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Local businesses are finding customers in lots of new ways with the expanding reach of social media and transaction capabilities. On the final day at Leading in Local: Interactive Local Media in San Francisco, a panel on “the new world of leads” with executives from Airbnb, Thumbtack and Lucky Oyster explored some of the opportunities.

Airbnb, of course, is one of the real breakouts in the space with ten million “guests” in 192 countries now participating in its apartment — as — hotel rental services. The company’s Joe Zadeh said the key to its “shared economy” service was understanding its clients. “People want to have more experiences, and they want to step away from having so many things,” he said. People don’t necessarily want to be an Uber driver after getting a ride, but they do want to become Airbnb hosts.

The company has been building its solutions based on need. For instance, it has developed a freelance photographer program because hosts need good pictures of their apartments. It is also working on providing “speed matches.” Guests “don’t want to wait six hours to get a response,” he said.

Lucky Oyster’s Matthew Berk, a longtime local industry executive and analyst, said that a key part of the new leads order is to provide a “structured” word of mouth platform about actual experience. It has been a ten year journey to provide digital word of mouth. For a local business, it will never be based on a tremendous volume of leads or reviews, he said. But you want to track it, promote it and bump it. The opportunity for innovation is in the form of discovering the right lead, he said.

Thumbtack’s Marco Zappacosta said leads for services have their own special criteria. The long term goal is to become a transactional marketplace, and the most convenient way for a seller to conduct his or her business. But “a lot of price discovery happens after the point of introduction,” he said, noting that Thumbtack now has a list of 30,000 contractors, and sends $200 million of business their way. His challenge: get more contractors. There is plenty of business, but a supply constraint.

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