Hyperlocal business directory MerchantCircle has been steadily growing its business directory for merchants in smaller towns. MerchantCircle has long targeted merchants in small locales versus catering towards the consumers, as sites like Yelp and CitySearch do. Today, MerchantCircle has launched a new social gaming program, “MerchantCircle Mayors,” which identifies and rewards the most connected members within the MerchantCircle network with mayorships.
The feature, which is similar in theory to Foursquare mayorships, allows business owners to become Mayors of their respective cities on MerchantCircle by networking with other merchants. A Mayor’s governance is based on connections within that city. Networking includes connecting with other merchants on the site and inviting local merchants to join MerchantCircle. MerchantCircle members can manage their connections through a dashboard where they can view the current local leader and top challengers, their requests and all current connections. The current Mayor of each city will receive free advertising around the MerchantCircle network.
MerchantCircle says that since rolling out the Mayors program in beta two weeks ago, mayors have been declared in more than 7,500 cities already. New invitations to join MerchantCircle have increased 59 percent overall, and in-network, merchant-to-merchant connections overall up over 123 percent.
The application of Foursquare’s mayorship angle to the business community is an interesting way to engage businesses on a social network. And free advertising is always a good incentive for businesses to participate in an initiative.
MerchantCircle has been steadily growing its network, most recently expanding to the UK, Canada and Australia. Since launching in 2007, the startup has gained traction in small towns where the larger sites don’t have reach. And the startup may be on track to IPO in the coming year.