OK, so I’m on a Web 2.0 kick. I guess I’ve made it my New Year’s resolution to get more publishers and local search companies thinking about the broader meaning and business opportunities Web 2.0 presents beyond consumer reviews and online video.
I came across a terrific post from LDPodcast. While not a business-focused Web site, it provided some very enlightened ideas on how sites can better generate timely, relevant and desirable content while engaging consumers in a meaningful way. Some of the ideas put forth (with my own local search spin) include:
Offer tools that allow advertisers to produce webcasts. Webcasts are like live mini radio talk shows where 20 to 30 minutes of content can be shared with the ability to answer questions on a specific topic or area of concern. Companies like Webex or Blog Talk Radio provide excellent tools to make this service possible. Imagine housing webcast shows on timely topics such as buying a car, how to remodel a bathroom, tax advice, wedding planning and more on your local site. Allowing advertisers to produce these, offering a way to promote the webcast and linking a library of past shows to their profile page or listing would add quality local editorial content to a site.
Include tools to create and post podcasts. Podcasts are generally short-format audio or video segments that can cover specific topics, provide step-by-step instructions for common tasks or answer commonly asked questions. Services like Audioblog and Clickcaster offer simple, easy-to-use online podcast tools. Advertisers could use these to simplify their customer service handling, provide education so consumers would be less intimidated about using their products or services, or enhance an advertiser’s perception as a local expert. Again, providing a way to promote the availability of advertiser podcasts and then linking them to the advertisers’ profile page or listing not only adds value for the advertiser but also adds quality content to the site.
Provide common forms and instructions. Allowing advertisers to place forms and documents is a value added service. Rather than having to spend time at the doctor’s office filling out forms, consumers could go to their listing or profile page and download the forms to save time. Insurance agents could have application forms available, employers could post job application forms, and process instructions could be added to help prepare consumers for appointments.
Offer online scheduling. Offering advertisers applications that allow for online scheduling as well as developing a calendar system where common tasks and purchases could be scheduled would be valuable to both advertisers and consumers. Consumers could book pizza Fridays, oil changes, dry cleaning appointments, haircuts and many other tasks on a calendar system that would then push valuable offers to them a few days or weeks in advance. And offering the ability to schedule appointments all in one place is a very engaging way to generate leads and book business.
Web 2.0 is about engaging consumers in a more personal and useful way, while local search is about relevant local content and a means for linking local buyers and sellers. The ideas above provide the best of both worlds — additional services that could be monetized by publishers and local search sites, the development of quality local advertiser content that can be picked up by search engines, and real consumer value in the form of education and enhanced customer service. Let’s resolve to make this a Web 2.0 year.