Location-Based Marketing: 2011 in Retrospect

For anyone that follows the location-based services space, there is no doubt that it has been a big year. With several key acquisitions (Whrrl, WHERE and Gowalla), transitions (Facebook), going-out-of-businesses (Bizzy) and key partnerships (foursquare and American Express), there has been a lot to keep track of. To that end, my friend and co-author of Location-Based Marketing for Dummies, Mike Schneider, and I thought it might be useful to do a wrap up post on the best of LBS in 2011.

While Mike and I both have perspective to share (and we both include these thoughts at the end of this post) we also wanted to ask some of the other bright minds (established AND up-and-coming) for their take. So without further ado, here are some thoughts on “the best of 2011″ for location-based marketing:

Andy Ellwood


Andy Ellwood
, director of business development, Gowalla | blog
Location based anythings are quickly emerging to anythings and the ‘location based’ title is now becoming ubiquitous. As almost every device we use now includes a way to document location data, the questions of “should it include location” have been replaced with “how will it include location.” Brands that we worked with at Gowalla have spent the past two years exploring the nascent idea that their brand stories could be tied to locations and have learned how and where they want to be discovered and engaged with consumers on the go.

Jason Falls


Jason Falls
, author, speaker and CEO of Social Media Explorer
The biggest news of 2011 has got to be the Whrrl acquisition by Groupon. The possibilities of the two of these companies coming up with some sort of location/daily deal hybrid is really intriguing. Of course, I would have thought we’d see something that was the result of that marriage by now, but still … I’m excited to see what they do and thought the acquisition was really interesting. The Facebook-Gowalla thing is too, but I figure that to be more of a talent acquisition than a functionality one. But I’ve been wrong before.

Eric Friedman


Eric Friedman
, director of business development, foursquare |
blog
I am most excited about the launch of foursquare Radar – for us its the intersection of the right information to the right person at the right time and place. We created a wealth of tips and information from friends and brands, and Radar allows a way to deliver this info to someone when they are near a location they are interested in.

Eric Katerman


Eric Katerman
, co-founder, Forecast
Lots of consolidation in the checkin space last year: ebay buys WHERE, Whrrl goes to Groupon, Gowalla to Facebook. Foursquare won the check-in battle, but is checking in enough to keep users engaged? All are based on logging the past, keeping track of what has happened.

Jason Keath


Jason Keath
, founder & CEO, Socialfresh
Foursquare stands atop a pile of their broken, sold, and dying competition when it comes to check-in apps. They won the sector a year ago and have now cemented their Jean Claude Van Damme dominance. Gowalla, WHERE and Whrrl where acquired and Facebook took a big step back. Revenue channels up, partners up, business support up, user growth steady.

Instagram has the steady growl of a 56 Chevy poised to take off of the start line. They are just getting started as the photo app to beat (15 million users in 1 year) and they are only on one of the top mobile platforms. They are the future of location, while the focus of the app is image sharing, location has been built in from day one, integrates with foursquare and Facebook, and picks up photo locations better than any app.

Asif Khan


Asif Khan
– president, Location Based Marketing Association
2011 has been an amazing year for location-based marketing. Perhaps amongst the biggest moves is the failure of Gowalla, the emergence of indoor location platforms like Shopkick, PointInside and BeeMedia and the consumers’ zeal for deals from LivingSocial and Groupon. Perhaps my favorite app for 2011 is Sonar. I attend a ton of conferences and Sonar correlates check-in data from Foursquare with LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook data about everyone else in the room, helping you network better.

Nataly Kogan


Nataly Kogan
, VP customer experience, WHERE
I think a few developments for 2011:

Consolidation of meaningful players in the check-in space. Gowalla goes bye bye because Fourquare is the de-facto check-in app. (Although I bet Instgram is gaining on foursquare in terms of being the primary client through which people check in.) Whrrl goes to Groupon earlier in the year.

WHERE gets acquired by PayPal/eBay, as PayPal announces its strategy to offer users a way to pay anytime, anywhere, including now at retail. Validation for LBS in a big way – need to offer consumers ubiquitous access to great deals when and where relevant and allow them to pay however they want.

Paul Mabray


Paul Mabray
, chief strategy officer, Vintank
For me the biggest two factors was the understanding that location layers in data was important and seeing key platforms (e.g. Instagram) including them as “texture” to every post. Despite the naysayers, location as a layer is one of the most important elements that all apps/platforms should be integrating. Another key factor is the notion that we have limited time to use LOTS of platforms (even niche ones) and tools like Sonar demonstrated that asynchronous tools could be key factors to add value without forcing the user to leverage another platform. As an example imagine a platform like Foodspotting grabbing all your food data from Facebook, Twitter, etc and using that to build asynchronous suggestions for restaurants/dishes for you. This could be applied to books, movies, music, wine and more.

My favorite apps from 2011:

  • Path
  • Instagram
  • Sonar
  • Oink
  • Up (love the concept of integrating physical objects to social and timeline)

Jill McFarland


Jill McFarland
, digital marketing strategist, restaurant & hospitality industry | blog
One of my favorite things to see this year was first Cinnabon in November and now Arby’s donating a $1 for every Foursquare check-in to a cause.

Biggest moves to me were Groupon aquiring Whrrl and Facebook aquiring Gowalla but not because of dollars or size, what made them interesting is that they were both talent and UX acquisitions.

Liz Philips


Liz Philips
, social media for TaylorMade, Adidas Golf & Ashworth | blog
As someone that’s a bit of an outsider to the LBS space, here are a few thoughts:

The integration of deals (Living Social, Buy with Me, etc.) into foursquare this past year is very interesting. Finally, a way to both aggregate deals (thank goodness, my inbox sees about twenty Groupon-like deals every morning, I simply can’t sift through them) and serve them upbased on relevancy. If the deal is relevant, obviously there is a higher conversion rate. Foursquare’s platform serves as the “pipes” for these vendors to geo-target based on previous traffic patterns. This makes a lot of sense for both sides as well as for the consumer – a win/win/win all the way around.

