Although these pages are dedicated each month to cover the landscape of search engines, social networking and online visibility, the opportunities for gaining exposure from mobile users have been increasing at too rapid a pace to ignore.
As I’ve mentioned in previous articles regarding social networks, those who connect to social networks through their mobile device tend to access those channels up to 50 percent more often than others. Mobile users are additionally connecting through applications that suit their interests, browsing the web and subscribing to news and RSS feeds. We’re all familiar with the phrase there’s an app for that and, quite honestly, you’d be hard pressed to discover otherwise.
But other than attempting to reach the mobile audience through social networks, RSS feeds and applications, what other opportunities could there be? Location Based Services (LBS) are something to consider.
According to a report published by Juniper Research in February of 2011, Location Based Services could drive online revenues to more than $12.7 billion by 2014. Some popular websites driving these services include Foursquare, Gowalla and Rummble. Each presents merchants and businesses with a variety of options to target mobile users by driving them to a physical store location, encouraging them to use and share coupons and more. In most cases, each action a mobile user takes using these services goes viral through not only the LBS itself but through the social networks like Facebook and Twitter. Let’s look at a few.
Foursquare is an LBS network that draws mobile users through gaming elements. Users share their location with friends by “checking in” through an application or text message. Users collect points for checking in at various places of interest. Users can connect their Foursquare accounts to Twitter and Facebook accounts, which are then updated when a check in is broadcasted… which makes that action viral.
By checking in a certain number of times or checking in at different locations, users can collect virtual badges or even be crowned “mayor” should they be the most frequent visitor to that particular place. In 2010, CNN called foursquare “next year’s Twitter.”
From a marketing standpoint, Foursquare offers businesses a free set of tools to help them attract new customers and keep their best ones coming back. By offering Foursquare specials, mobile coupons, prizes or even discounts that are presented to users when they check in at (or near) your business, mobile users are inclined not only to stay aware of your businesses presence, but more likely to drop by in person.
Through a little creative thinking and awareness of local events, any screen printing or embroidery shop can easily draw new clientele by offering incentives during events such as golf tournaments, school activities and more. If you know your target audience and have an educated guess as to when and where they might be mobile, spend just a few clicks online to provide some incentives to turn them into new customers through this network.
Gowalla is, for the most part, just like Foursquare from the mobile user’s end. The differences lie in its point system, virtual awards and incentives to use the service. Gowalla encourages users to share experiences with their friends through their Gowalla, Twitter and Facebook accounts.
Gowalla includes a feature called “highlights.” Highlights are virtual rewards people can give to places they visit such as “Best Pizza in Town.” Businesses with the most highlights are featured on the Gowalla City Pages portion of their website. Encourage Gowalla visitors to check in to your location appropriately to raise awareness for your business through this highlight feature. The site also offers an option to feature your venue, restaurant or event on Gowalla by purchasing an official Gowalla Custom Passport Stamp created for your location.
Rummble offers a similar mobile user experience as the aforementioned sites, along with a twist. Rummble’s algorithm—much like a search engine—provides personalized results based upon a “trust profile” it builds for users. This profile is based on their usage of Rummble and the connections in their social network, which they call a “trust network.”
An example would be a user spending a Saturday dropping by a sporting goods store for golf balls, hitting the nearest driving range for some practice and then choosing a golf course to play 18 holes before the day’s end. Connections within that person’s social network would be able to see the check ins, read any reviews that user may have included and, when looking for anything golf-related in the future, Rummble would remind them of these locations.
LBS marketing tips
The first and obvious tip to take advantage of this marketing medium: make sure your business is listed. If not, be sure to sign up and get listed. Besides just getting users to check in at your store, remember you will also be visible to users who are checking in nearby. Making sure your location is listed assures your exposure on the networks.
Broadcast your LBS presence on social media channels like Facebook and Twitter. Blog about it. Encourage your friends and followers on those channels to become LBS users as well.
Also take advantage of the analytics and statistics tools available through the LBS you decide to join. Most will indicate how many times users have checked in to your location as well as provide you information on the number of shares to Twitter and Facebook.
Even for home-based business or those that wouldn’t benefit from storefront traffic, LBS services can be used creatively simply to market and create awareness for your business. For example, get with other businesses in your city and arrange a scavenger hunt. Offer a prize for checking in at each location and more.
By thinking creatively and spending a little time getting your business listed within these mobile networks, you can ensure your business is prepared for the future of mobile while taking advantage of what it offers today.
Take a look at some of the numbers Internet giants are reporting regarding mobile Internet usage:
From July 2009 to July 2010, customers around the world have ordered more than $1 billion in products from Amazon using a mobile device. (Source: Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon.com)
There are more than 200 million active users [40 percent] currently accessing Facebook through their mobile devices. People who use Facebook on mobile devices are twice as active on the site as non-mobile users. (Source: Facebook official statistics, January, 2011)
Mobile is an annualized run rate of more than $1billion. This means that those who access Google products and services through their mobile phones are adding a billion dollars annually to the company’s existing revenue streams. (Source: Jonathan Rosenberg, SVP, Google)