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Posts Tagged ‘Social Media Outlook’

Wilson Kerr (@WLLK) is the founder of Location Based Strategy, LLC a Boston-based consulting company dedicated to location-based marketing and business development. You can “become a fan of” Location Based Strategy on Facebook.

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Now that the collective tech/social media world is coming off the sugar rush of Facebook’s big Open Graph announcements of last week, I thought I’d take a fresh look. I should say that I am 41 years old and an active user of Facebook. I certainly see the powerful implications of sharing subjective information across a social network (graph). What I am not 100% sure about is if anyone is stepping back and questioning the viability of their approach.

Facebook made an audacious and smart positioning move to grab the social media high ground, but what are the real benefits to consumers? To Brands? To Facebook? Did Facebook really just “Win The Web”, as the New York Times proclaimed?

Not New News

First of all, last week’s thunderstruck, gushing over-reaction of adoration among industry insiders and press seems somewhat odd, given that Facebook introduced the Open Graph concept at the Developer Garage of October 28, 2009. Here’s an article by Nick O’Neil that outlines what he rightly categorizes (at the time) as “part of a broader move by Facebook”.

From Facebook at the time: “The Open Graph API will allow any page on the Web to have all the features of a Facebook Page…it will show up on that user’s profile and in search results, and that page will be able to publish stories to the stream of its fans.”

So, why then the wild enthusiasm and assertions? Perhaps the youthful Zuckerberg-lead Facebook team best-embodies the promise of social networks to finally dethrone some of the entrenched ad-supported superpowers like Google.

A Google Killer?

Is this move so profound that it will allow Facebook to collect enough information to power a “social search engine” and, as such, topple Google? There is no doubt that Facebook is in a position to learn, store and categorize opt-in personal preferences of individuals and utilize them to great advertising sales advantage. But there are major differences between these companies.

Google makes $23 Billion annually by giving people useful personal and business tools and serving effective and unobtrusive contextually ads in exchange for the use of these tools. Google increased Gmail users by 43% last year and their list of services is impressive, and growing. Google also has direct connections with the local retail points of sale that are so important for tracking incremental purchases and, as I have written about, is well-along the path toward deciding on the right way to collect, measure, and capitalize on these metrics.

Facebook, on the other hand, is not useful. Yes, I said it…fun, interesting, and a novel new socially relevant way to correspond with others with shared commonality. But useful? No. Over 37% of all people signed up for Facebook are inactive. That’s 150 million of them. Facebook made an estimated $650 Million last year and certainly has a lot of traffic, but they have not yet capitalized in a way that comes even close to challenging Google. The fundamental value proposition Facebook offers consumers is different. Try not checking your Facebook page for a week and see what happens. Facebook is a nice to have and, as such, needs to be incrementally more thoughtful about what they do and how they do it.

Size Matters

There were other implied assertions Facebook made last week that I question. Namely, that growth and unique appeal can coexist. Facebook has rocketed to popularity by mimicking the same voyeuristic appeal as the original printed freshman facebooks most of us used to peruse the social landscape back in college. But, after freshman year, the book became irrelevant. Why? Because the size of the graph made the details of the graph highly relevant. If the network grows and becomes indistinct, it loses its effectiveness and the stream of information becomes cloudy and irrelevant in the context of a broader network (no longer wow’d by the initial relevance).

For brands, the “fan page” acts as a tighter circle of consumer interaction and an opt-in sub-network, within the broader context of the web. Consumers have to “become a fan” and the thoughtful act of doing this makes the sub-network powerful and relevant to the brand and others within it. Facebook’s switch to the “Like” button was designed to make it easier for people to convey their preferences. This also has the potential negative side effect of broadening the input stream of consumers to specific sub-networks and clouding the waters  by making the size of the pool exponentially larger and, as such, less meaningful. The more the merrier for Facebook, as this grows the audience to whom they will serve ads to and pads their knowledge about every Facebook user. But it could dilute the opt-in pool for brands and clog the feedback loops.

