Google, Twitter Reach Out to Small Businesses

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2009-12-07

Google and Twitter Dec. 7 created new Web services to help local businesses broaden their exposure.

Google has selected more than 100,000 businesses that have joined its Local Business Center for its "Favorite Places on Google" initiative, which lets business owners place a window sticker with a bar code on their storefronts.

Users walking by on the street can stop and scan the bar code, or QR code, from their Apple iPhone, Android-powered phones such as the Motorola Droid, or BlackBerry devices. The QR code will surface the establishment's Place Page, offering menus and reviews of the store on the user's phone, as well as any coupons the store is offering to entice consumers to come inside. Users can also "star" favorite businesses to look up later.

In this demo video, a user scans the Favorite Places on the Google decal on the storefront of the Kasa Indian eatery in San Francisco and the QR code returns reviews of the restaurant. Kasa and others businesses in the program have been previously researched on and Google Maps and span more than 9,000 towns and cities in all 50 states of the United States.

Consumers will need a phone with a camera and an application that can read QR codes, according to Ryan Hayward and David Kim, product marketing managers for Google:  

"For Android-powered devices, including the Droid by Motorola, we recommend using the free Barcode Scanner app. For iPhone, we have found the $1.99 QuickMark app to work best, and starting today, we're partnering with QuickMark to offer the app for free for the first 40,000 downloads."

BeeTagg and NeoReader work well with the decals, Hayward and Kim said. Member businesses of Google's Local Business Center should have already received or will soon receive their decals; Google will send out more window decals to businesses as they qualify.

"If you weren't selected in this round, your first step is to claim your listing with Google's Local Business Center for free," Hayward and Kim added. "That will help us determine that your business information is correct. Then, you can enhance your local business listing by adding enhanced content like photos and videos."

Twitter, meanwhile, teamed with Citysearch and Urbanspoon, which are serving up Twitter's new Sign-Up API to let local businesses integrate their Twitter account or create a new account directly from the business profiles.

Participating businesses and restaurants can then tweet from their Citysearch and Urbanspoon profile pages. Consumers can view tweets about businesses-such as restaurant or service reviews-when they are on those businesses' local business listing pages, and tweet directly with those businesses via Citysearch or Urbanspoon. Urbanspoon has collected over 4,000 restaurant Twitter usernames nationwide to date.  

This effectively lets Citysearch and Urbanspoon use Twitter to create a communications channel between consumers and the businesses they choose to connect with online.

Citysearch told eWEEK no money is changing hands in these deals, calling it "an integration, not a partnership." Even so, this approach appears to be a breakthrough in how Twitter makes money from its real-time tweeting service.

Some 70 million people use Twitter, and businesses stand to make money from the marketing they do through Twitter, so it makes sense that the microblog would generate revenues from this somehow. 

Twitter will eventually launch paid commercial accounts, including analytics and premium features for businesses. Will Twitter start serving ads with the tweets, which for many businesses are already a form of advertising and marketing? That remains to be seen.

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