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Summary:

To bring small businesses onto their platforms, Twitter signed up Citysearch as the first user of its Sign-Up API, while Google is launching a “Favorite Places on Google” program. They are introducing new features that make the web more local.

The web is mirroring the real world more closely every day, and tonight both Twitter and Google are trying to help accelerate that shift. They are introducing features that allow small businesses to connect with their customers.

Twitter enlisted Citysearch as the first user of its Sign-Up API, which helps new users create Twitter accounts from other people’s web sites. Citysearch gets a sprinkle of social media goodness from the arrangement, fostering real-time interaction between consumers and companies, while Twitter — which has a notoriously inscrutable new user experience — gets someone else to handle customer acquisition of smaller brands as it prepares to offer corporate accounts. Citysearch says it has direct relationships with some 200,000 local merchants, and it wants to build a multi-service social media directory for small businesses.

Meanwhile, Google is trying to forge closer relationships with small businesses by launching a “Favorite Places on Google” program. Instead of employing user-generated reviews like most companies might, Google is counting how many times people search for a business, look up directions to it, or click through to its web site. Some 150,000 chosen businesses (which must already have joined Google’s Local Business Center) have been mailed a “We’re a favorite place on Google” decal with a unique bar code to put in their store windows. Potential customers walking by the store can scan the bar code with their phones (for instance, using Android’s bar code scanner or the QuickMark app for the iPhone — which usually costs 99 cents but will be free to the first 40,000 phones that download it starting Monday) and bring up the business’ Google page.

Google and Twitter are just trying to build small business relationships, but neither program will really work (i.e., monetize) unless merchants actively participate. For instance, Google just launched mobile local coupons, so a retail store could use the sticker to bring in bar code-scanning, window-shopping deal seekers.

With Google and Twitter zeroing in on this space simultaneously, who wants to take bets on how many hours till Facebook Local launches?

  1. [...] to merchants to create their Twitter account and offer a reputation management service. A Gigaom article says “Citysearch says it has direct relationships with some 200,000 local [...]

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  2. Microsoft has already launched their own barcode solution, Microsoft Tag. I tried it, and love it:

    http://www.timacheson.com/Blog/2009/sep/microsoft_tag

    “Everything Google does is automatically amazing and newsworthy!”

    Of course, this logic is flawed, yet this is exactly how many commentators still behave.

    MS Tag is excellent. So easy to use. Try it yourserlf, It’s currently FREE! I’ve already used it on my blog. I’ve seen it on various books and posters. The reader software works on my oldest, simplest mobile phone.

    Google and Apple do a much better job of PR, making it easy for commentators to help them regurgitate their corporate propaganda. No matter how lazy a blogger is, and no matter how narrowly a blogger casts their net when aggregating news stories, they have a good chance of picking up information released by Google and Apple in a usable format.

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  3. There are currently thousands of tweets on Twitter about this. Hundreds of Tweets are just regurgitating this exact phrase:-

    “See That Funny 2D Barcode In The Store Window? It Might Pull Up A Google Listing”

    This is ridiculous, it’s essentially Spam, yet this is typical of the highly effective viral marketing from trendy companies like Google and Apple.

    As @maryjofoley noticed, in this deluge of coverage, comentators seem blissfully unaware that Google is not the first or best in this marketplace:-

    http://twitter.com/maryjofoley/status/6433724807

    Microsoft Tag is better. MS Tag looks nicer, is more flexible, has nice simple reposting features, and is certainly not limited to Bing search results.

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  4. [...] Yelp? Google and Twitter are rolling out new ways for you to maintain a positive web presence (via GigaOM). Twitter is partnering with Citysearch, which hopes to help the 200,000 local merchants it has [...]

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  5. [...] Local Business Center. And as Liz Gannes posits, it can’t be too much longer before Facebook local [...]

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  6. [...] you thought I was going to mention Google’s new Favorite Places program here…well, I think it’s overexposed. Plus, if you’re not one of the most popular 100,000 businesses on Google or chosen by one of [...]

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  7. [...] you thought I was going to mention Google’s new Favorite Places program here…well, I think it’s overexposed. Plus, if you’re not one of the most popular 100,000 businesses on Google or chosen by one of [...]

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  8. [...] (If you thought I was going to mention Google’s new Favorite Places program here…well, I think it’s overexposed. Plus, if you’re not one of the most popular 100,000 businesses on Google or chosen by one of [...]

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  9. [...] out in the past, Google has a Vitamin S deficiency, S being social. For instance, when Google recently announced “Favorite Places on Google” program it decided to tabulate them by “counting how [...]

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  10. @Tim, I like how you say MS Tags is “currently” free. The MS Tags site hints that they will at some point begin charging for some part of their service. Which part and at what rate is unknown. Your own blog seems to indicate you know as much as well: “I’ll be phoning the Metro first thing tomorrow morning to suggest that they try Microsoft’s Tag service while it’s free.” While it’s free, eh? I wouldn’t recommend businesses use MS Tags until they’re more up front with how much they’re going to charge for their service. It’s a tough decision to start placing the MS tags on your products without knowing tomorrow how much it’s going to cost you to see how your tag is doing. Meanwhile, QR tags and many QR tag tracking services remain free.

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