The Like Button Is Too Easy

The sharing of subjective opinions and preferences based on real world interactions with products and services is the real power of social media (and location based marketing). Ratings and reviews are the best example of how consumers interact with real places and share input, currently, but it does not take much imagination to see that real-world interaction with a wider range of products and services is coming soon.

Providing this subjective input takes a minute or two and this fact (especially when consumers are mobile) serves as detergent to flip or casual positive or negative inputs. The “Like” button allows instant input, with less thought, all designed to rapidly fill Facebook’s master database. Great for Facebook and their advertising machinery plans, but the user experience (in the form of people’s news feeds) could-well become clogged with a deluge of “likes” that become less impactful in direct proportion to the times the too-easy “Like” button is used.

Personal Preference Profile Probes

What Facebook has announced is very smart, but it requires compliance by companies and brands. They are essentially telling any company that has a web page dedicated to something someone would “Like” to infuse Facebook code into that page, with specific metadata tags that categorizes the real-world product shown. This is very good for Facebook, but it essentially means web pages need to insert little  “probes” under their skin that feed a stream of data back to the Facebook mothership. Will companies and brands do this?

They might, but they also might realize that they are turning over the keys to the kingdom to the same barbarian at the gate who will then come back and charge them advertising fees based on the personal preference profile metrics they delivered on a silver platter. They could also do things in the future with this “holy grail” (the personal preference profile) that we can not conceive of currently. My point is that brands should not jump on this before they carefully consider the implications of the volume of valuable opt-in metrics they will be delivering to Facebook, and the benefits.

Content websites should be careful too, as Facebook is sure to sell advertising based on consumer preferences for something they read. Again very good for Facebook, but it could mean a thorny editorial/sales line in the sand gets crossed if readers get hit with ads for products related to an element of the content that does not resonate with the consumer targeted or if the ad seems to imply a paid connection between the editorial content and the advertiser.

Three Things Not Announced: Location, Location, Location

In a surprise to many (including me), Facebook made no mention last week of location-based marketing and framed their announcements around web-based open graph linkages and, more specifically, the integration of “like” button code on product pages to tap the power of personal preference aggregation. While the “visionary” open graph high ground move got the press, the real pot of gold lies at the end of the point-of-sale rainbow, reached by linking marketing to incremental tracked sales. Brands make money by selling more products in stores, period.

It was widely speculated that the reason Facebook did not announce checkin functionality or QR codes or NFC to link updates with real-world physical locations last week was that they might buy Gowalla or Foursquare. We now know that Facebook was about to launch a “door sticker” campaign to reach out directly to merchants and is using, of all things, SMS short codes to track consumer interaction and link it to location.

I personally think this is just the beginning and Facebook will dive headlong into the location-verified Proof Of Presence Metrics game soon. But can they pull it off? A simple location-enabled “Like, with comments option” might not be the right move here. This is too flip, to fast, to easy. Again, good for Facebook as they seek to remove friction for aggregation of personal profile preferences for who, what and where, but I am not sure members of the social graphs want to hear about every checkin and every store or venue or brand that those in their network simply “Like”.

My Friends All Like Different Things

I know the people in my social network and I am certainly more interested in hearing their preferences and opinions than the blanket ads I see every day, foisted upon me by those charged with selling the products. This, of course, is the power of social networks to shape consumer behavior. But I also have a solid majority of pals who are not on Facebook. The two I reached both gave me the same answer, which was, essentially, “Facebook is stupid. It’s full of asinine egocentric banter and takes way too much time to deal with”.  I sympathize and often have to weed though posts about spilled milk (literally) and inane random thoughts.

But I also use Facebook for business and have made an effort to be a fan only of pages conveying important, relevant information. I, for one, do not intend to fill my feed with all my “Likes” and hope those who fill my feed will hold off too. Aside from the obvious volume implications, I am not going to be swayed by the fact that someone “Likes” anything. Now, if they took the time to write a review or checkedin on Gowalla and stopped to rave about something and this was posted with intent, I’d be inclined to take a look. But the click of a “Like” button is too fast, to flip, and too easy and we all like many, many different things, for different reasons.

