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The perfect local storm in one meeting

Last week I met some new people. Well, new to me. Turns out that what they do isn’t new at all, I was just ignorant of their work. One person’s innovation is another person’s normal.

We met in London, on semi-neutral ground, bringing different perspectives to the table, from different areas of the UK. And yet we were all representing local, through our own lens.

The catalyst for the meeting was Matt Waring from Addiply (@mattwaring, @addiplylondon), the  local online ad platform that brings both editorial control and pricing model control for local site managers across the UK.

The ‘new’ part for me was Jaqui Devereux and Donald McTernan from the Community Media Association. The CMA support around 220 local community radio stations around the UK. They sit on panels helping to shape the local media landscape, and represent broadcast at a not just local level, but more importantly, a local community level.

And representing EMO, and therefore local marketers everywhere, was me.

We went around the table, each sharing who we were, what we did, and what we thought we might get from the meeting (you know the drill). Matt kicked us off knowing, as they do, EMO’s local bent and the CMA’s and their affiliated stations growing need to replace a model based on funding, to one advertising and partnership revenues from other sources. Addiply’s individual (per site) control model may well be a solution for the CMA’s stations with a simple route to ‘monetising’ their websites, bringing as it does the opportunity to determine how, and how much advertisers will be charged. But perhaps more importantly, for a network defined by its diversity, Addiply’s platform provides editorial control over advertisers content. For in this space it is the community that defines what is right and wrong for the community to support, not a sales team for another organisation.

Jaqui followed on, and described to me a world of local empowerment, the blurred lines between small independent commercial radio and community radio, the governance that gives the network structure, but also legitimacy. The passion is tangible, and feels very much like it is powered by the trust placed in the CMA by the network of stations they represent. Interesting and important work is already going on direct with government bodies, targeted support for local communities to get the right messages about local health services and opportunity to the communities they serve. The organisation is set-up for, and very good at, empowerment, support and representation – but in addition to this they need to first craft and then magnify the commercial opportunity to help these stations survive, and thrive. Developments around the opening up of the analogue transmission network, Local TV and web transmission provide new and exciting opportunities, which all cost money.

I closed the loop. Matt and Jaqui has asked me to look a the situation from the perspective of our agency, from agencies in general and from that of the local advertiser. So I spoke about our work, our targeting and how traditional radio broadcast very regularly doesn’t meet our criteria (or our local clients’ briefs) in terms of relevance, reach/wastage, or response.  (NB: Which is not to say that Independent Local Radio is a channel to be dismissed – in the right mix it is very powerful – but rarely do we find we can hone down the audience with the detail that our consultancy results require).

This is where the CMA’s network hold the aces. But aces, from a different pack of cards. Their stations aren’t bound by the need for wide reach and multiple zero’s in their audience figures. They are focussed on their community. Their audience is what it is. Some listeners form a regular, daily audience, some cherry pick the right content, in the right language, at the right time of day. They aren’t held by an intangible demographic group, but by shared beliefs, ethnicity, interest and a shared location. This is powerful stuff for EMO – in the right situation, for the right brief it could be the perfect storm of relevant content, passionate editorial, specific and shared community perspective. But miss by an inch and it might as well be miles away from right.

And therein lies the CMA’s challenge. Commerciality in terms of standard media planning rely on reach, which their network has in pockets. The value of specific and targeted reach goes head to head with general awareness from larger audiences.

I am looking forward to seeing where this goes.


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Think BR: Are big agencies failing to engage in local?

The Local Social Summit, hosted for the second year last week by co-founders Dylan Fuller (Ebay’s UK head of adcommerce) and Simon Baptist (group head of syndication and social media at European Directories), was billed as “an independent platform for knowledge sharing and networking for global thought leaders driving local social innovation and success”.

Local Social SummitAn international audience from local search, local social, vouchering, business directories, tech start-ups, trend analysts and entrepreneurs gathered to discuss the intersection between local, social and mobile.

Or to put it another way, to understand how local sales outlets can make use of the increasingly available location-aware, social and mobile platforms to enhance their sales and deepen their relationships with customers.

That the event is happening, the content insightful, speakers passionate and tweet count high (#lss10) is no surprise – the mounting movement behind the convergence of the elements explained above is clear and unavoidable.

I read around this subject daily but still learnt a great deal. What did surprise me, though, was the lack of mainstream representation at a conference discussing an increasingly important and effective space.

No big marcomms agencies, no big media agencies, no big brand advertisers. Come to think of it, no small or medium sized ones either.

I’m troubled by this. It feels like a ’head in the sand’ approach to a complex yet effective route to building closer ties and real relationships with customers, as well as more effective sales in the channel.

Due to their absence, there was little opportunity for counter points or arguments from the brands and their trusted advisors as to the application and intricacies of the technologies and techniques discussed and their real world applications. Which is a shame, but in no way the fault of the organisers.

What do I take from this? In part, I think there is some inevitability about it. This is an area of hard graft and, although transformational results are possible, it currently requires big companies and their sales networks to think and act like small, agile, passionate SMEs (we heard from three such case studies during the day).

Scaling local is hard, measurements come in micro-integrations and small incremental engagements, and empowerment of local staff is often required.