As for new apps/platforms… haven’t been impressed with anything enough to call out – so I look forward to reading your post! LocalMind is a great idea but without users, no traction. Same thing with Wenzani (good idea but bad execution; needs hooks to other social platforms for both content as well as syndication for sharing. Haven’t tried LOQUL. I also started using Waze for scoping out traffic on my long commute – the idea is nice (social mobile app with real-time traffic updates from other users for an optimal commute) but after a few weeks of using it, I figured out that Google Maps with traffic worked just as well.

My pick for the best location app is… Glympse – though it came out a few years ago, the app is now available on more platforms. Glympse is a location tracking app where (as they say in their tagline) you can “share your where.” Basically the app turns your smartphone into a tracking beacon and you can selectively share your moving or static location with whoever needs to know (the person who’s waiting for you at a lunch date, your parents to prove you’re REALLY at the movies and not some party, etc). Getting into the habit of simply “sharing your where” would cut down on phone calls and texts etc in the time that typically precedes an IRL meet-up.

Simon Salt


Simon Salt,
CEO, author, Social Location Marketing and CEO, IncSlingers
Whrrl to Groupon – a very bad move. Gowalla to Facebook – remains to be seen but overall the loss of Gowalla is a bad thing for the user base. The closing of Bizzy was a shame but shows that the space is probably crowded.

My favorite apps in the space continue to be GoldRun and CarZar.

Mike Schneider


Mike Schneider
, co-author Location-Based Marketing for Dummies, SVP digital incubator, Allen & Gerritsen
| blog
The coolest LBS apps of 2011:

1. LevelUp: Free cash for consumers (inverted deals) not enough? Acqusition, retention, insight and reduced interchange fees for the merchants, plus a view of behavior across locations. It’s epic.
2. Uber: Need a ride? Uber has one and you will ride in style. I call this the Trader Joe’s of transportation. You basically get your own limo driver for one ride. It finds you, it puts you in touch with a driver, you see that driver on the map, they come and get you, they take you where you need to go and the transaction happens cleanly in the background.
3. Path: OK, it’s not from 2011 technically, but Path 2.0 is like UX porn. It’s supposed to be an intimate network for just your closest friends but it turns out that it’s a pretty cool way to show people where you are and see what is happening in places. See, people only
4. Trover: No one is going to use it, but they should. On the surface it’s too close to instagram, but it’s supposed to only be the most awesome discoveries in the area. As you browse the photo stream, the icon turns from a guy walking to longboarding to biking to car to plane.
5. Forecast: These guys have future foursquare. The question is whether or not they are afraid to start monetizing. The benefits are obvious. They need a big brand to sign on.
6. Alfred: Cleversense showed us all how to do recommendation engines. It’s what Bizzy would have been if they had not spent time on the web experience.  Google agrees. They gobbled them up.
7. foursquare: Yeah #fatdenny and the gang are still cool. The radar feature is pretty fun and their integration with American Express has raised a few eyebrows. They still need a few things (like impression metrics) to be taken seriously as part of the digital (mobile) media budget, but they did win the check-in wars and they do have one of the best platforms to build on top of (just ask Forecast).
8. Timehop: Your daily dose of what you did a year ago! It’s a smile-a-day.

Aaron Strout


Aaron Strout
, co-author Location-Based Marketing for Dummies, head of location-based marketing, WCG
| blog
For me? The two biggest things I saw in location-based marketing are the hockey stick growth of smart phone ownership in the U.S. (up to nearly 50% from 30%) and Facebook’s decision to transition location from a service to a feature. What I’m starting to see is that while many run of the mill Facebook users aren’t inclined to open the app to “check in,” they are more inclined to add their location to a status or image upload.

 

Next up, Location-Based Marketing Predictions for 2012.

Hubspot Creates Cool Infographic to Show off New Marketing Grader Tool

I’ll preface this post with the fact that I like the people over at B2B marketing company Hubspot… A LOT. They have a smart CEO in Brian Halligan and an equally smart CMO in Mike Volpe. Add to that mix, former 140 CEO, Laura Fitton and a slew of other “roll-up-your-sleeve” types and you get a great business that keeps getting better.

To that end, Hubspot announces a significant upgrade to their well-known “Website Grader” tool five years and four million “graded websites” later. From their press release, the new Marketing Grader will:

  • Make suggestions as to what you can do to improve.
  • [Suggest] how to invest marketing resources, the top of your funnel (getting traffic) or the middle of your funnel (converting leads).
  • [Tell you if your blog is] helping you throughout your marketing efforts.
  • [Let you know whether your company is] engaging enough on Twitter and Facebook.
  • [Recommend] the basic steps to support people viewing your site on mobile devices
  • Compare [your marketing] to the marketing of your top competitors.
Not bad, right? Well if that wasn’t enough, Hubspot takes this announcement a step further and put themselves to the test with a cool (and informative) infographic that grades the top five republican presidential candidates on their marketing efforts. I’ve included the infographic below courtesy of the folks at Hubspot. It will be interesting to see if Romney’s marketing prowess will pay off in the long run (as a side note, I saw him in action as governor of Massachusetts and let’s just say that he was less than impressive).
Congrats to the Hubspot team for adding more value to their customers (and prospective customers).

 

 

I (Still) See You

A couple of years back I wrote a blog post called I See You. It was based on a concept borrowed from numerous groups of indigenous tribes world wide but re-presented in the runaway hit movie, Avatar, where the native inhabitants of planet Pandora used the term to acknowledge one another in a deeper way than just saying “hi” or “what’s up.”

What reminded me of this post and thus this concept were interactions I had recently with several different companies across a few different industries. Some of these customer service interactions were better than others but in each case, there is a key take away that I would suggest other companies — big and small — take note of.