I know brands and companies have a different Facebook opportunity to potentially take advantage of, but the people making these social media marketing decisions are usually personal Facebook users as well.

Considering The Implications

Facebook has the traffic and the momentum to do some powerful things. I just hope the collective Social Media/LBS/Mobile world can stop for a minute and consider the positive and negative implications of not just the “open graph”, but the site-integrated Facebook metadata tags that, if implemented, will feed consumer preference back to the now-warming Facebook ad engine. Agencies should consider this move on behalf of their clients carefully. I hope Facebook users consider the long and short term implications of sharing so much about their personal product preference profiles with Facebook, the privacy issues this raises, and the effect of potentially having volume and size dull down the interactions with others within their network. And, I hope Facebook considers the user experience implications and that they treat the heavy crop of rich realtime opt-in metrics they will/hope to reap with consideration. Easy is not always good.

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Did your mobile ad campaign drive a consumer to a store that carries your product and can you prove it?

If you can use opt-in consumer behavior to prove that a customer visited a specific retail location and bought a product (and link this to a specific call to action), you are touching the future of mobile marketing. Social network platforms that can effectively capture these “Mobile Proof Of Presence”  (MPOP) metrics,  can offer brands powerful new marketing tools and quantify ROI by linking them to incremental product interactions.. at point of sale.

Lest we forget, companies make money by driving consumers to buy their products, in real stores with real money. Using traditional blanket print/radio/TV advertising for “top of mind”  branding is fine, but new tools allow brands to quantify ad campaigns by tracking incremental store visits, product interactions, and even payment for that product.

Three ways to capture MPOP metrics are: Checkins, QR codes, and NFC. Each has it’s own merits.

Checkins: The Current Craze

Popular “checkin” platforms like Foursquare and Gowalla are proof that consumers will volunteer where they are and what they are doing, for an incentive. By checking in to a specific place, individuals are rewarded with product specials or freebies and broadcast their location to their social networks. The platform that captures this information can use it to build metrics for brands, showing results as incremental traffic to real doors. A downside of checkins is their fad-like meteoric rise and that  unverified rotten checkin apples could spoil the metrics barrel. Foursquare, for example, has had some issues lately with fake checkins. Gowalla validates checkins, by real location.

How much potential is there here? Recent rumors are that Yahoo might buy 1+ year  Foursquare for $100+ Million.

How Do Checkins Work? Watch The Video:

QR Codes: Get Ready!

Quick Response (QR) Codes can be used to verify that someone was at a specific location and capture when that interaction occurred. QR codes are ubiquitous in Japan and taking hold in Europe.

They are easy to implement and serve as a viable “proof of presence” without the requirement that the device knows where it is. This is key..If the QR code is unique to the location, then a physical scan of it verifies a consumer was there.

For print ads, QR codes serve as “real world hyperlinks” to the virtual, online world. A company to watch is Mobile Discovery (video intro), a top provider of QR code campaign creation and management. Please contact me if you would like to learn more about Mobile Discovery or how QR codes can serve as a bridge between real-world point of purchase display or print ads and your mobile/social media campaigns. Get ready, QR codes could be huge!

How Do QR Codes Work? Watch the VIDEO:

NFC: One To Watch

NFC (Near Field Communication) is not new technology and many Americans use NFC every day. Contactless metro cards are the best example. NFC is potentially important for mobile marketing because it can generate MPOP metrics and enable real financial transactions via the device, instantaneously. No opening scanner apps or multi-step checkins. You simply pass your phone over a contactless terminal node and you are done. The downside is that NFC requires a significant investment in retail point of sale hardware and payments will require (messy) Carrier involvement. This is why it has not taken off, to-date.

