Three ways location-based services can add value to consumers and marketers

You Are Here
Image by thejcgerm via Flickr

This week’s New Media Age contains a feature on location-based marketing looking at some case studies of where it has been used well and the opportunities for it as part of the marketing mix. We’ve written before about opportunities that location-based services offer to marketing. From using Foursquare as a small business to the many ways to use Facebook Places, location-based services offer many potentials for experimentation and new ways of communicating with and marketing too consumers.

As I comment in the NMA article, there is “a temptation to think that location-based marketing is the next big thing”. A temptation for marketers to put their efforts into location-based-marketing because it is new and because case studies are emerging of it being used in a way that really adds value to the business. But really we are entering a period of experimentation with these tools. Marketers should be using them strategically and trying them as part of their marketing or broader social mix.

Marketers need to be sensible in their use of location-based marketing. It’s important to think strategically and assess whether or not it can add value or have an impact. In the next year there’ll be more experimentation and more campaigns, some that work and some that fail.

This is an exciting time, there are many ways in which location-based marketing can be used but three clear ways where we should see experimentation are all areas where the services actually add real value to consumers.

1. Help me to filter information

This evening I was looking for a restaurant for dinner with a friend. One of the most important criteria was that the restaurant was near where we were when we decided to go and eat. Location was a significant variable in our choice. Or rather ‘near me right now’ was the filter we wanted to apply. Location-based-services allow consumers to apply a simple but effective filter to information they are searching for - especially when that information is reviews or advice. And it allows them to apply it instantly.

This is very powerful. It helps a consumer get straight to the information that is relevant, and provides a real use for reviews and advice not just as a planning tool but also to influence consumer behaviour in real-time. I like to think of it as there being reviews dropped on streets across the world that my phone lets me read. Secret messages that location-based-services unlock when I am near them and when they are relevant to me.

2. Help me to find people like me

Location-based-services not only know where I am, but also where other people are. Putting these together means that I can easily find people or other groups. And the power comes when you use this to help people connect if they have similar interests or concerns. Online communities are successful where they connect people with similar problems, questions, interests, issues or concerns. And they can be particularly valuable at getting people who don’t know each other to share and discuss - from people who want to talk about a broadband provider to those with a particular medical condition who want to talk to fellow sufferers even if they don’t know any personally.

Location-based-services can take this experience of connecting affinity groups and make it happen offline too. You can find if people with similar interests to you are nearby. Maybe you enjoy softball and want to find out where others are playing one Sunday morning, or maybe you just want to find other people like you. A highly successful iPhone app has done that for a niche market (the gay dating app Grindr) and similar behaviours can benefit many other groups.

3. Help me to organise events, parties and rallies

What’s the simplest way of knowing how many people are at a protest? You could count them all, or you could ask them all to register. But how about getting them all to check-in. This not only gives you a count of how many people have joined your event at a particular location but will give you access to lots more information about them and, perhaps critically, a route to contact them again after the event. Location-based-services, and particular the notion of checking-in, allows a number of existing processes to be both simplified and enhanced.

Could we use location-based-services to let a restaurant know we’ve arrived and are waiting in the bar for our table? Could we use them to gain access to parties, or can we use them as a way to organise and direct political protests or rallies. Location-based-services provide a number of potential organisational uses that need to be explored and experimented with.

FreshNetworks Blog: Top five posts in August

number five
Image by Hilarywho via Flickr

As a social media agency, FreshNetworks aims to bring you the best posts in social media, online communities, marketing and customer engagement online. In case you missed them, find below our top five posts in August.

1. Learn from Abercrombie & Fitch: Embed social media in every customer touchpoint

When you pay at Abercrombie & Fitch in London, you are asked the same question: “Have you checked us out on Facebook?”. Rather than being just a phatic expression, this is a sign that Abercrombie & Fitch is taking its social media strategy seriously. And a great example of just how to embed social media across your customer touchpoints and with all your staff.

If you want to grow and engage more customers in social media the best way is to embed it into your existing processes. You currently have many customer touchpoints so make the most of them. And let social media complement what you already do rather than sitting on its own.

2. Social media case study: Cadbury spots v stripes campaign

Cadbury Spots v Stripes campaign is a great case study of how to use social media and shows just why social media doesn’t just take place online. The campaign integrates online and offline touchpoints, and rewards people for things they do in social media and offline. What is interesting to see is that Cadbury has recognised that offline is converging with online – something that all digital marketers need to be aware of.

3. 5 ways marketers could use Facebook Places

Facebook Places launched in the US in August. It allows users to share their location with their friends, find out who is near them and to discover new places nearby. This add another geolocation tool into the market alongside the likes of Foursquare and Gowalla and the reach of Facebook will put geolocation tools in the hands of lots of people.

In this post we suggest five ways that marketers can use Facebook Places - from discounts to data.

4. 5 reasons why people follow brands on Twitter

Every wondered why people follow brands on Twitter? We’ve already written about why people follow the UK’s top brand on Twitter, and a recent report from ExactTarget builds on this analysis  further by revealing why people follow companies on the popular microblogging site.

In this post we look at the top five reasons for following a brand on Twitter, from displaying loyalty to getting discounts.

