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Associated Press
Closely founder and CEO Perry Evans says Perch will give small-business owners a bird’s-eye view of how competitors use social media.

App helps firms track competition

– A new smartphone app lets small-business owners quickly scan competitors’ Yelp reviews, Internet deals, and Facebook and Twitter updates, without necessarily having to “like” or “follow” their competitors online.

The Denver startup Closely officially launched its Perch app last week.

Perch operates much like TweetDeck, which helps people read and organize postings on Twitter and Facebook. It has a scrolling, personalized list of individual businesses’ new activity on social media. Tapping an icon brings up details.

Perch will give small-business owners a bird’s-eye view of how competitors are using social media, said Closely founder and CEO Perry Evans, formerly of MapQuest. The insight could encourage them to buy marketing services from Closely.

The free app also seems appealing to consumers, who could get a running compilation of discounts offered by their favorite businesses. But Evans said consumers are not the intended target.

While shoppers have embraced social media and mobile apps, small businesses sometimes have been playing catch-up, Evans said.

“The best thing we can do is help businesses save more time, feel more in control and understand who they think they’re competing with, what’s going on around them,” Evans said.

Senior analyst Greg Sterling of Opus Research, who has no affiliation with Closely, said that while there are tools doing some of what Perch does, the Perch app is positioned as a small-business competitive intelligence tool.

Years ago, small businesses could buy one-time ads in the phonebook or newspapers, but today they might have an online presence that needs to be updated and monitored.