My Wife the Community Manager

It’s funny how things turn out sometimes. As someone that has worked in the digital/mobile/social space for the last 20 years, I’ve always spent my fair share of time exploring what’s new on the Internet. Testing out new technologies. Embracing new mobile apps and even writing a book on the phenomena that is location-based marketing. The same could not be said about my wife, Melanie Strout, up until six years ago.

No, this post isn’t about how as a wife and mom that she is the “community manager” of our family (although she certainly is that and a good one to boot). She is in fact a real life community manager. She’s worked with big brands and small brands. She’s done community management, forum and Facebook moderation and even some social media marketing. Five years ago, however, I can remember a conversation we had about blogging. Let’s just say that she wasn’t the biggest fan at the time. But all that has changed.melanie

Rather than put it in my words, I’ve decided to interview her. Below you will find five questions about how she got started, what she’s learned along the way and what wisdom she might impart to others that are considering the same line of work.

  1. [Aaron] How did you get started with social media?
    [Melanie] About six years ago, I took the plunge and jumped on Facebook. At first it made me a little nervous putting myself out there for the world to see. But over time, reconnecting with old friends from high school and college made me realize that the value of Facebook far outweighed any of the downside of living my life more publicly.
  2. [Aaron] Tell us about your first job as a moderator.
    [Melanie] It’s funny, I had been out of the work force for about 11 years raising our three kids. But once they were all in school, it felt like it might be time to find a part time job to earn a little mad money for the family. My last job before having children was running an incoming call center for a customer service department so I felt comfortable dealing with customer questions, comments and complaints. It just happened to be over the phone versus online. It was a little bit of a stretch but between my comfort level with social channels and past experience with customer service, I took a shot and applied online for a job with Canadian moderation company called ICUC. Imagine how surprised I was the day I got a call back from ICUC six weeks later to do a short-term moderation project. It wasn’t particularly exciting — just approving or rejecting pictures of Toyota’s NASCAR that had been customized by fans and uploaded to NASCAR’s site. But, that job lead to other moderation jobs for ICUC’s client brand pages. I learned a ton in a short period of time.
  3. [Aaron] How did you parlay your content moderation job into a community manager role?
    [Melanie] After ICUC, a friend named Sylvia Marino saw that I was looking for my next gig and she connected with me a company she was working with called GenConnect. They were a content company that was looking to grow their social presences. That was a real roll up your sleeves kind of opportunity with just the three of us creating content, marketing the site and managing their social presences. Not long after the GenConnect job started, Sylvia also connected me with Edmunds.com. That led to a forum moderation job that helped me hone my skills.
  4. [Aaron] What was one of your most challenging moments as a moderator/community manager?
    [Melanie] Hmmm, there have been a few of those. I remember when I was managing Halls Cough Drop’s Facebook page and someone lashed out at the brand. For one, it’s always hard not to take those comments personally as an ambassador for the brand. You also are hyper-focused on making sure you are making good recommendations to your brand partners and stay in constant communication with the team (including legal).
  5. [Aaron] Your last job was as the community manager for California Restaurant Month. Tell us a little about that.
    [Melanie] That was a fun project working with Jay Baer and Lisa Loeffler. We had to create a brand new Facebook page along with several other new social channels. Fortunately, fine dining is a passion area for many folks so driving interest and engagement wasn’t as hard as it was with some of my past opportunities. One of the highlights of the job was leading/moderating Facebook chats with several celebrity chefs like Cindy Pawlson, Roy Choi and Tanya Holland. Not only was it fun to get to know those chefs but the conversations they created on Dine in CA’s Facebook page drove tons of comments, likes and shares which is always a good thing.

As luck would have it, my wife, Melanie, is currently looking for her next community manager job. Ideally, it’s a 20-30 hour/work-from-home opportunity. She is open to both short-term and long-term project work. You can find out more about Melanie on LinkedIn here.

2013 Predictions from a Bunch of “Dummies”

As we roll into the new year, it’s always a great time for us marketers to look ahead to what is in store for us. This year, I wanted to take a unique approach to my predictions of 2013 by asking some of my fellow Dummies book authors to provide their perspective within their specific areas of expertise. In most of the cases below, these predictions fall into the realm of social media/social media marketing (Marsha Collier is unique in the fact that she’s written several books including one on eBay for Dummies).