Major device manufactures like Apple and Nokia are expected to launch NFC equipped smartphones soon, for the US market. Nokia has been doing pioneering work on NFC for many years. The Nokia video below is from 2007! A recently-uncovered Apple patent details “Peer-to-Peer Financial Transaction Devices and Methods”. The new iPhone might have NFC integrated and a payment app on-deck.

How Does NFC Work? Watch the VIDEO:

A Hot New Way To Measure ROI

While trendy checkin platforms dominate the news, be sure to learn the other ways to verify, track and capture all-important MPOP metrics. There is a lot of pressure on mobile advertisers and social network platforms to prove they drove real consumers to real  touchpoints, where  real products are  purchased. As well there should be…

If you want to learn more, contact me. I can help.

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Wilson Kerr (@WLLK) is  the founder of Location Based Strategy, LLC a Boston-based LBS consulting company founded in 2007 (Facebook). Wilson is also a location based blogger, speaker, panelist, and thought leader.

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Social networks are poised to be the most-effective marketing tool of the next decade. Facebook is the biggest social network and word on the street is they will announce location-sharing functionality very soon. While this new feature will make Facebook more interesting and compelling for individual users, location sharing is not new.

What would be new and what would interest me is if Facebook introduces transformational marketing tools for brands that will link Facebook campaigns to incremental visits to locations where real products can be purchased. These incremental, verified store visits and real-world product  interactions could very well become a new ad unit, and could reshape the very nature of how mobile advertising ROI is measured.

A New Consumer Touchpoint

Before I address Facebook-powered brand interaction linked to real locations, I want to back up and address why social networks have recently hit the marketing radar and become so popular generally.

People voluntarily linked by something in common (friendship, an interest, or a preference for a brand) can convey subjective information with far more impact than the traditional “broadcast” norm that has ruled for so long. Sounds pretty obvious, but this is the fuel that social networks run on.

Since it’s no longer only individuals that can have Facebook pages, companies can interact with consumers who have opted-in to their specific social sub-network, within the larger Facebook ecosystem. Messages initiated by the brand and information conveyed is disproportionately impactful, due to the highly prequalified nature of the opt-in audience.

Remember, these new social media touchpoints are also a two-way street. Members of these opt-in brand sub-networks (Facebook fans) can interact with the actual company producing the products and their collective input can shape the products or services offered. Companies can engage in real dialogue with their customers like never before.

A Huge Opportunity: 26,143 years/day

With a reported 400+ million registered users and 250+ Million active users spending 55 minutes daily on Facebook, Facebook is best-positioned to win the race to integrate location and roll out location sharing functionality for consumers on a grand scale. If they are smart, they will also introduce innovative location-based marketing tools for brands and companies.

Of US companies on Fortune’s Top 100 list, almost 70% reported having Facebook pages. Each averaged about 41,000 fans and was posting 3.6 new messages a week (Report from Jan 2010).

Wait, let me back up a second and get out the calculator: 250 Million users at 55 minutes each daily is 13.75 Billion minutes a day, or 229+ Thousand hours! This is the equivalent of….26,143 years spent interacting with Facebook, each day. Facebook, if it were a country, would the third largest in the world and now threatens Google for web traffic generated. Facebook is very well positioned indeed.

Location, Location, Location

Either through a GPS receiver (outside) or cell tower triangulation or wifi location systems (inside), most mobile devices are “location enabled” and can share this location information with the social networking application interfaces people choose to access. The fact that we carry a device as we go about our daily lives that knows where it is becomes even more significant when we consider that this is when we are in contact with real goods to buy and the locations that sell them.

If, as is expected, Facebook helps make location sharing within social networks ubiquitous by introducing this functionality on a grand scale, the opportunities for marketing campaigns that utilize shared, opt-in real-time location information should grow very rapidly.

Again, while location sharing among individuals is neat, the tracking of opt-in interactions with actual points of sale is the real financial opportunity for Facebook. Odds are, consumers will not mind an offer to try a new coffee flavor while they are in a coffee shop, if they have volunteered to share the fact that they are there. Google now takes in $23 Billion a year on the AdWords educated bet they made back in 2000. That is: ads can be both effective and unobtrusive,  if they are contextually relevant.

