Twitter is testing a new service called Nearby that will display geographically local tweets to users. It will allow a limited amount of local interaction and provide users the ability to search for tweets in a defined geographic area.
It could also give local business and marketers a boost, enabling them to target advertisements and offers to users in proximity to a business or event. The service mixes maps and tweets to identify local tweets.
Despite recent wobbles with changes to its Block feature, which resulted in immediate user outrage, Twitter continues to experiment with ideas. Nearby is one of them. According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, Nearby wants to provide a better view of users in a specific location.
That could be useful to everyone from tourists searching for places of interest to businesses that want to promote offers to users close enough to use them on the spot. Think impromptu happy hours at a coffee bar, limited time discounts at a retail store or buy one, get one offers.
This could potentially improve the customer experience for all those interested in what is going on in the world around them. Given Twitter's long-term growth objective, it could also create wider opportunities for monetization. It is not hard to imagine local businesses all tweeting away, with promoted local tweets given more prominence.
Naturally enough, early feedback from the Twitter user base is that this is another move that could encourage stalking and misuse. Others argue third-party app already offer similar features. That's true, but Nearby could extend ease and convenience to all users across all devices, opening up the scope of any potential advertising service.
Word from the Pros
Professionals are taking a slightly higher approach, with Jeanne Roué-Taylor of Successful Workplace highlighting the local relevance, geo-targeting and the importance of both to advertisers. She also cites the added benefit of a "sense of mood" from user tweets that could ensure the right level and type of engagement.
That, along with the need for more focused advertising, could help Twitter become a key player in local advertising and marketing, if the feature takes off. Nearby could also have an impact on local competition, with area tweeters trying to out-do each other in usefulness or impact. That raises another possibility: Could Twitter itself become gamified at a local level?
Looking for Leads
Twitter's stock is approaching a new high of $60, up from its $26 launch price in early November. Twitter would clearly like to keep the momentum going with advertising strategies and technologies like Nearby, alongside promoted tweets, accounts and trends.
On the other side of the local social fence, AOL's local news service Patch seems to have an uncertain future. It once counted some 900 sites, but never generated the local advertising profits that CEO Tim Armstrong had hoped. There is much speculation the service is about to die, despite protestations to the contrary from AOL.
Any trouble for Patch is likely to be Twitter's gain as local advertisers look for options. That could help boost Twitter's user- and service-generation tweets, and put the company is in a better position to court local advertising, especially in heavily populated metropolitan areas with engaged mobile user bases.