocal Listing (and elsewhere) told me informally that he’s seen about 5% of local SMBs in the database with pages on Facebook. That’s very quickly closing in on a million SMBs if not already at that number. Without citation to a source TechCrunch says, “There are now over a million local businesses which have claimed their Google local listing.”
We’ll probably see something like 10% to 20% of SMBs doing self-service (broadly defined) in the next couple of years. While that means 80% are not, we’re talking about an audience of SMBs the size of the existing US yellow pages advertiser base in the aggregate.
This coming year, 2010, will be the year that “social media” goes mainstream for SMBs and a majority of the major publishers operating in the space integrate the content (Tweets) into their own sites and establish tools, such as what Citysearch has done, to enable SMBs to tap into Twitter and Facebook.
Urbanspoon, now owned by IAC, has also started integrating Tweets into its pages. “In just a few weeks Urbanspoon has collected over 4,000 restaurant Twitter usernames nationwide, with more to come,” says the press release.
We’re going to see more and more interesting things developed around Twitter data feeds by third parties (like this) in the local and mobile segments this next year as well.