Marco Polo, that intrepid adventurer, traveled from Europe to Asia and back, and as a result turned noodles into a staple of every college dorm: spaghetti with red sauce. However pleasing the image of a plate of marinara the idea of travel and location thematically drive this blog post which resulted form last week’s Facebook mobile app. The New feature, Places, appeared on the ‘menu’ page right above the notification bar placing the concept of ‘locale’ smack dab in the heart of the app’s capabilities and features.
Location Based Services (LBS) are not new, not by a long shot, but the addition of a specific icon and tool to Facebook’s Mobile App does seem to be inline with how people are using mobile technologies according to a recent Nielsen study. According to the study Americans are spending nearly 43% of their mobile internet time on Social Networks. This is up almost 30% in just a single year! So why am I mentioning mobile, LBS and social in the same breath you ask? Because your customers are telling you what they like and quite literally, where they like it.
Mobile is connecting the dots by allowing friends in social circles to update their community with their physical location. In one sense the mobile phone has liberated us from needing to “be there.” You can reach me on my mobile and chances are that my phone will be in my pocket, now I can’t guarantee I remember my wallet, or keys for that matter, but the mobile phone has become such an important part of our lives that people are more likely to forget their kids when leaving a gas station than leave their mobile on their desk when they step out of the house.
Nielson’s numbers show a surge in social mobile usage but the art and craft of location technology isn’t new. We’ve had LBS based apps for some time now in the form of FourSquare or Loopt that have created ways for people to explore and connect through mobile technology but in the physical world. Even the popular reviewing site Yelp has a check-in feature that allows individuals to update where they are and not only on the yelp site but links it to Twitter and Facebook.
Marketers need to understand that mobile technology isn’t a destination but is only a way station on the way to social/viral marketing nirvana. For those intrepid marketers that can leverage their online behavioral data and maintain vast customer databases filled with demographic information including things such as mobile preferences, they can target adds and attract their followers because they’re able to interact, literally, on the same wavelength. Now imagine for a moment that you create an offer requiring someone to be in a physical location, or a call to action that engenders travel, and that friend updates their status on Facebook or another social network, indicating why they are where they are, isn’t that the same thing as viral marketing?
Social networking and location based services can be thought of as social location marketing (SLM), that’s right, I’m coining a term here, or at least trying to. What SLM requires is that marketers know how their customers consume their marketing, where they consume it and give them options to communicate through the most immediate and personally relevant channels. By tying web data to transaction history to customer demographics marketers can build relevance that travels. Good conversations have legs, like your customers, make sure that your marketing is wearing running shoes because the race for social location marketing is on.