siri business visibilityApple recently launched the iPhone 4s, the latest version of the top selling smartphone that is for now at least, standing in place of the highly anticipated fifth generation model, which is reported to be on hold until 2012. Just before releasing the new device, the company unveiled the iOS 5, the newest version of the mobile operating system that runs on its iPhone, iPod, and iPad products. The iOS 5 is said to pack more than 200 new features, but the one that is getting the most attention these days is Siri.

A “Siri-ous” Small Business Ally?

Back in April of 2010, Apple acquired Siri, a new app that quickly built up a reputation as an extremely useful personal assistant. The aspect that has enabled this unique piece of software to garner so much attention is built-in technology that allows iPhone users to carry out various actions by way of voice command. For example, a user could pose a question such as: “Do I need to wear a jacket outside?”, and the app will assume that they would like to know the temperature for the day and direct them to the local weather forecast. Perhaps the most interesting component of Siri is that it fully comprehends context, meaning the user can speak naturally when dictating.

The Siri software was never designed to be a search engine, and according to Apple, it is not treating the app like a product that could potentially compete against Google and others in the search market. It is very possible, however, that iPhone owners will start turning to Siri to complete many tasks that would ordinarily be reserved for a search engine. For instance, why would a user go to Google for directions or to make reservations at a restaurant when they can do it by simply speaking to their phone? This factor alone makes Siri a potential game changer, and one that could make it a valuable tool for small businesses.

Getting Discovered Through Siri

From what we have learned, Siri gathers the data it presents to the user from multiple sources. One of the most well known of those sources is Yelp, which according to reports, has been chosen by Apple as the app’s exclusive provider of restaurant data. Siri also gets data from Wolfram Alpha, the computational knowledge tool that considers itself an answer engine opposed to a traditional search engine.

For small businesses looking to increase their visibility to iPhone users, understanding how Siri interacts with these sources and others will be the key. So if you are a restaurant owner, you will want to make sure people can easily find you on Yelp because visibility there will likely carry over to the iPhone. Up until now, there has been no real need to optimize for lesser known discovery engines like Wolfram Alpha, but that could all change if Siri takes off, so it may be wise to start learning how you can increase exposure through other sources the app is using.