I do plan to do a predictions post on mobile/location-based marketing which will appear in my monthly MarketingLand column. You can also find thoughts by several industry experts on the state of the state in location-based marketing in this post I put together for my friend, Jason Keath, of Social Fresh here.

Without further adieu, here are the predictions by several very smart “Dummy” authors:

Marsha Collier (too many Dummies titles to list)

I think this is a great idea for a post – especially because “For Dummies” authors examine their topics so deeply. Seeing as I cover three areas in Dummies books…. you can find a fairly complete list of current books here:

eBay:
eBay will further to shed it’s “garage sale” persona (yes, there are still plenty of people who do not shop the site on a regular basis). Major brands will finally see eBay as a profitable and legitimate venue for end of season and liquidation selling. Buyers will realize that much of the merchandise bought on the site is covered under the same warranties as alsewhere – and are covered by eBay’s customer buyer protection policy.

Seniors and social media:
By exposing themselves more and more to social media, seniors will see through the myths that fostered fears of social media. It will become an accepted communication venue across the generations.

Social media commerce:
I first predicted this in 2009, but it is finally coming to reality. Consumer brands will realize that online/social powered customer service is far more expedient than phone for first contact. Brands that adapt in 2013 have the opportunity of learning from very public mistakes and create their own voice to their customers – without broadcasting. New relationships with the customer have proven to build sales.

Paul DunayFacebook Marketing for Dummies

Retailers Get Smart using Facebook Data
Major Retail Companies have failed at creating commerce on Facebook because they approached the channel as another outlet for their wares when in actual fact they need to be leveraging the data within the Facebook channel to provide the ideal customer experience on their site. Next year we will see this shift begin.

 

Laura Fitton | Twitter for Dummies

I see 2013 could be a really interesting turning point for Twitter, especially as IPO speculation heats up and business model clarity is needed. You have some of your most intense early adopters already trying to pronounce it dead or dying just because they’ve moved their more intense sharing onto other platforms like Path and Facebook. While that’s true there’s just no way to discount the upside potential of a truly mainstream Twitter. With 200 million monthly active users and nearly constant mainstream media exposure on television, print and radio, continued growth is almost guaranteed. On the other hand, the DM spam problems are getting terrible and I seriously wonder what the future of that feature will be, given how poorly they support it. Mainstream small businesses are really just getting exposed now to how they could use Twitter to better connect to their existing customers, let alone to grow their base of new ones.

The platform continues to suffer from terrible DM spam, and a lot of the early adopters are shifting their more personal interactions to other platforms

Kyle Lacy | Twitter Marketing for Dummies

The year will be forever remembered as the year of consolidation and leadership in the world of interactive marketing. Organizations will start to deconstruct marketing departments to cater to the need of cross-channel communication with consumers. Leadership will be defined as the organizations who listen to the customer and deliver personal messages via all channels – email, mobile, and social.

Deb Ng | Online Community Management for Dummies

Community management is going to be a more strategic role moving forward. While less brands will see community managers as glorified tweeters, I think the role will evolve into more a social media strategist role than specifically a community building role. It will be less about growing a community and giving a warm, fuzzy vibe, than it is about getting the right messaging out. Because of this, I also see community managers handling content distribution.

Note: Deb is also the co-author of Social Media Marketing for Dummies. 

Michael Schneider | Location-Based Marketing for Dummies (Mike and I are co-authors of this book)

I don’t see the “stitching data together” problem getting any easier in 2013 as more niche apps and new graphs emerge. The hot thing will be mood / wellbeing. Apps that use relationships and data to make us healthier and happier will be huge. We saw a lot on the fitness front in 2012 with Nike Fuel Band, the Nike+ suite, Larklife and the incumbent Fitbit. Garmin integrated with Strava for serious cyclists to build community, competition and virality. I see apps like InFlow, Happier, Superbetter, Happify and Hmmm that try to combine semantics, science, location and social to make us feel better being big.

Lori Randall Stradtman | Online Reputation Management For Dummies

When I think about which social media tools, trends or ideas I am most excited about as we head into 2013, I’m thinking big data tools. I absolutely can’t wait to get my hands on a social media monitoring tool that can dive deeper than we’ve ever seen before into the dark waters of Big Data and surface with real-time treasures that show segmented information so that brands can find “their people” and create approaches that appeal to them specifically. This will also be huge for crisis management. The best way to deal with a social media meltdown is to nip it in the bud by paying attention to what’s happening around your brand.

