Social Marketing: Location Based Services & The Importance of Value and Relevancy


Social Marketing, Reinvented Marketing, Participative Marketing, Integrated digital/Social Media Marketing.

Sales are created when consumers take action. Feet illustrate action for me.

Friday February 27th, I attended an education event sponsored by Seattle Social Media Club hosted at the University of Washington Communication’s department on location based services. On the same day of the LBS event Google announced it was now possible to refine searches with their “Nearby” tool in the Google Search Options panel.

Location. Location. Location. This is what we use to say when discussing distribution strategies. Now location, location refers to the whereabouts of the customer. Location has gone customer centric. Location has gone real time. Forget location of business and think location of consumer. Think place, places that are relevant and add value to the individual consumer.

Mobile technology allows for businesses to add more value; now that’s valuable.

If you’re wondering how big LBS (location based services; foursquare, Gowalla, Whrrl) could be think about how big mobile is. Mobile is a macro trend that has scaled and will color the communications/marketing landscape for the foreseeable future. Mobile apps are here to stay. Which ones and for how long? Well now that’s the question isn’t it?

Over half of the world’s population has a mobile phone already and in the United States it’s closer to 80%

So here’s a few of my thoughts about social marketing, LBS and value and relevancy that were spurred by the SMCS event and in subsequent conversations with my brainaic friends Charl Pearce and Leann Underwood. And here is the slide deck, Location Based Social Mobile Applications from the SMCS event, if you missed it.

Participative Marketing, Social Marketing

Consumers today are creators, publishers of news. Our laptops, desktops, flip cameras, mobile devices, social platforms and enterprise tools have turned each of us into news makers, creators of news. Participating and making news is the new reality. Real time is valuable. Archived experiences are great but what is most relevant is what is happening now, or soon to be happening. (like the Hawaii tsunami threat this past weekend)

Location Vs Place

Place is specific and it is a way of further defining who I am as a person and what’s important to me. Where I’m at, where I go is relevant. Who is also there? Who goes where I go and likes the same things as me? Also, who is my whereabouts and likes and dislikes relevant too? Places are helping consumers define themselves and communicate in real time about what is relevant to them.

Mobile apps offer many opportunities to connect and engage with consumers in close proximity…but remember relevancy is determined by the client., not the business or the mobile application company. You might think it’s relevant you have 10 pizza’s that haven’t sold. I may think it’s noise and spam if I’m a vegan, gluten free, non carb eater.

Relevant vs Noise

Noise is increasingly described as things that are not relevant to me- now. Real time and filtering is helping consumers sift through a barrage of information. If I love Macy’s and I check in at Macy’s on my mobile. Macy’s is relevant to me. . What’s relevant and what’s not – that’s going to be the multi-million, billion dollar question. My take is if businesses are too aggressive, and try to tell clients what is relevant they run the risk of consumers opting out and when consumers opt out, it’s a little like a LBS divorce.

Opt in: Participation

When consumers check in they are opting in. Now sending them something becomes relevant, non spam. As with all relationships there is a process, check in does not mean loyalty nor does it necessarily mean I’m going to tell my friends about you.

Opt out: LBS divorce

If you make me mad, spam me, scare me or just plain annoy me I may opt out and opting out is a bit like a LBS divorce. I can’t imagine going back and marrying you again- maybe I’ll marry again, but it probably won’t be you. So marketers should proceed as perfumers do; do no harm, work to not offend.

Activation-Virality- Compulsion

Every time this slide was discussed I kept thinking about my early marketing days. It was all about moving clients form awareness to trial and the goal was always loyalty. So what will it take to engage get others to participate with you on their mobile device ? How do you help make it easy to spread the word and then what does it take to keep people coming back? I’m not so into this idea of craving or compulsion. Sure marketing is about compelling others but beware if you set up a craving where I want more and more and get less and less you are digging your own grave.

Google Buzz/ Google tools for Small business

Ricardo from PCC shared how he is using Google coupons and other google tools along with Location Based Tools to engage clients. It’s fascinating to see PCC Natural Markets leading the way in social marketing innovation and how affordable Google and other social marketing tools have made it for small business to integrate digital/social media into their communication and marketing platforms.

Reinforcing, Incentivizing Consumers to be your advocate, fan, marketing department. As reviewal takes over marketing it only makes sense that those who take our messages viral, build community and drive activation will be reinforced and incentivized.


Privacy is one of the real issues surrounding location based, mobile apps. I love the idea that at every level a client/user of LBS or mobile services can choose their personal security/privacy preferences. I’ve read that many believe LBS communities will be smaller and more trusted. Levels of trust, my girlfriends believe will be a key component of LBS and mobile app community development and engagement.

Levels of Trust

It all comes back to trust. Consumers move from awareness to loyalty as they gain trust. And differing levels of trust will continue to drive consumer behavior when it comes to sharing their whereabouts and details of their lives. Granted there will be some who share everything with everyone but my take is that the macro trend will reveal that trust levels drive how and when people engage and share on mobile apps/LBS. For example, very trusted, highly aligned ‘friends’ will know more, others may know about my whereabouts after the fact ( not as I am doing them) or they may not get all or any of the details. As my college age daughter reminds, ‘mom, of course I don’t show everyone ALL of my photo’s”

Men and Women and LBS

It appears that men are currently opting in to location based services at a greater rate than women. I think we will continue to see very real differences in how men and women and different age groups use LBS based on relevancy, value, privacy and safety and more.

Check in cheating

A lot has been said about this issue of check in cheating. For businesses as well as for consumers verification of actual engagement, participation will continue to evolve. I suspect there will be new ways to verify that mayor ships are more than mere drive by’s.

Enterprise 2.0 Applications

Of course LBS can be integrated into enterprise solutions and used to increase value and relevancy behind the curtain for the internal community.

So my initial thoughts…

Keep your eyes on the end user; the employee or the client. Remember all of these digital/social/technology tools are just that; tools to engage people with the incredible value you have to offer.

It’s not about the tools or the activity. It’s about the customer- stay customer centric. Listen. Ask clients and employees what is most relevant, what is of highest value to them. Don’t get caught up in the compulsion of more activity for more activities sake. Involve your clients and employees in developing your social marketing strategy and as you integrate tools such as LBS do it in a manner that drives value and relevancy for maximum participation….loyalty

Okay fire away your thoughts?

Photo credit Uploaded on August 7, 2006
by Wandering Istra at Flickr

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