One could argue that much of my credibility, content and influence was built on the backs of the social media listening and monitoring industry. From early relationships with Radian6, Sysomos, NetBase and many others long since acquired and gone, those software tools were the ones that intrigued me the most. Mining conversations for insights was always fun to me.
But the problem with most social listening platforms has always been their approach is often tainted because they start with a keyword. It makes sense — if you want to find someone talking about tacos, you need to find mentions of the word “taco” or “tacos” and there are your results. But it doesn’t always work. What if you want to find conversations in a specific location? What if you want to find conversations that stem from conversions about tacos but don’t have anything to do with tacos? There are dozens of permutations in listening and the tools generally solve only one or two.
That’s why I’ve always had a soft spot in my mindset about the industry for what Neil Crist does with VenueLabs. His enterprise platform is focused on the conversations tied to or associated with a specific location. I don’t search for a keyword like “Quills Coffee Shop” but rather pump in the location, or locations of the Quills Coffee Shops and VenueLabs goes and gets conversations tied to those stores. It’s more relevant feedback for the retail business than keyword searches in most instances. Because the most important conversations your audience has are while or just after they interact with your business.
The other problem with the social technology space is that these companies are funded by investors and investors refuse to allow their money to be spent on small businesses. HubSpot even quite openly marketed itself as a small business solution but its prices started around $500 per month. I’m sorry, but that’s a broad definition of small business. I don’t know many that can afford a $500 monthly investment, even if the platform is more than a listening tool.
There have been some freemium offerings over the years. I was bullish on Viralheat in 2010 when it released a free version of its platform. And I’m going to be bullish on any service that gives the little guy access. (I was raised in a small town. It’s a psychological thing.)
Apparently, Crist and the VenueLabs team knows this. They told me last month they were working on something I’d like and they were right. VenueLabs’s technology is now available through a new product called AboutLocal. Any business owner can just put their business and location in, see feedback and even filter or divide out streams. (You can look at competitors, too.) For some incremental costs, but none that would make a small business owner uncomfortable, you can add some advanced features.
The point is that now any retail business can monitor what their customers are saying, see the pictures they are posting and even interact with that content in a simple, easy and cheap fashion. If that’s not solving a gap in the marketplace, I don’t know what is. Kudos to VenueLabs for continuing to make it better to be a business using social tools.
And no disclosure is needed. I just dig what they’ve done.