Smalltown Gets a Little Bigger

Bay Area hyper-local site Smalltown announced today that it has acquired online community site Local2me for an undisclosed amount. The deal is hoped to bring Smalltown a registered base of Local2me users as well as its seven-year base of user-generated content, including discussion boards and local merchant reviews.

This content and user base are also in the same communities where Smalltown currently hangs its hat, making the acquisition geographically opportune. Specifically, Local2me has “thousands” of users in the peninsula markets and more than 30,000 discussions about local topics.

“What was attractive to us was their deep repository of local content, and it’s a really good coincidence that their epicenter is close to ours,” said Smalltown CEO Hal Rucker when I spoke with him last week. Rucker also worked with Local2me founder Michael Olivier back in the day at Excite.

The content and user base infusion will serve many of the plans that Smalltown currently has on the books including expansion to more communities. Rucker can’t give specific details, but he is interested in replicating its formula in other towns that have similar attributes as the Bay Area towns where it has done well (see this promotional video on local testimonials and our past commentary here).

“We are very close to the point where we have the formula for success figured out,” says Rucker. “We know now much more than we did a year ago what merchants want, how to meet with them, how to sell to them, how to get the community involved in the site. We are at the point now where we’re ready to start to scale to other towns.”

As Rucker’s comment suggests, the company employs a small sales force of about four reps for the five Bay Area towns it serves — an integral part of its model. The company could also continue to extend its feature set (video ads were most recently added) to increase advertiser and user interest around what is already an elegantly designed and functionally sound interface.

The “webcards” around which the site experience is built are in fact more dynamic than traditional listings, making them easier to share with friends via e-mail or other media. This being the case, the portability could be taken to the next step by enabling webcards to be distributed in many other formats, sent to mobile devices and even widgetized to be planted on other Web sites or blogs.

“The next step is to create the ability to embed a webcard into any HTML page,” says Rucker. “We’ll also create the ability to make appointments from within a webcard.”

The webcard portability is similar to the direction taken by AgendiZe, which we wrote about recently, and one that is smart for the company to scale its branded listings beyond its own domain. This will increase exposure for the company and ultimately drive traffic back to its site. This will join mobile efforts currently in development.

“We’re going to be on mobile, the idea being that we have up-to-the-minute rich local content,” says Rucker. “If you are on Burlingame Avenue in Burlingame and you look at your mobile device, we can tell you who in walking distance to you is having a shoe sale.”

The quality and quantity of this content will indeed be bolstered by the new users and content brought into the fold from Local2me in terms of a positive network effect. In that sense the Local2me acquisition will augment all the above efforts by building up relevant local content and an audience around that content.

“Every Local2me conversation will be converted to a webcard,” said Rucker. “We’ll get seven years of content and also triple our user base.” We’ll see how Smalltown progresses on all these fronts and how well it is able to digest and integrate this newfound base of content and users.

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