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.

Three social media marketing trends from the crowd at #smmuk10

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Today’s Social Media Marketing 2010 conference (search for #smmuk10 on Twitter) was a great mix of theory and case studies, presentations and debates, clients and the odd social media agency. We presented on why ongoing engagement is worth more than buzz and showcased our work in the retail industry with T.M.Lewin and Jimmy Choo.

In the final session of the day, I took part in a panel discussion on trends in social media and the areas where social media marketing will develop in the next 12 to 18 months. The panel debated and sourced ideas and then used the audience to vote for the ideas that the collective wisdom of clients and agencies in the room thought were the important trends to watch. The top three trends are below (and I’m rather pleased that my suggestion about geolocation tools made it to the top spot!)

Trend 1: Geolocation tools and the convergence of online and offline experiences

We’ve written before that we think 2010 is the year of location-based social media tools and geolocation is certainly becoming a much talked about issue at conferences and with clients. At this conference we presented our own case study of CatchAChoo, the trainer-hunt we developed and ran for Jimmy Choo using Foursquare and Twitter. There is also a lot of benefit that businesses can gain from working with Foursquare and other tools as they develop (even small businesses as this case study shows).

Geolocation is an interesting development. There is a much-recounted (but rarely-cited) statistic that says that 80% of all data 0nline has a geolocational element to it. But in most cases this data isn’t used. The steady rise of smart-phones (with their in-built GPS systems) will make this data more useful to users and easier for people to add to. It’s a trend to watch and for brands to capitalise on where relevant for their social media strategy. Geolocation tools are growing, and brands can benefit hugely from them.

Trend 2: Increased focus on ROI

There was a prediction that clients will increasingly focus on (and have to prove) the value or ROI of the work they do in social media. And so they should. Brands should not be using social media unless they have a clear view of what they want to achieve - the business aims that social media can contribute to. And when they start to use social media tools they should be ruthless in their measurement of success. This is critical because it shows that brands are thinking about social media in the right way and for the right reasons. Success and ROI is rarely a measure of how many people ‘Like’ you on Facebook or how many followers you have on Twitter. Real ROI comes from showing the impact your work has had against real business aims - increased sales, reduced cost of new customer acquisition, new ideas into the business. Real needs, real measures and a real focus on ROI.T

Trend 3: Consumer resistance to brands on social media

An emerging trend, associated to the privacy debate, was thought to be increasing resistance from consumers about brands engaging with them in social media. The real trend here is a need for brands to use social media and engage people in the right way. Trying to engage people in Facebook is often not the right answer. Infact Facebook is a place where people are often talking and sharing with friends and connections and don’t want to be interrupted by a brand. Better to choose the right place to engage in the right way. If not then consumers may start to filter out brands and brand messages and exert more control over their own experiences online.

What are your thoughts on these trends? Is Geolocation the next (or current) big thing?

Social media strategy for small businesses

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This week we have been looking at social media for small businesses. Ways in which they can use the social media tools that exist to build their brand, engage their customers and learn about their brand, market and competitors. It is as important for small businesses as it is for large brands to build a social media strategy. And there are many different ways that you can start to use social media to get these benefits.

And social media strategy should be based on what your brand is looking to achieve. Only when you have established this should you start to experiment with different social media tools and will you be able to measure the success of what you are doing. This need not be an expensive and elaborate implementation, some great tools exist for small businesses to use to help achieve their aims with social media and this week we looked at four of them:

  1. Social media monitoring and buzz tracking: Any social media strategy should start with a thorough process of social media monitoring. Listening to what is being said about your brand, competitors, market and customers. There are a range of free buzz tracking tools available and setting up some simple monitoring tools is something that any small business should do.
  2. Twitter and targeting customers: Twitter is a very flexible tool. Some people think that it is most useful when you are following and being followed by very large numbers of people. But this is not always true and it can be particularly powerful with small groups. You can build a small community of people online who are interested in the same issues and use this to engage customers or potential customers. Better to target and engage a smaller group of people than to try to appeal to everybody.
  3. Blogging and brand building: Blogging is a great tool that any and every brand should consider. For many small businesses, blogs are a tool that can help them punch above their weight. The content, themes and information that they share can lead them to be thought of as much larger or much more established than they really are. Blogging provides an easy way for organisations to share their thoughts and their content. And people will respect you for this.
  4. Foursquare and customer engagement: Foursquare is just one of a number of mobile-enabled and geo-location social media tools that are being developed. They allow people to connect and share information based on where they are. Foursquare in particular offers great and exciting opportunities to brands. You can find out who is visiting your shop, store, cafe or building and then work out ways to engage them and turn them into loyal customers

These are just four ways in which small businesses can use social media tools as part of a social media strategy. They are all free tools to start using and the posts linked to above contain more details about each of them. Using and experimenting with social media tools need not cost money. The important stages are in the thinking and planning about what you are looking to achieve and so which tools are most appropriate, and then in how you manage and grow your activity in any tool you choice.

