Saturday, August 28, 2010

MerchantCircle VP and GM Andy Halliday discusses the new Local Content Studio

In late May we launched a new content production system called Local Content Studio at MerchantCircle that adds targeted information to specific pages and pays the producer of the content via Paypal. We formally announced this program on Thursday to the public and I'd like to elaborate some more for our members here today. 

Our first effort was focused on adding descriptions with links and photos to each of the 30,000 U.S. city pages on MerchantCircle. Our growing team of paid freelance writers built production to over 5,000 city descriptions a week and in just a couple of days from now we will have completed all of those city descriptions. The best writers developed routines to research, compose, and add hyperlinks to their own personal format for a city description, and were paid $2 for each one approved. The top producer, Rebecca from Council Bluffs, IA, delivered over 350 quality city descriptions in one week! Editors return submissions for spelling, grammar, punctuation, and factual errors, and writers are calibrated by their approval rate, putting a premium on proofreading before submission. You can see an example of this work here.

Take a look at your own local city page, which you can find by searching on the city name and state without any text in the first search box….or you can simply click on the city name in the “breadcrumb” in the space below the search box on any listing page--which looks like this: Top > MO > Saint Louis.

While we quickly produced basic information for each of tens of thousands of cities, the longer-term objective is to call upon the local expertise of our merchant members to provide unique local perspective on their towns, their community, the businesses and the recreation facilities that are part of that community. Today merchants can edit the city descriptions to add information that is missing or to add perspective that only local insiders would know. Here is a great example of a city description done by a local merchant:

In the coming months, we are going to build several new content modules that will invite contribution from our network of local merchants, and give them an opportunity to share their knowledge about their town and their profession. It’s a win-win for merchants, who will get exposure for their business whenever their expert content is viewed, and they can be compensated for certain types of content, like specialty articles on their chosen profession.

The grand purpose behind this new content effort is to assemble the best local information online, in order to improve the quality of the search experience for anyone looking for information about our towns and cities and the businesses in them. Who better to do this than the merchants who host the retail and service offerings for a community, and who are locals themselves with unique views on the town? When community members build out information about their businesses and professions, and contribute to collected “insider” knowledge about their community, the rich pages that result will bring more search traffic to these pages and expose more web visitors to the circle of merchants who make up that location’s commercial network.

MerchantCircle has merchant members in each of 25,000 cities and small towns across America with more than 200 residents. So this approach to collecting local insight onto MerchantCircle pages on the web can reach to what we call the “Long Tail” of local information. We don’t just concentrate on the major cities that are of interest to all advertisers because of the concentration of people in those places, rather we can reach out to collect information across the great spectrum of places in the U.S., from neighborhoods in the largest metropolitan areas all the way down to small town America where a few businesspeople serve a small community, like Talkeetna, AK: .

Look for more expanded information about every city and town in the U.S. and around the world coming from the new Local Content Studio. Be sure to take advantage of the opportunity to sign up yourself and become a contributor to this important “crowd-sourced” collection. Visit this link to get started:

Thanks for reading,

Andy Halliday

VP, GM for MerchantCircle Local Content Studio

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Continuing Coast-to-Coast: MerchantCircle Customer Appreciation and Networking Events!

After a successful trip to the Twin Cities, the MerchantCircle gang took their nationwide Customer Appreciation and Networking Events tour to the home of Yale, the oldest newspaper in the country and MerchantCircle Community Leader, Gino! The August destination was of course, New Haven, Connecticut!

This week we're heading south to the glitz and glam of LA-LA Land. So Cal, get ready for another Merchant Appreciation Night of Networking at World Café in downtown Santa Monica!

But first, I'll share the scoop on our Ivy League experience…

After landing in Hartford, we shook off the shock of Connecticut humidity and our red-eye grogginess, picked up our sweet economy-class rental, and hit the most densely tree-lined freeway I've ever seen.  We battled some rain but managed to have a wonderful (and insightful) Indian dinner with Gino!

The following day, about 40 local merchants joined us at Kitchen Zinc for our networking event. In between glasses of wine and bites of gourmet pizza and salad, I shared some of Mark Munroe's famous tips on how to get the most out of MerchantCircle, followed by Gino's wonderful presentation on developing your MC listing AND network.

CEO Ben Smith was also on hand for some Q&A with our guests. (And they didn't hold back!)  Everyone snacked on Cookie Central's tasty treats as prizes were passed out in our MerchantCircle raffle. Winners received MerchantCircle gear, a flip cam, and prizes donated my MC members Cupertino Soap Company, Kitchen Zinc, St Anthony's Book + gift shop, EZ Campaigns, and

Connecticut will be hard to top, but our LA based merchants are showing up strong with over 150 RSVP! Stay posted for more news on these events!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

All for One and One for All: Bringing Facebook, Twitter and MerchantCircle together

If you're a Facebook fanatic, a Tweet-a-holic and a MerchantCircle member then you’ve been leveraging the most popular social media platforms to promote your business. Until now, any content you’ve built on MerchantCircle you’ve had to manually repost to both Facebook and Twitter. We know your time is precious, so we’ve streamlined the process to save you time.

We're excited to announce the integration of MerchantCircle with Twitter and Facebook enabling members to easily update all social media networks with one click directly from their MerchantCircle account.

Next time you post a blog, create a coupon, upload photos or send out a newsletter, we'll publish that information to your Twitter and Facebook accounts for all your followers and fans. It will also show up on our own MerchantCircle Facebook and Twitter feeds as well for added exposure. When you put in the work, we'll make sure that content lives on other popular social media channels where your customers and potential customers are listening.

MerchantCircle members can simply go to the "My account," "settings," "Twitter and Facebook" and easily link your accounts with one click.

Visit our YouTube channel to learn how you can leverage this new platform:

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Merchant Circle's 2nd Annual Trap Shooting Event!

Ammo and alcohol? It's usually a dangerous pairing, but last Thursday the MerchantCircle team turned this combo into a fun-filled networking event.

Cubicles around The Valley were abandoned early as MerchantCircle members, friends, investors, and associates headed south to the Los Altos Rod and Gun Range for MerchantCircle's 2nd Annual Trap Shooting and Wine Tasting Event.

To celebrate a wonderful year of merchant success, rookies with rifles and seasoned shooters turned out for a hot afternoon of drilling clays and networking over piles of shells.

After guests enjoyed a BBQ lunch provided by the locally famous Uncle Franks of Sunnyvale, they headed Saratoga's Savannah Channelle Winery for tastings, tours and tacos! Award-winning Pinots and the Mis Antojitos taco truck rounded out a perfect day!

Nothing tells the story of the day like the photos! Head over to MerchantCircle's listing page to see more of what San Francisco photographer, Michael Popso, captured.

We're already looking forward to next year's event! If you missed this one… start your target practice now!