JetBlue – I fly JetBlue about 50% of the time I fly. This has a lot to do with the fact that they service many of the direct flights from my hometown of Austin, TX to places like New York, San Francisco and Boston. However, I also like JetBlue because of their friendly service, snacks, built in televisions and comfortable seating. Two weeks ago, I was flying home on a fairly packed flight from SFO to Austin. It’s not a long flight (3 hours) but a little tricky to try and use my laptop when stuck in a middle row. After unsuccessfully asking the kind woman at the ticket counter if I could switch to an aisle or window seat post-check-in, I reached out to Twitter. Believe it or not, I wasn’t expecting anything as I really try to not be “one of those people.” If anything, I like to use my social channels and reach for good versus anything negative. And in this case, I used a little of both by saying, “@JetBlue, you know I love you but not looking forward to the middle seat from SFO >> AUS. ;(”  Much to my surprise, JetBlue tweeted me back within minutes and asked me to direct message them my flight info to see if they could do anything about it. Unfortunately, the flight was so full, even the social media folks couldn’t pull strings but as you can see from this blog post (and my ensuing tweet), just the fact that they acknowledged me and made an attempt to help went a long way toward making me feel like I was a valued customer. Now other people in my social graph know that too.

Key take away: sometimes just reaching out and trying to help (in a meaningful way) goes a long way toward surprising and delighting customers

Lexus – if you’ve never owned a Lexus, it’s worth buying one some day just for the service (and trust me, they are damn good cars). This past weekend, I needed to drop my car off to be serviced. In addition to arranging a loaner car for me, Lexus walked me through all the work that needed to be done (new breaks and a tire replacement). What I appreciated most was that they presented me with all the information, the pricing and the pros and cons of waiting versus doing certain things sooner rather than later. And in particular, I was very impressed when after letting me know that my tire wasn’t in stock but that they could have it within two days, the service representative agreed with me that taking my car to a tire specialist was actually a better idea than waiting and letting them do the work. You can bet that I tweeted positive feedback about my experience with Lexus.

Key take away: Being transparent and providing your customers options, especially when big price tags are involved is much appreciated.

American Express – While reviewing my online statement, I realized that I had been errantly charged for four purchases that I hadn’t made during a recent trip to JFK airport. After trying to remedy the situation directly with the vendor in question, I called Amex (business account) and immediately got in touch with a customer service rep. Within three minutes, they had taken all the necessary information they needed from me, walked me verbally through what the next steps looked like and let me know that they would take things from there. On top of that, they thanked me for my business (in a genuine “I’m not reading off a script” kind of way). They also reminded me of a valuable service they offered every time I used the card to purchase airline tickets (something I do regularly).

Key take away: Quick access to a customer service rep, minimal operational nonsense and then a well-informed acknowledgment of my relationship and a genuine thank you for my business.

Bank of America – In stark contrast to my experience with American Express, this one was a little rocky. Similar to my American Express story, I also had an errant charge on my BofA Visa card (tried paying for food at the same broken kiosk with a different credit card). After calling BofA and entering all my pertinent information into the system, the first customer service rep I spoke with asked me to provide significantly more information. That wasn’t a huge deal except after giving her all the necessary information, she let me know that she was going to have to transfer me to another specialist rep. While I wasn’t thrilled with this, I expected that she would hand all of the information I had provided (in addition to the fact that I had been “validated”) to the new rep. Not so. Instead, I had to provide all of my information again from scratch, a fact I let the rep know I was not happy about. Here’s where BofA scored a few points back. The rep apologized several times and acknowledged my frustration. It didn’t make it go away but I appreciated that she at least tried to smooth things over.

Key take away: Create smoother hands offs between systems and reps. And when you put an 800 number on your website (particularly, the logged in portion where you know what my relationship is with you) for a particular type of call, you should be better about actually getting me to the right place. Oh, did I mention that I’ve been a customer since 1993?

So which company has “seen you” recently? Which company didn’t that should have?

15 Tips for Creating, Curating, Capturing and Cross-Purposing Content

Originally posted on WCG’s blog on 9/30/11.

How many times have we heard that content is king? Believe it or not, probably not enough. That’s because good content is a major component in creating successful presences and connections on the social web. And with Facebook’s most recent announcement it sounds like brands will need to work even harder to gain their customers attention.

Creating Great Content

Unfortunately, many companies are not particularly well-equipped when it comes to creating content. Many are used to creating ads, collateral and e-mails. What most companies don’t realize is that the answer to many of their content needs may already exist within their four walls.

Here are three ways to think about creating content:

  • Hold an internal contest to find out who can write the best blog posts. Give your employees three topics, have them write three blog posts and offer a prize (cash, parking space, recognition, gift card) for the winner(s)
  • Arm someone in your marketing/PR department with a flip camera. Have them schedule weekly video or audio interviews with your product or customer service team (note – start wide by interviewing multiple members of product or customer service and then narrow the pool once you’ve find your best “speakers”)
  • Create a corporate photo-sharing account on Flickr or Picasa. Let your employees submit pictures they think best-represent your culture. Designate someone in marketing/PR to curate post-upload.

Curating Other People’s (or Companies’) Content

The conundrum for most businesses is that they know they need more content yet they don’t feel like they can possibly create enough content on their own. One great way to present engaging content is to “curate” other people’s or companies’ content.

Here are five ways companies can curate third party content:

  • Creating a list of relevant Twitter accounts. If you don’t know where to start, try looking up relevant key words on site Listorious.com
  • Ask your customers, partners or industry influencers to guest blog for you.
  • Build a list of your favorite sites, blogs, videos on a social bookmarking site like Delicious
  • Follow keywords in a Twitter management tool like Tweetdeck or Hootsuite and then rewet relevant tweets
  • Pick a favorite Slideshare deck and feature it on your website or Facebook account

Taking Advantage of Opportunities to Capture Content

One of the easiest ways to capture content is to attend live events. The rationale is that most live events like a trade show or conference feature numerous speakers and sponsors who are domain experts. Depending on how big the conference is and how popular some of the speakers/sponsors are, you might want to try and pre-arrange interviews ahead of time to ensure you get time with the right people.