 

I may have another 1-2 predictions coming from some other Dummies authors who are in the process of polishing their crystal balls. But in the meantime, if you have a prediction of your own (or one that you’d like to see, please include it below in the comments).

SXSW Interactive 2012: Key Takeaways

Originally published on WCG’s blog.

What is SXSW?

If you haven’t ever been to South by Southwest interactive (SXSWi), it’s somewhat of a surreal experience. For anyone in the digital/social media space, it has become “the” conference to attend due to the sheer number of startups, brands, thought leaders and level of networking that goes on during the course of the event. This year, nearly 25,000 paid attendees descended on Austin, TX — many more attend without a badge – to network, attend sessions, drink and eat good BBQ (and not necessarily in that order).

Given that this was my fifth SXSWi and it’s been interesting to see the changes that have taken place with the event since 2008. The biggest shift in the event over the years has been the involvement of big brands and a transition of mostly blogger and social media types to folks that do PR and marketing as their full time jobs. It’s also meant more corporate sponsorships, more hype and more traditional media coverage. None of these things are good or bad, they just change the vibe of the event significantly. And while some people who have been attending SXSWi for a while feel like the conference has lost its mojo, I see it as part of the maturation process of social and digital media in the corporate world.

SXSW Dashboard

This year, our agency, WCG, pulled together a dashboard* to track some of the conversations and activity happening at SXSWi (pictured above). One of the things we wanted to measure was the overall share of conversation of some of the SXSWi sponsors based on Twitter conversations… and more importantly, how some of those sponsors stood up to popular Austin phrases like breakfast tacos, cowboy hats and boots. Our search query looked for the presence of a #SXSW hashtag with one of the keywords on Twitter. Not surprisingly, we saw breakfast tacos overtake the likes of Apple and Samsung a day into the event. We also tracked things like:

  • Twitter velocity – how many tweets mentioning #sxsw #sxswi or #precommerce, the tag for our own pre-SXSW client event
  • Check-in activity around downtown Austin
  • Top words mentioned in conjunction with #sxsw (in a word cloud)
  • Top mentions of @wcgworld (one of our Agency’s Twitter handles)
  • Most active Twitterers mentioning #sxsw

While part of building the dashboard was for fun, we also wanted to get a better sense of what the macro activity around SXSW would look like this year. The two big take aways for us were 1) spending large sums of money at SXSW doesn’t necessarily get your brand talked about (unless the name of your company happens to include the words “breakfast tacos”) and the volume of conversation on Twitter grew over the conference demonstrating that Verizon, AT&T and Sprint did their part this year to keep the data connectivity up and running this year (years past, not so much). Understanding how your brand can participate meaningfully in these conversations is a huge opportunity that many companies ignore.

Other Key Take Aways from SXSW

  • Location-based services are here to stay (read: foursquare) but they are starting to evolve into a new flavor that includes something called proximity services. The big players in this space are companies like Highlight, Sonar and Ban.jo. In a nutshell, these services connect you to those people nearby that are either in your social graph or should be by looking at your similarities. While these services do provide a value to some, their ultimate utility to the mainstream user is still questionable.
  • Customer engagement is top of mind for many brands that have moved from the ad hoc to strategic use of social media. This means putting more thought and energy into mainstream channels like Twitter and Facebook is critical. It also means paying attention to emerging channels like Google + and Pinterest to evaluate the utility for customers and enthusiasts.
  • Big data is big and getting bigger. For anyone that doesn’t know what “big data” is, it’s essentially the ability to collect, store, process and analyze Terabytes or even Pedabytes of data (think customer conversations, search, location-based activity, census, etc.) Historically, this has been difficult due to lack of affordable storage and processing power. This is quickly changing and spells a whole new way for companies to look at trends and insights.

What did you see at SXSW this year? My colleague, Chuck Hemann, shared his take aways here. If you have a post or observations you’d like to share, please include in the comments below.

 

*Normally when we build these types of dashboards, we use a broader set of channel data (blogs, forums, Facebook, news) but in this case, we knew a lot of the real-time activity flows across Twitter (we also wanted to keep development cost/time down to a minimum).

 

Digby Localpoint: The Future of Location-based Marketing?

As an enthusiast about the mobile/location-based services space, I’m always excited to hear about ground-breaking new technologies and services, particularly those that are built with businesses in mind. To that end, I couldn’t resist sitting down (virtually) with my friend and director of product and development at Digby, Doug Wick. During our conversation, Doug and I discussed Digby’s latest location-based offering called Localpoint.

