Earlier this week I was able to attend Street Fight Summit West in San Francisco. Coming off the heels of Google’s I/O last week just down the street, #SFSW15 had some big shoes to fill and it didn’t fail to impress this year. The content this time around was the best of any conference I’ve attended recently. Much of these shows is often the same themes that are parroted across the world of local advertising and SMB marketing. This one was much better than average. Below are recaps of a few sessions that stood out to me as being particularly thought-provoking.

Local, Global and the Missing Data Link (with Damien Patton of Banjo):

What stood out for me in this session is how location data is much more associated with digital artifacts than many of us might assume. Social posts on many networks now have geo-tagging on by default. Mobile users are “checking in” to establishments more and more. Additionally, Damien gave examples of newly deployed technology that is able to match photos of (even obscure) public places with geographic coordinates. This reminded me of Google’s big announcement last week at I/O about their revamped photos app, which is now able to analyze and organize your photos according to location (among other things.) This flood of geographically associated data is changing local advertising in big ways, and ad platforms are going after this hard. There seems to be a race to “figure out mobile advertising” and location data is the bet many ad platforms are making.

  • Key Takeaway:  Once location data is a more reliable factor in serving up ads on mobile devices, the 10’s of millions of SMBs that have yet to throw money into digital local advertising will be convinced it’s worth their $$.

Social Media Giants’ Plans to Transform Local Communities and SMBs (with Pinterest, Twitter, & Nextdoor):

This session was particularly interesting because of the contrast between the 2 global social networks and Nextdoor, which is hyperlocal by nature. It seems that each one of these players, in addition to Facebook, are going after SMBs pretty hard for ad dollars. This makes sense considering people are spending more and more of their time within a social network on a mobile phone (that is consistently transmitting its location.) If these networks, where people already are, can show relevant ads to users for businesses around them, then they’ll have the equivalent of sidewalk sandwich boards on people’s phones. Dan Clancy of Nextdoor seemed to steal the show with his singular, eloquently expressed focus on providing value for users without damaging their trust of the platform. Nextdoor has yet to release any advertising products but they’re continuing to build a valuable ad channel for local businesses. When they do release something, I expect it will be extremely carefully beta tested and powerful for both users and advertisers.

  • Key Takeaway: Twitter and Pinterest had some interesting things to say but overall it was Nextdoor that impressed the hell out of everyone I talked to that saw this session.

How Deep Linking is Upending Mobile Search (with URX, Vurb, & Google):

I’ve been interested in the challenge to Google’s dominance that is the silo’d mobile ecosystem for a while so this was a particularly interesting session. URX CEO John Milinovich did a fantastic job of describing the problem that deep linking is trying to solve and URX’s approach to solving it. Here’s my (expanded) version of what he said:

Let’s say you’re reading about a new album by Jay Z in Flipboard on your iPhone. The article references a song that is getting tons of acclaim from Country music artists. You’re so intrigued and you want to hear the song, right now. In a world without deep linking, you close Flipboard, go to your home screen, scroll to find your Spotify app, open it, search for Jay Z, try to find this new song that Country singers love by name, and then press play. In a deep linked world, there’s a related action right below the song mention within the article on Flipboard that says: “Listen to in Spotify?”, which takes you in one tap to what you wanted to do anyway.

The permutations of action combinations for which deep linking would be useful is vast & impressive. (For someone who resents extra steps within user interfaces, I long for a deep linked world already.)

Google’s Danny Bernstein shared Google’s slightly different vision for getting at this problem through a Hub & Spoke model. Google seems to be super focused on identifying, consolidating, and beefing up functionality of what it calls “hub” apps. These are apps like maps, search, social networks, messaging applications, video players, etc. Danny was quick to point out that while most time on mobile devices are spent in apps, when you take away Facebook and Youtube that time is about 50/50 with the mobile web/mobile apps. Much of the time spent in non hub apps is for quick actions, not for “hanging out”. Google’s approach seems to be to connect these hub apps with the spoke apps that are really good at certain actions or activities. An example of their bet on this future is their recent launch of Google Now on Tap, announced last week just down the street at I/O. Google Now on Tap makes available to other apps the contextual info & actions parsed by Google Now.  Side note: Interesting that nobody brought up the most widely adopted Deep Link out in the wild right now: the click-to-call.

  • Key Takeaway: Google’s version of the future likely wins out over Vurb’s and URX, though the search giant might look to acquire companies like this as they pick up steam.

Throughout the conference one overarching theme became clear: mobile will continue to be at the center of digital advertising strategy in 2015.  There were several other interesting sessions I didn’t mention in this recap. For more info on these sessions, go to StreetFightMag.com. Whether you attended or not, we’d love to get your perspective on where mobile/local is headed. Leave a comment below and tell us what your thoughts are!