To that end, here are four ways to capture content at your next live event:

  • Bring a flip camera and do short video interviews. This could include speakers, sponsors or even fellow attendees. Consider asking the same 3-5 questions to each.
  • Live tweet or blog the event. If you don’t have someone at your company to do this, there are many agencies and consultants that offer this service (sometimes even for the cost of a conference pass and meals)
  • Take pictures and upload them to a photo sharing site or a content aggregation tool like Tumblr or Posterous
  • If you or one of your employees is speaking at the event, consider posting your presentation to SlideShare

Cross-Purposing Existing Content

One of the thing companies forget is that they may already possess some content in the form of white papers, executive interviews and webcast recordings. Assuming that content is somewhat evergreen, there are a number of ways to cross-purpose that content into other formats and thus cross-post content into more social channels. Doing this can earn you better search engine optimization (SEO) and get your content in front of more eyeballs. Don’t forget to link this content together to create even better SEO juice.

Here are three ways to cross-purpose your existing content:

  • If you have a white paper, consider creating an infographic out of it. Social channels like Twitter, LinkedIn and Google + love infographics thus giving them higher amplification or pass along among your customers and prospects.
  • Has one of your executives done a recent video interview on the news or for an industry outlet? Consider making a transcript of the video and adding an introduction/summary and posting it on your company blog.
  • Chances are you have a set of FAQs on your website. Consider tweeting these FAQs, especially if they are more of an educational nature. You can post 2-3 a day or stretch them out over the course of a week. If you do the latter, consider using a hashtag such as #UsefulFAQs to make sure people can easily find your other tweets.

Do you have any great content tips to share? If so, please include them in the comments below. Feel free to call out companies or individuals that do a good job at creating, curating, capturing or cross-purposing content.

5 Reasons Location-Based Services Benefit Customers

Two days ago, I wrote a post about “location” being the last third of the “holy trinity of data” for marketers. In the post, I explained why Facebook’s move away from check-ins wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. In writing the post, however, I neglected to mention why location-based services (and perhaps Facebook with its new functionality in particular) make sense for end users like you and me. Thank goodness for friends like Jim Storer who reminded me that without customers like us buying into location-based services — and more importantly, finding value in these services — marketers won’t have anything to gain access to.

Rather than try and explain how customers derive value from location-based services in the comments of my original post, I promised Jim that I would write a follow up post here. To that end, here are five (of many) reasons location-based services provide value to customers:

  1. Deals – to date, many companies haven’t stepped up their “offers” to the degree that they’ve made it worth it for customers to check-in and give them data. However, as more companies embrace this, more people will engage. Facebook is slowly winding their way out of this game but foursquare isn’t. To date, a few deals in particular that got my attention are Starwoods offer to connect their loyalty program to your foursquare account. Once you do and check into a location that you are physically “checked into” (meaning you have a paid reservation), you get 150 Starwood points. American Express is also making it compelling to attach your foursquare account to your Amex card. If you do, you get cash back for checking into certain vendors locations. And then there is TastiDlite. They also connected their loyalty program to foursquare, Facebook and Twitter. Swipe your card when you make a purchase and not only auto-check-in but also earn valuable program points.
  2. Tips/photos – I travel a lot. When I do, I am constantly looking for Starbucks (or good coffee shops), restaurants, bars, etc. By consulting with tips and photos that others have left, I can get recommendations from friends in 140 character bites.
  3. Discovery/sharing – this may arguably be one of the biggest selling points for Facebook and their new location functionality. How many times has someone posted that they are at a Farmers Market, new restaurant, new dry cleaner and you think to yourself, “hey, I’ve been looking for a new _____.” Because you trust that person (or hopefully you do if you are connected to them on Facebook, them sharing that location with you helps you discover new places. And while it’s not essential to have the meta data attached to the check-in, it certainly helps when you can click on a link in your friends status update to see more information about a venue (including which of your other friends have checked in).
  4. Passport – Gowalla has already started to head in this direction i.e. focusing on collecting your check-ins and stitching them together to show trips versus just individual check-ins. Over time, these can benefit others like you that are thinking about a trip from Boston to Austin or Chicago to San Francisco. Collecting this type of data can also dramatically help LBS and marketers provide better services, offers and ultimately recommendations to their customers. The ability to tag photos is also powerful as over time, we may forget where we were when we took a serious of restaurant pics, or photos of the ocean. Or beautiful flowers.
  5. Fun – let’s not forget how much fun gamification can be. Earning badges, awards, points and street cred arent’ for everybody but there many people (myself included) that will go out of their way to do things to play the game (case in point, checking into Gold’s Gym every other day gets me that much closer to my Gym Rat badge). I’ve also picked a restaurant or coffee shopbased on the fact that I want to try win (or win back) a mayorship.
Do you use a location-based service? If so, why? If you don’t, what would it take you to do so?

Bring on the Content at SXSW 2012!

The guts of this post were cross-posted from colleague, Meredith Owen’s, fabulous write up on the WCG blog. Big thanks to her for doing the heavy lifting on this.

If you hadn’t noticed, it’s that time of year again. Yes the time where all of your social media friends flood your Twitter stream and Facebook walls with pleas to vote for this panel or that panel at the grand daddy of all digital/social media conferences, South by Southwest (SXSW). While some people look at this as a nuisance, I take it as an opportunity to look at trends in the space. I also like to keep my eye out for new faces and voices in the world of digital/social.

To that end, a number of my colleagues at WCG have submitted panels this year. All of them look great on paper and having listened to most of them present, I can tell you that it would be worth your while to vote any/all of them through. I’ve also included my panel in the mix. In addition to the one I’ve submitted below, I am also lucky enough to be in the running with friends, Tim Walker, Kate Brodock and Troy Nalls for a panel titled, Down in Front! How to Control Bad Fans. While SXSW only allows panelists to sit on one session, I’m hedging my bets to increase my odds. I’d be thrilled to get the thumbs up on either of the two panels.

