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

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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.

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5 ways marketers could use Facebook Places

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Image courtesy of David Armano

Facebook Places launched in the US last week laying claim to three major features:

1. It will allow users to share where they are with their friends.
2. It will allow users to see who is near them.
3. It will allow users to discover new places around them.

As a social media agency we’re always interested in what these developments could mean for marketers, so here are 5 ways in which marketers could potentially make use of Facebook Places:

1. Reach extension

Given that, by default, Places checkins will automatically go to a users profile and news stream (unless the privacy settings are adjusted) places can extend reach for marketers.

Not only will people be able to discover new areas or locations through Places itself but when people checkin from a venue they are broadcasting their presence at that spot to their entire Facebook network.

2. Advertising

As emarketer points out, Marketers want to reach consumers when they are close to making a purchase. Places will enable them to deliver a  targeted advert when consumers are at the point of decision.

This is very powerful as companies will be able to work out what consumers are interested in and deliver helpful advertising and compelling offers before consumers type a query into a search engine.

If ads can be pushed to people the moment they are engaged with something, rather than waiting until they take action and start a search, the ads become extremely powerful and can drive sales.

3. Location promotion

Yes this is a bit of an obvious one. But with around 1.5 million business pages on Facebook, businesses with an existing Facebook page can merge that page with their Places page by “claiming” it, or letting Facebook know that the business belongs to them.

Once it has been verified by Facebook, every time someone checks in from that location the business will inadvertently receive exposure from the check in.

4. Discounts and offers

Tom Bedecarre, CEO of AKQA, suggests that while Foursquare popularized the gaming aspect of checking in from physical venues (where people become “Mayors” for example), rewards could develop to become vouchers, coupons or some other type of discount  (eg, first 50 people to checkin at our coffee house get a free muffin).

With this in mind, Facebook Places could eventually be used as a way of distributing discounts and offers to people within a certain proximity. This would have the added bonus of putting an offer in front of someone when they’re in a place that allows for an immediate transaction.

5. Data

The data that you can collect on Places users and the number of times they checkin  could prove valuable in tracking customer activity, consumer personas and, indeed, competitor activity.

Also if people checkin to a certain venue or business and then leave any tips, advice or comments  then this information will be useful feedback for businesses.

It will be interesting to see how things develop with Facebook Places over the next few months, especially when it is eventually rolled out to other countries other than the USA.

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

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“Have you checked us out on Facebook?” As I queued to pay at Abercrombie & Fitch in London over the weekend I kept hearing this phrase over and over again. In fact as everybody paid for their purchases the sales assistants asked them this very same question. Some may have found this annoying, some may have found it forced, and some may have found it distracting. But it is actually 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.

Developing a social media strategy and how you will use the various channels and tools at your disposal to engage your customers is only the first step. Now you need to actually engage people. And to do that people need to know where you are.

There are many ways that you can grow your social media channels. And it is often best to start small with a process of thorough seeding. Identify a small group of people in your target audience that you can work with - they may be brand loyalists, people you interact with already or those you know would be keen to work with you. You can then work with these people to start to build content and engagement in social media. You can create a starting point from which you can grow. But once you have begun to seed the site, and you are ready to open it up to your whole customer base you will want ways to increase the number of people you are engaging and how regularly you engage them. The question then comes: how do we engage more people in social media?

There are many ways to do this. Initial seeding with brand loyalists will help to spread the word about what you are doing. Outreach marketing in other social networks - such as Twitter - and engaging with bloggers and relevant forums will help you reach new audiences. And you also have the options of advertising, running competitions and other more traditional ways of promoting what you are doing. Of course, your aim may not be to reach large numbers through social media. But if it is, the best way to do it is simpler that any of these: use every existing customer touchpoint.

We’ve written before about how social media does not just take place online, and the best way of growing and embedding social media is to fit it in to your existing processes and customer touchpoints. Rather than social media begin something that is separate to the other ways you engage and interact with customers, it should complement and add to it. You should examine every customer touchpoint and talk about social media where relevant and where possible. If you mail out envelopes to customers, you should put your social media channels on the back. If you include telephone and other contact details in marketing material, you should put your social media channels there too. And if your staff actually meet or speak to your customers you should talk about social media with them.