These are all challenging things for large organisations, whose natural tendency is to centralise not devolve, and to those whose metrics are share of voice and volume of page impressions.

What was clear from the Summit was that success in the local space (where big brands’ customers actually live) will be driven by the passionate, driven and authentic actions of empowered employees working in the sales channels, acting like owners of their own businesses.

Sales networks that currently shun empowerment will need to embrace it. Staff that currently might not even have a marketing budget may soon need to have a voice and some control over their own promotional, tactical destiny.

They need training, guidance, help and content support, but they are the ones that will create a personality for otherwise faceless, voiceless corporations. And they will make a difference, locally.

The pace of change in this area is such that predictions are almost impossible, and brands need trusted advisors to be investing time to help them understand and execute within their sales channels.

One prediction I can be certain of however is that, as these devices, tools and techniques become more recognised and understood, the mainstream will be well represented at Local Social Summit ’11.

Originally published in Brand Republic – bit.ly/aLQIav

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Get your Places Page right, or miss a trick.

How important is it to get your Google Places page searching well?



See this heat map, how this eye tracking study shows the focus of the viewers view and length of view on the local listings held next to the map. What I’d like to see, if anyone can find it is some research to show how long people look at the search results page, and what percentage of users ‘just click’ the first link irrespective of what else is being served. For those of you involved in advising dealers/branches/services make sure that not only they have claimed their Google Places page but that they have optimised it by putting it in the right categories (they can be in more than one) and that their titling and support content help drive the right sort of traffic.


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Google Place owners can now answer back

Released today, there is a new feature on Google Places page management area.  Announced on Google’s Places blog, it allows verified page owners to answer their critics in the ‘Reviews’ section. Clearly a much needed feature for the local marketer, and, carefully used, customer services issues will now be able to be quickly and professionally handled. Turning a negative into a positive, and a positive into an excellent recommendation. Typically form Google it’s ‘a bit later than you’d have liked’, but this will help everyone get a better view on the veracity of the customer’s review, and the outlet’s capability for handling customers correctly.

Google Lat Long blog - News and Notes by the Google Earth and Maps team

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Google tests new results page with more prominent 'local' results

Ever the experimenter, Google are testing new results pages where local natural listings and maps feature far more prominently than ever before.

With local now storming up the agenda across the search sector, large national and international brands need to strategically plan and support their local networks like never before.

Read a full write-up of the pilot pages here, at Mike Blumenthal’s excellent “Understanding Google Maps and Local Search” blog. (Details of the discovery were provided to Mike by Linda Buquet of Catalyst eMarketing).

Click the image below to see an actual size version.

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Facebook prepares to offer local ads

We’ve been waiting for a while now to understand the angle Facebook were going to take when implementing Location Based

Services (LBS) into the Facebook Page environment and many have suggested that a Foursquare-like “location attached to status” model would be followed. But it appears that, whilst this still may be part of the Facebook LBS package, personalised information and advertising will be the cornerstones of the new developments.

Speaking at the Cannes Ad Festival on Wednesday, Mark Zukerburg, Facebook’s Founder and Chief Exec said “”Knowing where a person is, and being able to personalise to what’s around them and who’s around them, is a really important and valuable thing.” (Source: Brand Republic)

Well Mark, we agree. And we’re looking forward to seeing what Facebook delivers.

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Localpeople to expand hyperlocal network to 200 over the next 12 months

Reported today in Brand Republic, Daily Mail and General Trust’s (DMGT) network of hyperlocal news and community websitesLocal people has reached its century and plans to double in size over the course of the next 12 months. This is great news for

Local People users and advertisers alike. Their sites allow local residents to report on local issues and events, alongside community editors and provide a fantastic platform for very specific advertising within a targeted, geographically discreet audience. Powerful stuff.

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Twitter launches Twitter Places – killer app or 'me too'?


Twitter has been busy over recent weeks (and not just with network issues!) Following the release of sponsored Tweets, they followed up with Twitter Places, previewed on their blog yesterday (14 June 2010).

Essentially, this feature will allow all users (mobile and desk/lap top) to add a geo-locator to their tweet, and more particularly to connect that tweet with an actual place, rather than just a set of coordinates.

This gives location based services a massive push towards the ‘mainstream’ of social activity, rather than in the niche of Foursquare, Gowalla and Brightkite.

The big questions are:

  • Can Twitter grab the initiative of ‘location’ as its killer app?
  • Will current users adopt the new services as part of their normal usage?
  • Will it get enough traction before Facebook introduces its location features?
  • Are the other ‘original’ services too far ahead to be caught?

Its adoption will be well worth following, and further enhancements and inducements to the service are almost certain to follow.

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Want action now? Get mobile.

At a recent conference in Seattle (SMX Advanced), Bing presented metrics about the differing timescales of the search process between fixed line and mobile searchers. Understandably, the process for 70% mobile users is done and dusted within an hour, as we assume that the information is either immediately vital, or only fleetingly important.

Picture 81The source of this data is from Greg Sterling on the Internet2Go.net blog and their key outtake was “most of these mobile search queries are commercial (directly or indirectly) and they’re going to be fulfilled or completed, in the majority of cases, in the real world — offline.”

So, how are you prepared for mobile, informed, immediate customers?

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