Without further ado, here are the eight panels submitted by us WCG-ers:

  • Ultimate Healthcare Reform – Reshaping Our World – Bob Pearson, WCG’s Chief Technology & Media Officer, sits down with Jeff Arnold, founder of WebMD and Sharecare, for an epic discussion on how the technology leaders at SXSW can take people from information to action to create healthier world.
  • Social Media…A Responsibility of WHICH Department? –Matt Snodgrass tackles the elephant in the room during this solo presentation that will dissect various industries and companies to examine where social media responsibility should lie.
  • Friending Pharma: Patients, Industry & New Media – Last Monday was a big day for pharma too. WCG Director Brian Reid joins a sundry team of health influencers including Pfizer VP Ray Kerins, Cancer Health Activist and Patient Expert Alicia Staley, and diabetes bloggers and patient advocates Kerri Sparling and Allison Blass as they examine the risks and benefits of connecting patients and biopharma companies online.
  • My Doctor Poked Me. Giggidy! – Anecdotal evidence suggests that health care providers’ use of social media is in the early stages of an explosion.  Social media analysts Andy Booth and Naimul Huq sit down with long-time MD and leading blogger Dr. Bryan Vartabedian to explore how social media is changing the future of the doctor-patient relationship.
  • Social Networks are Killing the Company Org Chart – Every company has an org chart – but we all know intuitively that work is done based on relationships and connections across the organization.  Mapping those connections can reveal a whole new world to smart corporations. Greg Matthews (a former HR exectutive) and Humana’s Director Learning Innovation Brian Foye explain how social media can map and measure the real corporation underneath the org chart.
  • Inside Out: Internal Social Media & Big Business – Industry leaders Brian Snyder, Jonathan Mast and Blair Klein join WCG Director Brad Mays to bring together the collective insight of some of the biggest corporate brands on best practices for using social media for internal collaboration and productivity.
  • Future of Location Marketing: Dummies Perspective – 2012 marks the three-year anniversary of Foursquare’s launch at SXSW.  Location-based gurus Aaron Strout and Mike Schneider will walk through the 5 golden rules of location-based marketing and how to leverage the “there” there.
  • Social Media Strategies of Top Tweeting Businesses – WCG’s Ricardo Guerrero understands the business of Twitter- if fact, he created most of Dell’s Twitter accounts, which generated $6.5M of revenue in their first 2.5 years.  During this panel Ricardo will examines the top 1,000 business Twitter accounts to analyze whether or not Twitter success translates across social media channels.
In addition to some of these potentially awesome panel submissions, I also have another seven I am excited to see. In no particular order, here they are:
  • The community revolving door: staying a step aheadWelcome to the biggest challenge presented by community. From continuing to seek out new members, to finding the next evangelist, membership evolution can be an unexpected challenge, but so is content evolution and most importantly, strategy evolution (Heather Strout, Farland Group, Jim Storer, The Community Round Table, Mark Wallace, EDR and Mike Pascucci, Ektron).
  • Aristotle Shops @WalMart | CSR, Ethics & CommunityToday, Aristotle would be a Wal-Mart greeter, or perhaps manage its online community. What happened? The company changed their vision when CEO H. Lee Scott Jr. launched a massive Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) campaign to, in his words, “…create a better story”. (Kyle Flaherty, Breaking Point Systems & Alex Hahn, Vox Global)
  • The Facebook Customer Service Challenge for Brands Managing customer service on a Facebook Page is a messy proposition, particularly for large businesses and brands. Increasingly impatient customers and fans are flocking to the Facebook Wall to fire off specific questions or complaints about product and service issues, with the expectation of receiving a rapid-fire satisfactory response and the threat of making a big stink across their social networks if they don’t.  (Bryan Person, David Berkowitz, 360i, Molly DeMaagd ‐ AT&T, Eric Ludwig, Rosetta Stone).
  • No Wallet? No Problem. Enter Mobile Payments.The days of having that lump of a wallet in your back pocket or forgetting your wallet at home are over. Consumers around the world could generate as much as $50 billion in sales through NFC-based mobile payments by 2014, according to Juniper Research. Google already has merchants like Macy’s and The Container Store are using Google Wallet, powered by NXP’s secure NFC chips, to increase engagement and offer deals to consumers (Allen Tsai, David Berkowitz, 360i, Rob von Behren, Google, Jeff Miles, NXP Semiconductors, David Messenger, American Express).
  • Will the social web build a world we want? - Social media is transforming politics, the Middle East, corporate behavior and social activism. But how far can it go? Can citizens and customers, armed with social media and connected by shared values, create the movement for change that our world needs? Or will political manipulation, corporate self-interest and consumer fatigue overwhelm them?  (Simon Mainwaring, We First)
  • Can growing a moustache change the world? -  Join Adam Garone, CEO/co-founder of Movember, as he discusses how Movember leveraged the support of a few daring partners and pockets of loyal fans to generate a global movement that saw 450,000 moustache growers in 2010. Learn how Movember captivated the attention of a demographic infamous for not discussing their health, converted them into evangelists by turning the brand over to them, and sent them off to build the campaign. (Adam Garone, Movember)
Did you submit a panel this year? Or is there one that you know of that should absolutely make it to the next round? If so, feel free to include the link in the comments along with a little plug.

 

The Process of “Ideation” and Validation before Starting a Company

This is a guest post from Mukund Mohan, CEO of Jivity, a social commerce and brand merchandising company.

If you’re like most entrepreneurs (I fall in this bucket), who want to start a company, you probably get 100 exciting ideas in one day and none that excite you for the next 100 days. I know enough entrepreneurs who will wait for the right idea and spend months agonizing over if it will be the one that “changes the world order”. That made me think and question my personal process of coming up with ideas and what steps I follow to get my idea to see light of the day.

First a caveat: I fall into the “good ideas, good execution, but not world changing” bucket. If I were a baseball player, I’d be the “safe bet” to get singles and doubles, and a rare home run. My ideas won’t work for everyone. They are purely in the “discipline, structure and process bucket”, not the stroke-of-genius bucket. So here is a condensed version of the process I follow:

  1. Keep asking questions: It’s been well documented that good entrepreneurs are perennially curious. They like asking questions. Most of my questions have come because I have the discipline to train myself to have a heightened sense of observation. I like to notice everything around me and think. A combination of reading (blogs, books) and listening (to anyone, starting with the person sitting next to me at the airport, to my dad) helps me constantly formulate and process things around. I send text messages to myself with good questions and save other questions in the drafts folder of my cell phone. I try to keep a constant list of questions that bother me daily, many I have no answers to, but would like to ask others.