Small businesses can benefit hugely from a social media strategy. Plan what you are looking to achieve and how you will measure success, and then experiment!

You can read all our posts on social media for small businesses here

Social media for small businesses 4: Using Foursquare to identify and engage customers

foursquare blackboards @ Southside Coffee in B...
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Imagine if you could know who visits your cafe or shop on a regular basis. You will, of course, recognise many of these people. The man with the glasses who comes in most mornings for a flat white (that’s me by the way). The two women who always have lunch on a Thursday. Or the family who bring their children on a Saturday. You will recognise some regulars and you will no doubt speak to them and start to get to know them. Social media can help you do this more, and can, perhaps importantly, help you target people who visit sometimes but not yet regularly. This is where geolocation-based social media tools such as Foursquare come into play.

Foursquare is social media tool that lets users say where they are by ‘checking in’ at locations. You earn points for doing this and can see who else has checked-in here. If the location you are at is not yet on Foursquare then you can add details about it and plot it on a map. You earn points and get badges (status) the more times you check in and the person who visits somewhere more regularly becomes its Mayor.

I have been using Foursquare recently and, for example, might check in to the Fleet River Bakery just round the corner from my office when I get breakfast in the morning. Or I might check into Selfridges on Oxford Street in London when I’m shopping at the weekend. I am not yet Mayor of anywhere, but could become the Mayor of any of these places if I visit it most regularly. This is a small but growing tool, and it being joined by more and more geolocation-based social media tools that can be a real benefit to businesses.

Let’s take the Fleet River Bakery as an example. As a small bakery and cafe in central London they face a lot of competition (there are probably about ten similar venues nearby) but they are very popular with queues round the corner at lunchtime. Some people will be regulars and other will visit from time to time. On Foursquare, Fleet River has a profile, whether they set it up or not, and people who go there can check in - putting their details on this profile. For the guys at Fleet River this could be a powerful data resource. If they can attract people to visit them and check in on Foursquare then they can start to see who is visiting them, how often and when. But it can also be a powerful peer-to-peer marketing tool. On Foursquare your friends are told where you are. So when somebody checks in at the cafe their friends will learn where they are and so learn about Fleet River, where they are and what they do. They will also know that their friends go there and, as we know, peer-to-peer recommendation are much more important than anything a brand can say.

Using new and growing tools like Foursquare can be really powerful for small businesses. And if you work with these tools you will get even more out of them. Perhaps on the boards outside Fleet River they should say who the Mayor currently is, and perhaps even offer him or her a free coffee when they next come in. Or maybe offer exclusive discount, or a free cookie, to anybody on Foursquare who checks in.

There is a lot you can do to help people market your small business for you. Much of it free and just making use of the social media tools that are out there.

You can read all our posts on social media for small businesses here

Social media for small businesses 3: Blogging and building your brand

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Many small businesses are unsure about what to put on their website beyond their services team and contact details. They know they need a website but don’t always have the time, resources or content to add to it on a regular basis. It can be daunting for them, and the website can quickly become out of date. Too many websites for small businesses can date and look stale. And this is easy to recitfy.

Blogging is a useful tool for any business. It can help you to show your expertise on a topic. It can provide a less formal way for you to share your thoughts, experiences and ideas. And it can allow you an easy and versatile way to add up-to-date content and thoughts to any website. For any small business this can be a useful tool.

Imagine you run a small chain of hairdressing salons. You are busy, as all small business owners are, but understand the importance of your online presence to attract new customers to walk through your doors. Any organisation, however small, will have things that it is passionate about, and things that it can talk about in social media. In your role as owner of these hairdressing salons, you spend your time split between working in store and visiting suppliers, competitors and events and trade shows where you see the latest techniques and the latest products. Rather than have a simple, and soon dated, website that just states where your salon are and when they are open, you could use blogging to share these experiences and to share your passion for hairdressing.

You could blog each week about the latest trends, you could encourage a trainee in one salon to write about their experiences, you could review new products or highlight new haircuts. Writing a blog is easy for any business, it just needs structure. Our salon could include a review every Monday, highlight new trends on a Wednesday and have a trainee’s diary on a Friday. Every week. Easily and quickly you can start adding 1,000-2,000 words of relevant and interesting content being added to your site each week. Rich in keywords that will help people find your site more easily (and so lead to more people visiting your salons). And showing your thought-leadership and knowledge in the market.

For many small businesses, blogs are a tool that can help them punch above their weight. The content, themes and information that they share can lead them to be thought of as much larger or much more established than they really are. Blogging provides an easy way for organisations to share their thoughts and their content. And people will respect you for this.

You can read all our posts on social media for small businesses here