Checkins, QR Codes and ROI

According to Forrester, the amount of real-world sales influenced by online ads/marketing will be $1.4 Trillion by 2014.  The percentage of sales influenced by the web is increasing at a compounded rate of 9% annually. Yet these linkages between online research and offline sales are almost totally untracked. By understanding this research online, buy offline (ROBO) “gap”, you can start to see the potential upside of linking a Facebook-powered marketing campaign to actual in-store visits and what this means for measuring ROI.

For popular “checkin” platforms like Gowalla and Foursquare, place-labeled location sharing serves as the cornerstone of their whole model. Facebook could mimic this and introduce “Facebook Checkins”, allowing mobile users to tap a button and instantly post where they are and (optionally) what they are doing, as a status update.

This same functionality could be linked to campaigns run by brands and the metrics tracked and fed back to the brands. If a special deal or offer is needed to incent users to checkin, fine. Most businesses already thrive on these proven revenue drivers. Large national incentive and loyalty programs already in-place could provide the fuel for these programs to take off fast.

Why are those funny little square Quick Response (QR) codes suddenly so important to understand? Because consumers can scan them with a phone and they both deliver information to the application that scans them and use this information to launch little portals between the real world and the virtual, online world. Sounds odd, but this is only because this way of quickly interacting with a place or product is in its infancy in the US.  Take a trip to Japan if you want to comprehend the potential impact of tracked campaigns that make use of QR codes. Here’s an example, from last year.

Facebook QR codes for brands or location checkins could drive incremental tracked and quantified consumer interactions with the dealer doors where branded goods are sold (or even with the actual product). Facebook could capture all the details of how and when this occurred and, I’d imagine, be able to deliver a compelling ROI/metrics story to keep brands signing up for more.

Stay Tuned..

Facebook’s F8 conference is next Wednesday April 21st in San Francisco. It is widely predicted that they will launch location sharing for their users and, possibly, unveil related news for brands.

How will Facebook harness the power of location for its 400 Million registered users and give brands the tools they need to track social network marketing campaign ROI in new ways? This is what I will be watching for, as this is where the money is. Stay tuned..

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Wilson Kerr (@WLLK) is  the founder of Location Based Strategy, LLC a Boston-based LBS consulting company founded in 2007 (Facebook). Wilson is also a location based blogger, speaker, panelist, and thought leader.

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Gowalla and Chevrolet Join Forces, Foursquare Teams With Starbucks

Social networking games are moving from the fringe to the front lines of social media marketing at light speed. Two recent examples are below!

As I have written about for the last few weeks, this is not some fun new promotional tool that brands might want to consider. This is far-more and, I believe, will redefine mobile marketing as we know it. These platforms allow consumer brands, in the context of a controlled campaign management system, to track the actual traffic driven to individual store locations, in real-time. Even more-powerful is that the information conveyed can be tweaked by location, time, region, season, etc and continuous improvement can be fueled by tracked, actual, live mobile consumer interaction with the point of sale locations where real money is exchanged for real goods.

For years, brands have spent time and effort driving mobile consumers to websites not optimized for mobile and mistakenly thinking mobile consumers interact with the mobile web the same way at-home consumers interact with the “regular” web. Forrester reports that, “while 89 % of consumers shop for information about products online, less than 7% of retail sales actually take place online”.

The MMA reports that, “Almost $400 billion of in-store sales..are directly influenced by the web. That number will surpass $1 trillion by 2012”. But these web-influenced in-store purchases are not tracked. This fact is what I call the “ROBO Gap”. Yahoo coined the term ROBO (Research Online Buy Offline) and bridging this “ROBO gap” has massive implications for all online advertising, especially as the world take the web mobile.