    My questions fall into 2 buckets: a) “Why” questions and 2) “What if” questions. e.g. When I was thinking of BuzzGain the question was “Why does engaging a PR firm cost so much for a startup and how can I reduce the cost”? With Jivity it was “Why does it cost so much to build a brand and can we do it in a less expensive fashion”? With my first company Interfinity it was “What if we could reduce the time to configure a Cisco router by 2 hours”?

    These questions usually translate into ideas that can help answer the question.

  2. Formulating ideas and seeking answers: I found that I get the most ideas from others, while asking them their opinion on a question that vexes me. They may not hand me the ideas on a platter, but many have helped me by asking the question differently or looking at the problem in a very different way. Many questions I asked were ones that were incorrect in the first place or those that I don’t really care about getting answers to.

    For BuzzGain the outsiders were practically any entrepreneur or small business owner. I talked to about 200+ people over 2 months primarily by attending 4 events – a BarCamp at SocialText, a Demo event at AdMob, Web 2.0 SF and lunch 2.0 at Oodle. I was not pitching the idea to outsiders, but asking the question that I was seeking ideas for.

    Usually at this stage I develop a set of “filters”. I tend to write down 5-7 filters and they are the lens I use to determine if the question is worth answering and if the idea is worth pursuing. A filter might be “Are others also thinking these are questions worth answering”, or “Can I get someone to help me understand how prevalent this problem is” or “Is this an idea that answers the question in a very different way”? At this stage none of the questions are really about market size or determining the size of the opportunity, but more about whether I am asking the right question and if the idea is the one worth pursuing. Another good technique I followed was I sent a 5 question summary using a free online survey tool to 200+ entrepreneurs and people I knew. I even offered a few Starbucks gift card to 5 winners who participated in the survey. It provided enough incentive to get a 53% response rate.

  3. Validation: As opposed to the previous stage where I reach out to practically anyone, the validation process is usually one that I test with experts. I have found that it is always better to go to experts after I go to the “outsiders” since they tend to give me more simple answers. Outsiders don’t necessarily think of the idea in the context of existing solutions, whereas experts or “insiders” do.

    I pitch only those ideas that have passed my filter criteria and it was not unusual to have 3-5 different ideas that I would tell the insider and ask them which one had “legs”. For BuzzGain, I had the opportunity to speak to over 20 insiders. Many immediately shot down 3 of the ideas but told me to refine 2 of them that they thought had potential.

    When I did talk to the “insiders” I went with a mockup. Initially a set of 7 PowerPoint slides, which I had a friend convert into HTML (he later taught me how to do it with Dreamweaver) and took 3-5 minutes to walk them through it. I had 3 mockups for each of those ideas and showed all 3 to my insiders. They ended up picking some components from each to help me draw a new idea that was what felt was different and really addressing question in a unique way.

The questions I initially kept asking needed serious “thinking time”. I found a routine that works for me. Thinking time for me tends to be “alone”. I have heard several people ponder and think while they are in the shower and others when they go for long walks. I have tried the approach to set aside time for thinking and have enough questions to think about. The time that works best for me is while doing laundry or doing dishes (yes I did that when I was in America), and back in India, since I have a lot more time, travel time or while playing tennis is my best time for thinking. I also like to talk to others when I am advanced stages of thinking, so many times, I will take someone that works with me on a walk to discuss questions that need some ideas.

5 Tips for Taking Better Pictures (Especially on Instagram)

Anyone that I’m connected with on Twitter or Facebook knows that I love to take pictures. And while I may not be great, I think I have a decent eye for taking a decent snapshot. To that end, I am totally hooked on an application called Instagram (iPhone only at the moment). I like it for a variety of reasons but the three most important are 1) it’s ease of use, especially with it’s sixteen pre-created filters, 2) the ability to cross-post to several different social networks and 3) the Instagram community.

The reason for this post is that several people have asked me recently what I use to take the pictures that I post. Rather than lock that information up in a single e-mail, comment or tweet, I’m putting together a quick post on five tips on taking better pictures.

