The social networking market is sizzling these days; with everyone from big to small trying to get a piece. Now the largest telecome company in the U.S wants to take a slice. For the past year and a half, AT&T has been working on a local social networking site called Buzz.com.
The site is still in “Alpha” stage, and only available by invitation only. The main idea behind the site is to help consumer find the best local businesses using recommendations from friends and family.
Through its print Yellow Pages, YellowPages.com, and YP.com, AT&T already have a huge database of business listings. The company’s “Advertising Solutions Internet” unit reported revenues of $227 million. According to David Krantz, president and chief executive of AT&T Interactive, AT&T wanted to leverage this information and attract more visitors and advertisers if it could make its local business data searchable and more relevant.
Buzz.com will help consumers to get recommendation by getting opinion from friends. The site will also be able to suggest experts for that particular topic based on user “favorites” and comments. A mobile version of the site will also be available and will take advantage of GPS enabled phones to further narrow recommendations based on person’s location.
AT&T is not trying to build another Facebook according to Krantz. Users will be able to invite group of friends from their email, Facebook and other social networking sites and link their activities on Buzz.com to these sites.
Users will be able to rate businesses, write some comments or add to favorites, however, the site doesn’t have a place for full reviews. AT&T wanted to avoid negative dialog between consumers and businesses. This can be a challenge for AT&T, since other sites such as Yelp allow consumers to rate and review businesses. But AT&T hopes that its large database and experience developing apps would help differentiate its product from the current leaders in the market.
AT&T hopes businesses will take advantage of its new local business site by offering discounts and special offers. “If people really like a restaurant or club, you can assume they would love to get offers” Krantz says.
Currently about 500 AT&T employees are testing the site according to Forbes.com. It is expected to open in the next month or two to the public.
Even if buzz.com is a success, it won’t replace Yellow Pages. Though the two sites share a goal of connecting consumers to advertisers, they shouldn’t overlap much. “YellowPages.com is a good mass-market site and local business directory,” says Krantz. “Buzz.com is about your daily life and lifestyle.”
Tariq Ali is an avid follower of the search engine and Internet marketing industry. He Founded ISEdb over 10 years ago. He is also an Ironman athlete and a promoter of fitness and healthy living.
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