5. How social media is changing the way we travel

Social media is changing the way we travel. The way we plan, the way we book, the way we act when we are travelling and the way we report on it (in real-time and after the event). We are using review sites to book hotels and events. We are using Twitter and Flickr to find out what people really think of places we are going to or things we are going to do. We are using these same tools to report, often in real time, on what we are experiencing.

In this environment those in the travel industry need to take social media seriously, and find ways to make it work hard for them and their brand.

Causeworld: Using location-based apps to raise money for charity

You are here: George Eastman House
Image by jcolman via Flickr

Location-based apps and social media tools? If you haven’t heard of them you soon will. They use the GPS functionality of the iPhone - and the sharper developers have made them platform agnostic; compatible on Android, Palm and Blackberry.

The user registers on the site then “checks-in” with their geographic location to let their friends know where they are. The idea is if you can see your friends are in the vicinity of your current location you can arrange to meet up. You can also see interesting places others are visiting. There are other neat ideas like if you have visited a location more than anyone else you are named the “Mayor” of that location or retailers nearby by your current checked-in location can offer you rewards to visit them.

We’ve written before about how we think 2010 is the year of location-based social media tools. Foursquare it appears will be the defacto as it increases its prominence over others such as Gowalla and loopt as the location aware app of choice. Foursquare is even being spoken about in some circles as the new Twitter.

One of the more interesting applications of this type in my opinion is Causeworld. This app combines the gaming interest of the location aware app along with a feel good factor of donating to a cause simply by visiting certain shops or restaurants or scanning a particular product barcode.

Causeworld has initially been sponsored by some big names such as Kraft, P&G and Citi. The user earns “karma” points based upon visiting certain locations. Users can then donate the karmas to a choice of not-for-profits who in turn can convert the karmas to real money.

Over 300,000 have downloaded the app since December and hundreds of thousands of Dollars are given away to good causes each month.

As far as I understand it is only being used in the US right now but would expect it over here very shortly. In my mind doing my bit for a good cause by visiting a shop or a restaurant beats a 10K run anyday.

Like anything first mover advantage is everything so I look forward to the first charity in the UK becoming part of this.

  • Gowalla battles Foursquare (
  • CauseWorld: Checking in for Charity (
  • CauseWorld Helps Nonprofits Through Social Networking (
  • Location-awareness takes SXSW by storm (
  • The History of Location Technology [INFOGRAPHIC] (

SXSW 10 session notes: Can the real-time web be realized?

Day Two of SXSW and one of the most interesting sessions we’ve been to so far was ‘Can the Real-Time Web Be Realized?’ including Brett Slatkin from Google, Dare Obasanjo from Microsoft and Scott Raymond from Gowalla among others.

Rather than regurgitate the content of the session, we’ve included our low-tech hand-drawn notes from the session below.

SXSW: Real-time web session notes

SXSW: Real-time web session notes

Read all our posts from SXSW

SXSW and the UK Digital Mission

SXSW image by benjamin ellis

SXSW image by benjamin ellis

This week I’m going to be reporting from the South by South West Interactive (SXSWi) festival in Austin Texas. SXSW is World’s largest digital and interactive festival/trade-show/conference/party/event/get-together. Around 20,000 people will be joining me in Austin to uncover the latest thinking in digital and, I suspect,  to network like nutters.

I’ve been looking for an excuse to make it to SXSW for years. A few months ago my prayers were answered and FreshNetworks was picked by UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) to be one of 40 companies chosen to represent the UK at the festival. The grandly titled Digital Mission aims to help UK digital companies expand internationally and develop overseas business relationships.

The list of events is monsterous. It’s taken me a few hours to get my itinerary in order. I suspect I have fallen into classic SXSW-newbie mistake of trying to plan out a perfect route between each session to ensure a schedule that optimises my time here. I’ll probably find the plan goes in the bin half-way through day1 one.

some frantic session planning on the plane

Some frantic session planning on the plane

Here are just three of the sessions I am looking forward to:

  • Time + Social + Location. What’s next in mobile experiences - Foursquare and Gowalla are hot properties inn the social media world at the moment. This session includes Naveen from Foursquare.
  • Can the Real Time Web be Realised - a panel debate featuring some great speakers - Scott Raymond, co-founder of Gowalla, Marshall Kirkpatrick of ReadWriteWeb and Bret Slatkin from Google who created PubSubHubBub which you will hear a lot about in 2010.
  • Banking 2.0 - financial services driven by people and emerging technologies - as a social media agency, FreshNetworks has always done a lot in the financial services sector, so I am keen to test some ideas we’ve been discussing back at base.

And finally, one of the delights of coming to SXSW as part of the Digital Mission is the opportunity to spend lots of time with other UK entrepreneurs. I have always found that spending time with peers not only gives me new ideas, but also (because I’m rather competitive) it tends to raise the level of my personal ambition.

There are a few companies that I am especially interested in learning more about:

  • oneDrum - embedding collaboration in Microsoft Office documents
  • Silence Media - cost per engagement ad network for video banner ads
  • Slicethepie - crowdsourced band/music funding

Let me know if you want me to bring you anything back from Texas.

Read all our posts from SXSW