Location Based Services Alter Behavior, And It's Time To Pay Attention

Twitter was quite silly the first time I signed up.  A client of mine I was training in social media started swearing by it, and I reluctantly signed up to make sure I knew about it (ironic that someone I trained found it - either a good trainee or good training).  As I played with it, my numbers started growing, and over the first year, it became a useful tool for marketing, branding and recruiting. 

Yes I thought it was silly.  Many people still do.  Many more use it to drive information and report on stories long before any news organization or company can react. 

When I started using Facebook, I was annoyed.  The walls and restrictions made it useless for recruiting anyone but college kids, and even once the search was operative, the information was paltry.  That all changed pretty fast, and I'm confident in saying that Facebook will be the most important platform in the 2012 election, not because of what the campaigns will do, but because Facebook is now an information sharing platform built of weak links.

Which brings me to Foursquare. I signed on to Foursquare reluctantly when Craig Fisher talked about it at a DFW-TRN meeting in February. My second check-in didn't happen until SXSW.  I've played with Gowalla and Whrrl and SCVNGR, but Foursquare is my main focus.  I check in and post the results to Facebook and Twitter, first to get mayorships, but also to tell people where I think I've been that's cool. 

I especially relish it as small businesses, believing I might bring a customer or two to the location, but something weird has been happening.  The more I use it, the more I want to tell the world about my experiences.  The act of checking-in has led me to want to do more, which includes leaving tips, reading tips, suggesting food and beverage, complimenting waiters, and recently, talking about service. 

Last night, I was buying shelving at Home Depot.  As I stood in the lumber aisle, looking around for someone to help me, I inwardly started complaining how Home Depot just isn't as friendly as it used to be.  My first thought, was to share it, on Foursquare.  The connections that were made were organic - I had noticed that Best Buy Locations had lots of complaints for the Geek Squad, and it made sense that tagging it to the location was a useful way of creating a database of information for other people.  So when a specific location failed me at customer service, it made sense to penalize that location, and not the entire brand. 

That, my friends, is when I realized that location based marketing is just like Facebook and Twitter.  Continued use of the platform alters our expectations, gives us a voice, and leads to new behaviors.  While recent research (I read on Twitter, can't find it now) shows that social media is used far more for expressing positive information then negative, what's more important is the idea that we are actively expressing our emotions about what we're doing, while we're doing it.  Twitter is good for that to some extent, but tying it through a location based service allows companies to track that information to the source. 

And my friends, from past experience, I can tell you that what early adopters are doing now, the rest of the public will be doing soon.  

So what can you do? One, is to figure out how to use the service yourself.  If you have privacy concerns, consider checking in to places as you leave, or putting up a name that doesn't have identifying information (so for me, it shouldn't say smheadhunter or jim durbin).  Practive checking in and start reading what other people say.  Think about what checking in wants to make you do, in addition to thinking about what it makes you fearful of doing (and how that changes over time).  You don't have to build a location based marketing program to do that, but if you can learn how the services work, you'll be able to understand their effect on your business (think hiring, retail, customer retention, and small business sales leads). 

Like Twitter and Facebook, location based marketing seemed foolish when it started. I'm now starting to understand its applications.  Isn't it about time you did the same? 


Using Social Media In Mobile Marketing

One of the complaints clients have about social media is the inability to measure the value of our work.  I think this is bunk, as the measurement should be results - like traffic, sales, and new customers.  There is, however, an argument to be made that social media threatens budgets of internal staff and also that of other vendors.

Social media projects can achieve the same results as SEO campaigns, email marketing, branding and advertising, and that threat can lead to internal political problems that aren't so easy to conquer.

The solution?  If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.  Mobile marketing just hasn't exploded the way that it was supposed to.  The joke is that Mobile is like high school sex.  Everybody's talking about it, few are doing it, and those who are doing it, aren't doing it well. Now, I happen to know a hot shot mobile marketing guy, and the problem isn't the platform, it's the expectations.

Mobile needs a list, just like email needs a list, just like salespeople need a list.  If you want to run a social media campaign, hook up with a mobile vendor and design ways to build a cellphone list using your social media chops.  The advantage is clear - the boundaries are marked, and mobile and social media go great together, from Twitter to Joopz to Utterz.

Here's your first ROI goal. Build a list of 1000 opt-in mobile customers who can be targeted by the mobile vendor.  If you deliver your side, you win.  And if you deliver your side, you can put it on your resume, should you ever need to explain to a social media headhunter why you're perfect for the job.

Mobile Marketing Employees In Social Media

Mobile marketing isn't taking off. At least, it's not taking off the way it should.

I know some of these guys.  They can set up some really radical promotions that combine social media tools with viral marketing and have an impact far in excess of the money you spend.  But no one does it.

Partly, it's the risk factor.  If you think finding a social media marketing consultant or employee with experience is hard, wait until you try to find someone who has run a comprehensive, integrated mobile plan with solid results.  I think I'd have to charge 30% on a retained search to tackle that kind of position.  Without the right personnel, and the right infrastructure, and the right product, mobile can be hard. 

People are touchy about their cell phones, and since they actually pay for them, they're not too keen on the traditional ways of advertising on them.  You can run banner ads on Twitter or Gmail, but if do so on my phone, I'll be finding a new carrier.

So what do you do?  You use a social media solution. Mobile marketers do a lot of talking.  And surprisingly, they do it on text, in blogs, and in forums.  As it's a new industry, there is a lot of sharing of good information.  Education is still the difficult part of the sale, so the more success mobile marketers see, the better off the whole industry is.

As a start, I'd recommend a few of the following blogs

Carnival of the Mobilists
Situational Marketing
SMS Text News
Mobile Marketing Profits
Mobile Marketing Watch

And of course, if you need a mobile marketing expert with a social media bent, you know a headhunter who can find one for you, for the right price.