Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Big Opportunities for Small Business

I think that most small businesses have felt closed out of the Internet loop. Many don't feel the need to advertise or promote to a global audience when the majority of their business comes from a radius within a few miles of their physical location (or in Manhattan a few blocks!). However, with the relaunch of Google Maps, meaningful online advertising for the small business may be possible. With their Mapplets Preview (via Mashable), the big business known as local search may become a reality.

Craigslist is one of the largest properties on the web. With no graphics, no fancy Ajax, and a staff of a dozen, Craigslist is a true success story which is focused strictly on content. What makes Craigslist so successful that fancy sites don't have? Sure, Craigslist is free and that's a big factor but the other one is the locality of Craigslist. Just like other local tools, like Citysearch, Meetup, and Yelp, Craigslist turns an online conversation into an offline transaction/encounter/meetup etc. Why is this important? I don't know if I need to answer this question, but we are social creatures and while we've been talking about great tools like MySpace, SecondLife, and YouTube, we still need to meet each other physically and not just through our computers! So enter the Local Market, which to date has felt shunned by the Internet. Very few tools out there cater to the local market and most have to do with restaurants, tourist attractions, and / or movie showtimes.

Enter Google Maps and their contextual AdSense. With Google's new street views program, this will really allow ALL businesses to have a virtual storefront. Could this be an integration of a virtual world like Second Life with the other intricacies of the Web? Could you be walking down a virtual Fifth Avenue and enter into all of the big department stores and then make a turn down 45th street and also enter the mom & pop deli? I think that Google Maps might be the key to Google's growth especially with local search, since most local businesses do not have domain names or websites (most of them still use a hotmail address if they even have one!). It could be truly interesting times, except that it might keep you in front of your computer more instead of being out there with real people like we were programmed to do!

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