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This chapter is from the book

Location, Location, Location

So where in this plan is there room for social location marketing? How much effort will it take? The answer to these questions can be summed up in the usually vague response favored by consultants: "It depends." However, I am going to avoid the usual vague responses in this book and try my best to give tangible answers.

As Mary Kay Ash is quoted as saying, "Life is short, order dessert first." So I am going to provide the good news first. Of all the social media channels, social location marketing is perhaps the easiest point of entry for any business. At the very basic level there is little to do in the way of setup, there is little content to be created, and at this stage only a small amount of moderation to be done. All this sounds too good to be true, right? Well, as I said, this is at the basic entry level. Get your venue set up correctly, claim it (at least with Foursquare), and you are good to go.

So if it's so simple, why isn't everyone already doing it—and why would an organization or an individual marketer need a book to show them how to do it? The truth is, as with the other elements of social media, none of it is rocket science. However, there are easy ways to achieve things and there are hard ways. So when you are figuring out where this fits into a social media strategy, it is important to understand what can be done at the various levels of competency and then make an honest assessment of where the organization is on the scale of social media knowledge.

As discussed at the most basic level, social location marketing can be a straightforward process of ensuring that your location exists in the databases of the various tools, and then sitting back and waiting for people to interact with it on those platforms (Foursquare or Gowalla, for example). This is a very passive method of using it, which is at the zero point on the scale of interaction. The next step up is to actively engage in the various platforms by signing up for them and learning what each offers the users. Having discovered, for example, that Foursquare focuses on location check ins and awards "mayorships" for frequent check ins, a business might want to offer rewards based on that. Meanwhile, it won't take long to find that Gowalla focuses more on "trips" and so a successful strategy might be to partner with other nearby locations to create fun and rewarding trips for users that result in some type of reward that the businesses have contributed to. MyTown, on the other hand, is more like a game of monopoly based in the real world, with the buying and selling of properties. So tying rewards into that theme might fit the business better.

As with all social media channels, finding the correct audience and matching that with the organizational business objectives is key. Simply picking Foursquare because it is most popular (or at least seems that way this week) is not a good strategy. Find out how the platform is used most often and how it fits with the organization's existing communications strategy. For example, businesses that already have a customer loyalty program are going to find integrating with Foursquare straightforward because they are already rewarding customers based on the frequency and number of visits to a location or set of locations, which is exactly how Foursquare works.

However, a business that has one-time locations (a real estate company selling homes, for example) is more likely to find Gowalla a good fit because of their trip-based game play, which encourages users to visit more than one location (perhaps open houses) in a given time frame before being rewarded.

As you can see, fit and function is the key to discovering which of the platforms will work best and therefore fit within a social media strategy. This might imply that an organization can't use more than one platform, which isn't the case. However, as with other social media platforms, I recommend becoming at least competent with one platform before adding others. Discover what the organization can achieve with the first platform before deciding to attempt a different platform. It is worth noting that users tend to fall into two distinct camps: those who have already decided which platform best meets their needs and those who remain undecided and use more than one service at a time (or use one of the services that allows them to check in on multiple platforms simultaneously).

The reasoning behind whether a company knows which platform is right for it can be as simple as a phone preference. For example, currently Gowalla does not provide good support for Blackberry, but it has great support for iPhone and Android. Foursquare and BrightKite are available on all phones. MyTown is available only on iPhoneGowalla has a much higher loyalty based on the design of the user interface and in game graphics than the other platforms and so tends to appeal to those users who are looking for that in a tool. Knowing even these basics about the user base can help an organization establish which platform is most likely to have users who will be likely customers for the location. Table 2.1 outlines support offered for each social location tool by the major players in the smartphone market.

Table 2.1. Support for Social Location Sharing Tools

Platform/OS

iPhone

Android

Blackberry

WebOS

Add Comments

Add Photos

Collect Rewards

Foursquare

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

N

Y

Gowalla

Y

Y

Y

N

Y

Y

Y

SCVNGR

Y

Y

N

N

Y

Y

Y

MyTown

Y

N

N

N

N

N

Y

BrightKite

Y

Y

Y

N

Y

N

Y

Whrrl

Y

Y

N

N

Y

Y

Y

Having established the basics of a strategy by determining which platform to use, it becomes easier to flesh out that strategy with the type of interactions that the organization wants to utilize on that platform. For the smaller business, this is probably going to be limited to "free" offers for completing something within the tool, such as a number of check ins, a trip, purchasing the property, and so on. Without the benefit of a large marketing budget, it is hard to buy into the more elaborate offers that these platforms have. However, that shouldn't stop smaller businesses from taking part in those types of offers. Some very effective affinity programs have been put together for these platforms by small, single location businesses, which have led to incredible returns and increased revenues.

Larger businesses with the budget to become involved at a higher level will want to explore the custom offers that all the platforms are now offering. From sponsored badges in Foursquare, to hidden game objects in Gowalla, to redeemable game tokens in MyTown, each of the platforms has found a way to partner with large organizations and events to deliver value-added promotions through their channel to users.

When tied to other social media activities, these can be relatively low-cost methods of achieving awareness for products, services, or brands, especially when compared to the mass media alternatives. A budget of $40,000–$60,000 will buy a Foursquare dedicated badge for two quarters, tying that to a coupon redemption campaign, or free trial offer and social media promotion of the badge, and an organization can save tens of thousands of dollars compared to a mass media campaign that might last only weeks.

Numbers like this start to make a compelling case for businesses to utilize these tools at all levels. Small, medium, and large organizations can create, with some planning, campaigns that capture the imagination of users, who are, after all, customers and potential customers.

The capability of social location marketing to fit into all elements of the social media purchase cycle—and to do so in a low-cost, ease-of-entry manner—makes its use compelling. As more organizations come to this realization and the user base increases in size, the tools will adapt to the ways in which both the users, seeking rewards, and the organizations wishing to offer them are utilizing their platforms.

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