Five General Photo Tips

  1. The Camera: Start with a device that takes good pictures. That doesn’t mean a DSLR or even a point and shoot camera with 15 megapixels. What it does mean is that you shouldn’t be using a crappy flip phone or a Blackberry (which takes horrible pictures). Truth be told, I love my DSLR… but the device I like best for picture taking is my iPhone 4. Unless you plan to blow your pictures up beyond an 8 x 10″ size, you really don’t need much more. That is of course unless you like using zoom or macro lens that allow for more pixels/different lighting and shutter speeds.
  2. Time of Day: What a lot of people forget about is that the lighting for your pictures accounts for at least 50% of how the picture comes out. You can game the lighting using different apps/filters, but starting with the right “canvas” makes all the difference in the world. My favorite time to shoot is just after the sun comes up or just before it goes down. Note that temperature/humidity also play a factor. Usually colder, dryer days are the best days to shoot. Humid days are the worst.
  3. Keep it Simple: Some of my best pictures are the most simple. A single flower, a raft, a tree, a bird. That doesn’t mean that you can’t take a good picture with lots of people or things in it. Just that pictures that are too busy can come across as noise.
  4. The ‘Crop’ Tool is your Friend: Most people forget that sometimes you can make a good picture into a great picture by cropping it correctly. Most basic photo apps (or even tools like Microsoft PPT or iPhoto on the Mac) allow for the ability to crop. This can help you zoom in closer on the subject, eliminate unwanted noise or create a cleaner composition. Try experimenting with different pictures to see what I mean.
  5. Experiment with Black and White: What might be an ordinary picture in color can become much more interesting in black and white (or sepia tone). This is because converting your picture to a monochromatic color scheme can accentuate the lines and lighting in your photo. If your camera app gives you the ability to adjust your lighting, sometimes “overexposing” your picture can create some cool effects. [I've included an example of this below]The four photo applications I use regularly are iPhoto (Mac), Camera+, Dynamic Light and Instagram. Here is a list of other cool photo apps for the iPhone that you might want to check out. [h/t to Shauna Causey for turning me onto Dynamic Light]
Five Instagram-specific Tips
Unfortunately, the Instagram app is only available for the iPhone/iPad. However, for those non-iOS folks, you can follow along at home by using Webstagram. It’s not quite as fun because you can’t upload photos but you can at least view other people’s pics. As a proxy, you can always post to places like Flickr, Facebook, Twitter, Google + etc.
  1. Take Pictures with your Native iPhone App: Taking pictures with your native iPhone app and then cropping/filtering them with Instagram is useful for two reasons. First, it keeps a raw version of your original photo. Second, it allows you to crop and zoom in on your subject matter. Recently, I’ve been taking pictures with my Phone app, importing them into my Dynamic Light app (tons of cool filters and greater flexibility with your lighting techniques) and then finishing them off in Instagram [see below for an example]
  2. Don’t Forget the Tilt-Shift: After you’ve taken a picture (or uploaded one from your photo library), if you touch your screen, a button in the bottom left-hand corner of your screen flashes up called “Tilt-Shift.” Clicking on this button gives you an opportunity to blur parts of your photo using either a straight line or a circle filter (you can toggle between the two in the bottom left-hand corner). Don’t overuse this feature but if you have a flower, face or other subject matter in your foreground, you can blur the background re-creating the same effect that using the f/stop feature on a DSLR would create. Warning – some people overuse this feature. It can be cool but can also make you look like you are heavy handed in your photo filtering.
  3. Use the Right Filter: There are sixteen pre-made filters in Instagram. Most of these filters are crap. The four I find myself using regularly are X-Pro II, Lomo-fi, Walden and Gotham. One of the cardinal mistakes that I see many other folks making on Instagram is trying to use some of the other “retro” features and in doing so, wash out/water down their pictures. DON’T DO IT.
  4. Vary your subject matter: Taking pictures of only flowers, faces or clouds may be your thing… but if you want to make your stream interesting, mix it up a little bit. This means action shots, still lifes, black and whites and color, faces and flowers. A good test is in the Instagram app, click on your “Profile” and then “Your photos.” Do your last 16 pictures look different? Or similar? Would other people find them interesting?
  5. Tips for Engaging: Here are a few suggestions if you want to engage with other followers on Instagram or acquire new followers:
    - Make sure you have a photo up for your avatar and post a few pictures before following other people.
    - Before you post one of your own pictures, go into your “stream” and like 5-10 pictures that your friends have posted (obviously you don’t want to like pictures that aren’t good but if you follow the right people, it won’t take long to find 5-10 good pics).
    - Don’t overpost. Just like on Twitter, if you update too many times in a row you will flood other people’s streams. It’s not a huge deal but it makes it harder for people to concentrate on your best work.
  • BONUS: for any of you that also use foursquare, using Instagram to “check in” to a location while adding a picture to the venue can be a cool way to make your check in more interesting.
There are obviously lots of other cool things you can do with Instagram and other photo sharing/editing apps. Feel free to share your tip in the comments.

One Degree of Separation

Unless you live off the grid in the mountains of Idaho, you’ve likely heard of the theory of six degrees of separation. The concept made popular by the movie and the Kevin Bacon game speaks to the idea that everyone on this planet is connected by no more than six degrees of separation. And while I don’t really believe that we are separated by one degree like the title of this post suggests, I do feel like we are closer to two or three degrees than six. The problem is, when the idea of six degrees came along, there was no world wide web, Facebook or LinkedIn. Now that there is, we can start to see these connections more clearly than ever.

To illustrate my point of how small the world is (and how LinkedIn and Facebook help us see these connections), I asked the question on Google + and Facebook. Within minutes, I got some amazing responses, the most relevant of which I have included below.

    • Jeannie Walters – 1. My college roommate worked with my Chicago friend in Kansas City. Because of FB, we discovered this and the 3 of us had dinner when friend was visiting Chicago. 2. My cousin in Atlanta is connected to various business connections of mine. He is 10 years older and we have never lived in the same state.
    • DJ Waldow - Spoke with a women yesterday who say my blog post that included a video of +Jay Baer. Turns out that she lives in AZ and knew Jay back when he was Jason. Ha.
    • Damion White – When a fellow Davidson College athlete in my stats class looked over at my comp screen during class the Monday after spring break 2004, noticed my Facebook page (yes, I said 2004), and then mouthed that the girl who’s friend request I was accepting had arrived at his and her NJ HS graduation in a Rolls Royce Phantom. I asked what the hell he was getting at, and that was how I found out that one of the girls in the group from St. Johns University that we had hung out with and befriended on Spring Break in Miami was Vanessa Simmons, daughter of Reverend Run of Run DMC.
    • Elmer Boutin - On my employer’s Facebook page, we encourage people to share pictures of their kitchen remodels using our products. One person who did writes a blog. Reading that I found she was from my hometown in Michigan. I emailed her and found she lives 6-blocks away from my mom and her sisters went to high school with my brother.
    • Judy Madonna Moriarty - Absolutely! One of my FB/twitter friends in Miami (whom I’ve never met in real life but have had many on-line convos with) posted a pic of herself cheek-to-cheek with one of my oldest IRL friends from NYC who now lives in Miami. I found out later they’ve been friends for a long time. FB & Twitter are definitely shrinking the degrees of separation!
    • Alexa Scordato - How about that time you were in Minnesota and bumped into my friend Shawn Horton at the Apple Store? The three of us were only in the same location once and that was at Podcamp in Boston years ago. Super super small world!
    • Rachel Happe McEnroe - A few weeks ago two ex-colleagues, one from 15 years ago and one from 3 years ago both friended the same person on FB on the same day (close enough that it came up in my stream somewhat at the same time). Weird.
    • Mike Lewis - Yesterday someone from college reached out to tell me my Aunt is her daughter’s daycare provider. She found out my aunt and I were connected through FB… very small world.
    • Bob Blount - Friend moves to Singapore (I learn about it via one of my social sites). Time goes by, I see a post or two and wish her well. Months later… On the phone with a colleague at my company about business in Singapore. At the end of the call I say, hey if you’re ever looking for an amazing PR Professional I have a friend that lives in Singapore you should talk to. When I tell her the name she says… “no way, I just extended her an offer yesterday”. I would have never said anything had it not seen her post. #smallworld
    • Elysa Rice - I have a good one… In June a person from Social Media Club Dallas came up to me and said “How do you know Lesa R?” to which I responded “umm that’s my step-mom, how do you know her”… her response “we went to 6th grade together in Kentucky” — the Facebook birthday game is what tipped her off that we had both commented on same person’s wall.