It seems a few brands have finally awakened to the reality that mobile consumers want  THE primary component of a mobile campaign to be the locations where they can act upon the messaging they receive.  Social networking game platforms provide the perfect context for this, because opt-in interaction with business locations are the cornerstone of what they do and incentives and rewards are already built-in to the very essence of the platform. Merging in proven, current brand-specific loyalty reward programs tied to real goods that consumers know and love is a slam dunk. Using these platforms to introduce new products is an even better fit. The ideas are endless.

Sign up for Gowalla or Foursquare and get into the game. (Google-funded SCVNGR is another one to-watch). Check out these two examples of brand involvement from the last few days and watch this trend carefully. Super hot.

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From Mashable (3/11/10):

Foursquare and Starbucks Team Up to Offer Customer Rewards

Foursquare means business. The 1-year-old startup now has a huge brand — Starbucks — using its platform to test out an experimental customer rewards program.

Starting today, frequent Starbucks visitors who check in at retail locations using Foursquare will earn customer rewards. Although there’s no financial incentive or free coffee to begin with, customers can unlock the “Barista badge” after five checkins.

Of course that’s just the beginning; the coffee behemoth plans to use Foursquare as a testing ground for alternative reward strategies and to unlock “the pulse of the experience” for each store.

If you think this is a straight-up play to offer location-based mobile coupons, think again. The New York Times Bits Blog writes that the company is “hoping to use Foursquare to provide even more meaningful prizes, like invitations to special events, photo-sharing or online reputation scores.”

As Starbucks figures out how best to leverage the checkin, we have to step back and appreciate the magnitude of this decision. With Starbucks on board, there’s no question that Foursquare has all the tools necessary to appeal to — and reach — a mainstream audience. Plus, now that a second company (the first was Tasti D-Lite) is tapping into Foursquare as a loyalty program platform, the additional proof of concept will pave the way for other businesses to follow suit.

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From SXSW News (3/12/10):

Check in, Tweet, and Leave the Driving to Chevy

chvy.jpg

Arriving in Austin today? Chevrolet is teaming up with Gowalla to hook you up with a ride downtown from Chevy to a select number of Gowalla-users who check in at ABIA between 9am. and 4pm.

Get to the hot spots in style and “Catch a Chevy” during the SXSW Film Festival at Brush Square Park across from the Austin Convention Center, on South Lamar near the Alamo Draft House, and at the Paramount Theatre from March 1–20 from 6 pm–12am.

More Ways to Geek Out:

  • Make your own QR Code stickers to pass out to new and old friends at the Chevy Cruze Trade Show booth March 13–15.
  • Check in with Gowalla as part of a downtown walking trip and receive a special badge that can be redeemed for a special prize at the Chevy Volt Recharge Lounge in the ACC.
  • Take a Chevy for a test spin around downtown Austin anytime between 9am–4pm March 12-20 at the Brush Square Park “Catch a Chevy” spot at 4th and Trinity.

Whenever you or your wireless devices have had enough of the action, stop off at the Chevy Volt Recharge Lounge in the Convention Center to rest and juice up!

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Wilson Kerr (@WLLK) is the founder and principal consultant at Location Based Strategy, LLC. He posted this piece to his blog from a great little Brookline, MA coffee shop and bakery called Athan’s that he’s currently checked-into, on Gowalla. Seriously, check it out.

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Wilson Kerr (@WLLK) is the founder and principal consultant at Location Based Strategy, LLC.

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A recent report by E-Consultancy on the Value Of Social Media, shows some interesting statistics on the level of use of social media by over 400 companies surveyed and the general “experimental” stage most are in, regarding this new way to reach consumers.

Few would argue that there is a big opportunity for companies to take advantage of the myriad of social media marketing options. But this same myriad can be confusing and the options are evolving at a blistering pace. For brands and agencies used to traditional media campaign timelines and planning, it can be daunting to simply keep up with the options available, let alone form a coherent strategy that dovetails with current messaging. Given this, it’s not surprising that few companies have a firm grasp on the subject.