Abercrombie & Fitch get it right. There are a few moments at the till when the assistant is usually quiet - the customer is finding their money or waiting for their bank to authorise their credit card. It uses these moments to talk about their social media activity - and in particular a campaign they are currently running on Facebook. And with 1.5 million people liking them on Facebook, they are clearly doing something right.

So 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.

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My social media internship at FreshNetworks

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My name is Kristin Labisch and for the last couple of months I have been an intern here at social media agency FreshNetworks.

Before I started my social media internship I found it quite difficult to imagine the type of thing I would be doing. I really didn’t know how a social media agency functioned or the kind of work I would be given to do.

Most of my friends and family thought that my social media internship would involve doing just “Facebook stuff”, but I soon found that “Facebook stuff” doesn’t nearly describe what work at FreshNetworks is like.

Yes, there are 500 million people online on Facebook, but with  93% of the world not on Facebook I applied for the internship at FreshNetworks  to learn more about social media and how it can be used to help generate real value for businesses, rather than just how to use Facebook or Twitter. In fact one of the first things I learned is that whilst some brands will say ‘we want to be on Facebook’, that isn’t a social media strategy. And it usually isn’t the right answer for them.

I also saw the internship as a way to help me answer the many questions I found myself asking about social media. And actually, much of my internship has been spent working on these unsolved questions, as well as trying to work out what has not been asked yet by looking towards future developments in social media.

And this is why working at a social media agency like FreshNetworks was so appealing to me; everyone is always open to new ideas. Whilst they believe in taking an analytical approach to social media, there is no stiff or inflexible theoretical framework and each client is looked at on a case-by-case basis to assess their unique conditions, circumstances and strategic needs.

Because of this, work at FreshNetworks never gets monotonous. Every part of the team (and yes: this also includes the interns) is considered a valuable asset - an individual with their own ideas that will be welcomed at any time.

I know this is not a direct advert for FreshNetworks, so I will refrain from saying that I have never experienced a more welcoming and enjoyable working atmosphere with such an enthusiasm and passion for ideas. So I will put it another way: If you want to work with and learn about social media, have creative ideas and want to get to know creative minds, follow my lead and apply here for an internship. It’s not easy - it’s fast-paced and can get hectic, but the experience is rewarding and memorable.

Overall, my experience as an intern at FreshNetworks has shown me that there are endless opportunities for using social media both personally and for business. I can now describe to my family and friends how social media goes way beyond just “Facebook stuff” and can prove what a good social media strategy and the opportunities that some social media monitoring can bring to brands and businesses.

Fancy learning about social media with FreshNetworks?

At FreshNetworks we are always keen for Interns who want to learn about social media , shadow our teams and run their own projects for the business. If you would like to apply for a community management, marketing or social media strategy internship here at FreshNetworks please email your CV to interns@freshnetworks.com.

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Social media does not just take place online

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One of the biggest dangers with social media is to assume that it is only exists online. We see this in the way some brands approach social media - developing a social media strategy that is focused on the tools they are going to use rather than the business aims they are going to contribute to. We also see this in the way some brands allocate budgets for their social media work - associating it with their ecommerce or digital spend can mean that they need to work harder to make sure that social media efforts integrate with what is happening offline.

This is a real shame because really social media is not about online at all. It’s about the same human interactions and collaborations that we have enjoyed offline for many many years. In fact for as long as human beings have been social animals. Technology just lets us do more of these things, in different ways and, perhaps critically, with people we don’t know, that we are not near and at different times to them. Social media just lets us do things we have always done offline in bigger and better ways. So it should be natural that we consider it as having offline implications as well as online ones. But too often we don’t.

This is a real shame. The best examples of social media, especially when looking at the ways it is used by brands, have an offline element to them. You might have an offline event where members of your online community can get together to meet and continue to share the thoughts and discussions they have online. You might get people to do things such as test a product or experience an experience offline and then talk about it in their online communities (as we saw with Virgin America). You might us content created online at an offline location. You might reward people offline for what they do in online communities online.

The options are endless and do not necessarily have to be just traditional integrated marketing campaigns. Its about things that people do and things they care about. And about letting them do these offline and online. The rise of social media for marketing is less about technology and more about brands realising the benefits of closer engagement with customers and others. Social media tools provide a great way to do this but always remember to think how you can get this engagement offline too.

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