While this might be cool, you might ask what’s the point Well, for starters, it means that you might be a little more mindful about how you treat people. You never know when your neighbor, former boyfriend, gym mate or even fellow traveler could be your next boss. Or better yet, your client. This also means that you might be careful about what/how you share on your social networks. That’s not to say that you should be paranoid to the point that you are left sharing pictures with your immediate family and best friend from high school, but rather that you might think twice next time when you decide to share that late night picture of you doing body shots. Or the picture of you with the low cut speedo/skimpy bikini on.

On the positive side, the fact that we are all more closely connected than ever before (and have the tools to see these connections) means that when you are searching for a job, a prospective employee or new customers, the first place to start might be in your own network. Whenever people ask me to help them with a job search, I suggest that they connect with me on LinkedIn and then do a regional or industry search of my connections. For one, this helps me because I can’t proactively remember 5% of the people I’m connected with at any given time (nor do I always know where they work if we’re just friends). Second, if someone is looking for a job at a specific company, they can see if the people I know are connected to the hiring manager at that company.

So what about you? Do you have a story about your (less) than six degrees of separation?

A Newbie Takes on foursquare: A Q&A with Strout and Reid

This guest post by colleague, Brian Reid, originally appeared on our WCG work blog. Brian is a director at WCG in the product group, where he specializes in media. He is a former journalist who believes content really is king.

 

I love technology and take pride in early adoption. My first blog post went up in 2002. My first podcast hit in early 2005. But I’ve resisted location-based services until last month when I jumped in after reading my colleague Aaron Strout’s smart takes on the potential of location-based services for businesses. On the heels of Aaron’s recent vacation, where I followed his exploits through check-ins, pictures and updates, I decided to take the plunge and test out a location-based service for myself on my vacation. That 10-day trial led to some observations, which sparked the following conversion:

Strout: With so many location-based services out there, how did you end up on foursquare? I ask because this is the problem a lot of first time LBS users face: which service to go with?

Reid: I wish I could tell you that there was a lot of research. Foursquare was just top of mind; I had a sense that it had the most buzz and the biggest user base.

Did it take you much time to get the hang of foursquare?

I had decided that I was going to test-drive this on my vacation, and I literally set myself up while I was multi-tasking to rush out to the airport. It was all done via the mobile app, and I was pleasantly surprised at how simple it was.

As someone that is brand new to using location-based services, how much of a role did “gamification” play in your experience?”

I didn’t go into location-based services for the game element. I could not care less about mayorships or checking into more places that my friends. Yet, as I used the service, I found that the points and the badges and the graphs showing progress had a lot more pull than I expected. On the second night of vacation, I checked into a nice restaurant. But because my GPS hadn’t update the location, I didn’t get any “points.” I was taken aback by how angry I was that the service didn’t think I deserved credit.

In your opinion, how good a job are businesses doing using location-based services to engage their customers? In general, what percentage of businesses (that you checked-in with) are actively participating?

I was disappointed in a couple of different ways. First, the number of businesses that seemed to have any sort of presence was pretty small, and this was in an upscale, tourist-driven area where every other form of marketing was on display. I’d done a good amount of Internet-based research before I left on things to do or see to eat, but staring at the landscape through my phone showed a completely different landscape, with some businesses completely invisible. Secondly, the “specials” rarely seemed significant enough to make a difference in my decision-making. And that held for both large and small businesses. I spent one night in a Starwood property, and Starwood offers twice as many points for declining housekeeping for one night than for a check in.

What more could businesses do to up their game using LBS?

Businesses that aren’t on foursquare need to get there. For people who rely on LBS, not having a presence utterly eliminates you for some percentage of the population. It’s like being erased from the Yellow Pages. And the businesses that are there could stand to be a bit more creative. I don’t have enough checkins to gather a really robust sample, but few of the specials seemed achievable or worth it.

Did you see a value in the “tips” or “photos” at the venues you checked into?

Not really. When you read a board on chowhound.com or Yelp, people can get into details, and you can get a sense of whether you can trust a given review. Because comments on foursquare are so brief, not only is the actual recommendation short, but I didn’t get enough cues to let me establish whether the reviewer’s tastes matched mine. A caveat: I’m not using the social aspect of foursquare because I don’t have local friends on the service. Perhaps tips from friends would be better, but that assumes much heavier adoption.

Now that you’ve gotten the LBS “bug,” will you continue to use foursquare? And if so, how?

The short answer is “yes, but.” I’m not sure I get a huge benefit as a consumer, but the potential here is pretty big, especially if businesses and institutions get better at taking advantage of the opportunity. Though the offering is currently pretty slick, the “how to use it” aspect seems stuck in beta. For that reason, I’m really looking forward to reading your book (Location Based Marketing for Dummies, which hits soon.)

What could location-based services like foursquare do to make their services better/more engaging?

At the risk of spouting clichés: it’s the network. I imagine the real fun comes when there are large numbers of friends, nearby and far away, all hitting the same places. And I think that businesses, too, need to keep honing their presence on foursquare. Honestly, all foursquare did was tell me the soup of the day at my favorite café, I’d be a happy user. But that’s not information that’s being offered right now, and a checkin at a place that isn’t aware that I’m using FourSquare – no matter how much gamification you layer on top – isn’t going to do a very good job of holding my attention.