The ROI Problem

A pressing question for those dipping a toe in the social media waters is how to measure ROI. According to the report, “A third of respondents (32%) are getting less than 1x the return on investment from social media.”  The survey summary also states that, “Almost two-thirds of respondents (61%) say their organizations are “poor” (34%) or “very poor” (27%) at measuring ROI.”

Few would argue that the use of social media can drive brand awareness and open exciting new touch-points with consumers, but few social media platforms offer any real metrics for showing brands what the upside for all this work is. Web banner ads, keyword search buys, and mobile ad campaigns all come with metrics and performance elements that allow brands to measure ROI. Social media platforms need to catch up and offer these tools to businesses.

The At-Home Vs. Mobile User Experience Delta

Three quarters of brands (74%) in the survey say they use social media to drive consumers to their website. This is the traditional path and works fine if old fashioned branding is your goal. As such, it’s no surprise that “brand recognition” and “brand reputation” are the second (64%) and third (63%) reasons given for social media marketing participation. For regular at-home website visitors, this is OK, but it does not translate to mobile.

For example, spending some time here at my desk visiting doritos.com and the intense flash media experience found there makes me perhaps a bit more-likely to buy some doritos. In mobile, this is a disaster and simply does not translate. I do not want a branding experience that takes 4 minutes to load on my iphone when I am walking down the street. I do not want to install Flash. I do not want to have to enter my zip code. I want doritos!

My point is that, when a consumer is “out and about”, they behave differently than when they are sitting at home on a fast web connection displayed on a large screen. Most brands do not have mobile optimized sites, let alone a store locator that interfaces with the location awareness of the mobile devices we all carry 16 hours a day. No wonder 74% of companies say they do nothing or have “only experimented” with social media. They need to grasp the implications of the differences between mobile consumer behavior and at-home web browsing, before they dive in.

The Mobile “I Want It Now” Factor

Store locators are what most companies use to promote their locations but, if they are delivered on a standard website to a mobile consumer, the zip code entry interfaces ae clumsy (and the related poor mapping that does not tap into the location-awareness of the mobile device). This, along with the obvious screen size and zoom limitations of most phones, makes these experiences suboptimal for mobile consumers.

Brands need to build a functional place for mobile consumers to “land” and then deliver quick gratification that honors the fact that a highly prequalified consumer that “asked for more” is mobile and wants actionable, location-relevant information. Once built, social media is an excellent way to drive mobile consumers to a site optimized for mobile. The primary goal should be to honor the “I want it now” factor by converting opt-in mobile site visitors to incremental customers, by delivering the locations that carry their products.

“Checking In” To A Brighter Future

It is not a bad thing that companies are moving forward with some trepidation. They can afford to wait a bit, especially as the various social media platforms work on providing analytics and tools that measure the interaction with brand entities. While some platforms have enough traffic to monetise through ads, the smarter play is to tap into the ability to quantify incremental store visits by giving the brands access to a larger store locator within an interface that users know, trust, and want use to share current location information with friends.

The hottest and best example of this is, of course, Social Networking Games. No longer fringe, these hot platforms could solve the ROI problem and are tailored to mobile from the start. The games serve as a social network trojan horse that, for the first time, captures opt-in incremental store visits and makes the process fun, useful and viral. This metric has the potential to solidify into a new ad unit of immense impact, as check-ins are poised to be the new currency of mobile advertising.

Gowalla and Foursquare are the leaders and Foursquare’s recent business tool announcement tips their hand and shows the true potential of these popular platforms. They are, “pioneering a deeper connection between place and patron.” Preloaded on almost every AT&T phone, Ulocate’s WHERE platform is another example. They recently introduced a new “Check-In” feature with their version 3.4.

The mighty Facebook is working on “check-ins” as a direct result of Foursquare and Gowalla’s early leads. This is important because, according to the report,  “Facebook is the Web property mostly commonly used in social media, with 85% of companies using this site as part of their marketing strategy.”

The Tip Of The Iceberg

Mark my words: The social media networking platforms that capture valid, verified check-ins, and deliver the opt-in incremental store visit metrics these check-ins fuel in the right way, are going to be unlocking a very big door.

