SOURCE: MerchantCircle

June 23, 2010 16:47 ET

MerchantCircle Launches "Mayors" Program to Promote Increased Local Social Networking for Business Owners Through Competition

Local Connection Game Increases Invitations to Business Social Network Nearly 60% in First Weeks of Program

MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA--(Marketwire - June 23, 2010) -  MerchantCircle, the largest social network of local business owners in America, has launched a new social gaming program that identifies and rewards the most connected members within the MerchantCircle network. "MerchantCircle Mayors" was introduced to the over 1.3 million members of MerchantCircle in early June, and based on the early returns, has been met with immediate adoption from business owners.

Since rolling out the Mayors program in beta two weeks ago, the competition to become the respective mayor of over 25,000 U.S. cities has gotten stiff, with mayors already declared in more than 7,500 cities to date. Most notably, invitations to join by members to non-MerchantCircle business owners have increased 59 percent since the program was launched. To optimize the rollout of Mayors, MerchantCircle also redesigned its user dashboard and, as a result, has seen a substantial lift in content created by merchants.

"By introducing a gaming element to the MerchantCircle platform we are making networking more fun for local business owners while rewarding them for making MerchantCircle a better place to connect with other local businesses," said Jeremy Kreitler, vice president of product management, MerchantCircle. "Social gaming is a viral and fun way to help our users get more value from the MerchantCircle network, and spread the word about the platform to new members."

"Since becoming Mayor of Las Vegas, my business listing appears for free in more places around the MerchantCircle network," said Jack Rubenstein, Sales and Marketing Director for Jackpot Printing and MerchantCircle Mayor of Las Vegas with more than 500 local business connections. "I am more visible to potential new customers looking for printing services on the web, and have developed stronger connections with other merchants in the Las Vegas area. I'll work to keep this new mayor status because of the great benefits I'm already seeing."

How Businesses Benefit by Becoming a MerchantCircle "Mayor"

The current Mayor of each city will receive expansive free advertising around the MerchantCircle network, including a presence on the site's local "leaderboard," prominent placement as "Mayor" on every MerchantCircle business listing in their city, and even a potential photo profile on MerchantCircle's homepage. Additionally, merchants who are well connected will help develop their audience in local search.

How Merchants Can Run for "Mayor"

Business owners who belong to MerchantCircle can become Mayor of their respective cities by first logging into their account to check the leaderboard for their city. If a merchant is not already the highest ranking official, they can network to become so using three separate features:

  1. Connect With Merchants -- Invite existing local business contacts from your email address book (Yahoo!, Gmail, AOL, Hotmail) using this feature to upload.
  2. Invite Other MerchantCircle Members -- One simple click will present suggestions of other local merchant members to whom you may want to connect.
  3. Member Search -- If you know the name of a desired business that is in the network simply put their name into Member Search and invite them to connect.

A Mayor's virtual governance is based on their connections within their own city. Mayor "elections" occur in real time to encourage constant competition. MerchantCircle members can manage their connections through the newly designed account dashboard where they can view the current local leader and top challengers, their requests and all current connections. 

About MerchantCircle

Founded in 2005, MerchantCircle is the largest social network of local business owners in the nation, combining social networking features with customizable web listings that allow local merchants to attract new customers. More than 20 million MerchantCircle business listings across the U.S., Canada, United Kingdom and Australia are easily accessed on major search engines. Currently, over 1.3 million merchants actively use the MerchantCircle network to upload pictures, blog, create coupons and newsletters and connect with other merchants. In addition to free services, MerchantCircle offers a portfolio of premium online advertising solutions including search engine marketing and instant website development.

Recognized by JMP Securities as one of the "100 Best Privately Held Internet Companies," MerchantCircle is based in Mountain View, Calif., and funded by Rustic Canyon Partners, Scale Venture Partners, Steamboat Ventures and IAC. Learn more at www.merchantcircle.com.

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