Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Twitter, Local Search, and Social Relevancy

Twitter is inherently local, relevant, and social. They’ve organically created a powerful mix of content and relationships, and there are a couple of simple things that they can do to unlock more value, and that local businesses can do to leverage the platform.

Twitter has a great opportunity here to further develop a system that adds true social and geographic relevance to search. There’s much more to say about that, and this discussion is meant to focus on some specific UI changes that uncover more of the value in Twitter search from a social and geo standpoint. In the short term, it would be great to see an indication of social relevance: maybe a graphic bug that indicates how “close” the tweet is to me in my Twitter social network. Geographically, I like what they’ve done with the “near:” option in the search query, and for travelers or people that don’t read the manual, maybe a “show me results near me” checkbox could be a simpler solution.

As Twitter volume and usage grows, what are the opportunities in this area for local businesses?

Here’s an example I just took a look at. Lou On Vine is a local restaurant in Los Angeles that we really enjoy. The owner has an interesting and offbeat wine cellar, and their food is sourced from small farms locally and across the US. The menu changes regularly. They’ve gotten some good press, and are a little off the beaten path in terms of location. If they were up on Twitter, I’d certainly follow them if they announced new wines, menu changes, weekday specials, and so on. I might even RT if I saw something I was particularly enthusiastic about.

For the local business owner, this is simple, quick, and effective. Local businesses do not always have the time and attention required to create a full-fledged email program - maintaining lists, designing emails, writing paragraphs of content, and so on. This small effort brings them into a huge mass of potential customers that are already grouped – very generally – by common interests and social ties. If I re-tweet a LouOnVine message, it’s going to my followers – a group that is likely at least a little more interested in this type of restaurant than the general population.

And when someone searches on Twitter for “Lou on Vine” they’ll see that menu change or new wine, or my re-tweet. When someone I follow is in LA and searches for “good restaurants” and checks the “select results near me,” maybe they’ll see a tweet of mine referencing Lou On Vine , and that I’m very close to them on the social graph.

If you run a local business, don’t wait: start a business account on Twitter. It literally takes 2 minutes. Then at least once a week post relevant messages that are useful to customers and potential customers. Follow people in the area that are passionate about, or at least interested in, the types of services or products you provide. Twitter is a great way to get more out of your valuable relationships and content.

Other thoughts on Twitter and Local Search? Let me know on Twitter!

1 comment:

Lou said...

BTW the name of my place is just plain "Lou." @lou_wine_bar