With 69% of companies spending between $0 and $5K per year on social media, we are just seeing the tip of the iceberg. As Social Media platforms evolve and cater themselves to the businesses that serve as the locations for check-ins and other key realworld interaction elements, brands and their agencies should be able to make better sense of the landscape, and tap into this powerful new marketing resource.

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Wilson Kerr (@WLLK) is dedicated to helping brands and companies harness the power of location and is the founder and principal consultant at Location Based Strategy, LLC.

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Wilson Kerr (@WLLK) is the founder of Location Based Strategy, LLC a Boston-based consulting company dedicated to bringing the power of location-based marketing to companies and brands.

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Social media marketing is hot hot hot. While the disjointed components have risen and fallien with the VC tide for some time now, a coherent roadmap is emerging for marketing a brand, product or service via social media. No longer just a fad for college kids or a way to virally promote your fart app, social media is emerging as a powerful and rapidly growing low-cost, high-reward force for driving sales.  The price tag is appealing and there is no barrier to entry.

With billions now being bet by the major players on the need for brands to have a mobile ad strategy, social media has evolved in the wings from a nice-to-have to a must-have for every company that sells anything. From a local pizza joint to a consumer packaged goods goliath, the power of human interaction to spread a marketing message though trusted social networks at very low cost is suddenly here (and increasingly measurable).

When did this shift occur? I am not sure, but something clicked into place in the opening months of 2010. Maybe it was Google buying Admob or Apple grabbing Quattro or the first real cold beer handed out for a virtual Foursquare Mayor’s badge, or some combination of forces. Regardless, mobile marketing seems to have finally broken through and social media is at the tip of this spear.

Twitter. Facebook. LinkedIn. Yelp. WordPress. YouTube. Foursquare. Gowalla. Myspace. Constant Contact. These are not fads. They are content-generating warp drives that harness the aggregated power of specific, personal product and service interactions distributed by a trusted collective of consumers who all opt in to play a role.

Brands can no longer just pitch the merits of their product at consumers. Push is out, pull is in. Consumers want verified, trusted information from people like themselves and know where to find it. They want it stamped as trustworthy and valid not by some pitch-team that dreamed up the slogan at a corporate offsite, but by the members of a social network that they can literally see, and that they chose to join. They have an insatiable appetite for the real interactions that generate a buzz they are a part of. How big is this appetite? Facebook‘s 350 million users post and share  3.5 Billion pieces of content to other members of their “friend” networks, each week.

Consumers know the members of their social media networks and trust their opinions. They can search for information quickly and easily to support these assertions and then walk into a business to buy something armed with more information than the salesman pitching them the product. This is a game changer and calls out the importance of what social media expert and blogger Mike Troiano calls, “Scalable Intimacy“.

Mike describes social media this way, “Social media..is about investing in relationships that create more measurable economic value than they cost. It is about engaging with the people who collectively decide whether to buy or not buy your product, like it or dislike it, recommend it or trash it, shape it or ignore it.”

As noted by Dharmesh Shah of social media software leader HubSpot, a great way to illustrate the power of social media marketing is to enter “(any brand) sucks” into Google. Or note that new social media marketing agencies are springing up, just to hold the hands of brands that tremble on the doorstep of this new frontier. Or consider the fact that 80% of the content read on the web today is not read on the site that originally published the content.

Most companies do not even have  mobile website, let alone an interactive social media hub for managing the way the blogosphere is distributing and discussing their product or service. There is a big opportunity here and a lot to learn.

How to get started? Check your city for informal networking groups like Mobile Monday and attend events, sign up for personal accounts and learn the ropes, ask questions, think about using social media to promote a non-profit you volunteer for, read blog articles from experts like Dharmesh Shah, Mike Troiano, and other thought leaders in the space. Of course, you can always hire someone to help out..

Still not sold? Still unsure if social media marketing is something you need to include in your corporate strategy? Just watch this video:

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