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Social networking has become and will continue to be one of the hottest trends on the Internet. The goal of social networks is to connect like-minded people based on their interests and often on their needs. In some cases social networks are used to identify the best brands and to root out possible companies to avoid, similar to many consumer comment sites. The beauty of social networks is that they engage participants and provide safe and enjoyable forums to discuss a variety of topics.

Selected Social Networking Properties by Unique Visitors May 2006
Total U.S. – Home, Work and University Internet Users
Source: ComScore Media Metrix

Total Internet Population 172,120
MYSPACE.COM 51,441 Sites 14,792
MSN Spaces 9,566
Yahoo! 360° 4,936

One of the significant trends of social networks is that they can and do have a distinctively local slant. Most social networks allow users to limit their search or groups to specific localities offering very localized discussions and information. Even more important, social networks are now offering e-commerce-type services to their members. An interesting new site, Boomj, is offering reward points and discounts to members who make purchases at its affiliated partners, a kind of Amazon-meets-MySpace mash-up. Targeted to the boomlet generation, or as Boomj calls it, “Generation Jones,” the site is aimed at people born between 1954 and 1965 who don’t seem to fit the traditional boomer profile. Boomers and “Generation Jones” are significant controllers of income and constitute a growing user group of social media. Within the site are several categories for users to select such as health, lifestyle, finance, shopping, travel and movies. If sites like Boomj can move users 40+ onto their sites, they will command significant attention from advertisers that seek to tap into the disposable income of these target groups.

So when will Yellow Pages come to the social? Yellow Page publishers are just now adopting consumer reviews, which was very late in coming compared with other media, particularly online directional media and vertical sites. It is not clear how coming late to the party has affected Yellow Page offerings, but this topic will be explored in greater detail at the upcoming Kelsey Group DDC conference in September.

With the wealth of local content and obvious verticals, IYPs could take a local leadership position in topical areas such as local services/contractors, home improvement, home decorating, financial, health care, entertainment, weddings and other lifestyle oriented topics that would be attractive to social media users. This opportunity was discussed earlier this year by my colleagues Peter Krasilovsky and Michael Boland, who both provide key food for thought. Also weighing in on this topic is Sebastian Provencher, who authors the Praized Blog focusing on social and local media: “I’m starting to think social search has a great future but I also think it’s difficult to start from scratch. I also think there might be an amazing opportunity out there for directory publishers (and anyone operating a local search site with a good amount of traffic) to launch a social search application to complement their current database of content. Who will be the first large-scale local social search site?”

If Yellow Pages publishers had the vision and desire to be first movers, they could be the drivers of creating “Social Local Media,” or “SoLo” (you heard it here first!). IYPs could be the drivers of localized social media verticals on lifestyle or life events where open discussion and commerce coexist.

Imagine the targeting opportunities for local advertisers as well as the creation of forums where advertisers could open up conversations on their brands, learn about local desires and uncover marketing nuances by having this local forum at their disposal. Local consumers would become more engaged and return more often to these SoLo sites on IYPs since most social media sites tend to be very local and community focused rather than far-flung global sites. Who better to own this space than the perennial local media outlet with the deepest local content – Yellow Pages? Harnessing the potential for both local consumers and advertisers will be both the challenge and the opportunity. The opportunity exists for IYPs to be one of the first to step on the SoLo dance floor, but they can’t wait long otherwise niche verticals and other local media outlets will step up and take away the advantages to be gained as a first mover.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Hmm, it seems the (YP) industry is starting to wake up to this. I whole-heartedly agree with you Michael, to the extent that a year ago a group of us started building a directory service pursuing just this idea. I and the other founders of The Brownbook have spent many years at Thompson, Yell and BT in the UK and we were continually frustrated at how hard it was to get our employers to embrace any social web concepts. The Brownbook is an ‘open’ yellow pages service and you can see some of the elements you are discussing there right now.
    Thanks for the interesting post.

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