<Aaron> What is Localpoint?
<Doug> Digby Localpoint is a SaaS mobile technology platform designed to help retailers deliver a best-in-class mobile app experience for their loyal customers, focused on location-based marketing, analytics, and commerce. It has four components: Venue, Outreach, Analytics, and Storefront. A mobile team simply drops our libraries into their existing app and can then deploy geofence-based notification and rich message campaigns through Localpoint Venue and Localpoint Outreach, and derive powerful insight through Localpoint Analytics. If a retailer doesn’t have a mobile team, we can help them build an app using Localpoint Storefront, which comes pre-wired with the other three components of Localpoint.

<Aaron> Tell me more about Localpoint’s four modules.
<Doug> Sure, let’s start with Venue. This is the ability to drop a geofence around a specific store or public venue like a park, airport, or sports stadium and use that geofence to identify and communicate with people who are there. Campaigns can be set up to either be triggered by an event (like a check-in, product scan, store entry, or store exit) or can be set up to launch at specific times to one or more specific locations. We call those messages “announcements.” Think “blue light special” but much more powerful.

<Aaron> Localpoint Venue is essentially the ability to create your own white label location-based app ala foursquare or Shopkick. Why should retailers do this instead of spending with one of those apps, which have pre-built audiences?
<Doug> Ideally they would do both. Network apps like foursquare and Shopkick are paid media opportunities, which allow retailers to potentially access new audiences. However, a retailer’s own app represents an opportunity to get much closer – literally in the pocket – of their best customers. Retailers who invest in this way won’t be disintermediated and won’t face repeat acquisition costs, lowered share of voice, and lack of data ownership. The best mobile strategies will access new audiences through mediums like network apps, mobile SEM, mobile ads, and other paid opportunities, and convert them to app owners.

<Aaron> What does Outreach Do?
<Doug> The idea with Outreach is large-scale or “market size” geofences that allow you to localize a push notification to drive app engagement and store traffic to a local store. This is to activate loyalists, and can be used in a very complementary fashion with Venue. This particular component is especially interesting for local high-frequency retail models like grocery, convenience, and drug stores as well as quick-serve restaurants. But really, every app should have the ability to get your attention with a message that is location-based.

<Aaron> What about something that is also near and dear to my heart, i.e. analytics?
<Doug> Most mobile analytics out there treat an app like a website and simply track user activity to the app – download, opens, clicks. The true opportunity for mobile analytics is the ability to measure app activity relative to location. Localpoint Analytics allows you to set up geofences that give you web-style analytics for the physical world. Imagine knowing the same things about your retail stores that you do about your website – how many people visited, how long they stayed, what they did on the app while they were there. These are the types of insights that simply aren’t available through any other technology, and will lead to extremely powerful, business-changing insight.

<Aaron> Doesn’t this have the potential to be a little Big Brother-esque?
<Doug> An excellent point and touches on a unique characteristic of Digby’s technology. First, Localpoint Analytics only uses venue-sized geofences for measurement, and our technology only measures the activity of an app installed by an opted-in user in and around those geofences. The rest of the time, the device knows where it is but we don’t. Localpoint simply waits for the device to tell us when it’s close to something we care about. We’ve spent a lot of time and resources investing in patent-pending location detection technology that maximizes accuracy while protecting users by keeping power-draining GPS use at a minimum and ensuring user privacy.

<Aaron> Loaded question here but why do you believe location is such an important part of consumer mobile?
<Doug> We feel that no other single thing you can learn about a mobile user unlocks the unique power of the mobile platform like location. Not only does it help you be contextually relevant, but location also tells you more about a consumer’s intent than anything else. Our goal is simply to help retailers be “where their customers are.” This statement is meant to be taken literally and figuratively.

<Aaron> Tell me more about the Storefront module.
<Doug> Storefront is our most retail-specific Localpoint module, and allows us to quickly bring to life an app that features everything a consumer expects from a retailer: Rich, full-featured product catalog, commerce, and store locator. It is a best-in-class search, browse, and buy experience. And out of the box it is wired to communicate with and leverage the other three Localpoint modules. Many retailers still don’t have apps, and we feel like they might want one when they see what the entire Localpoint platform can allow them to do.

<Aaron> Yes, many retailers still don’t have their own apps. Why should they?
<Doug> I think many business, especially retailers, approach building an app like they are building a website. That is why many retail apps that do exist, even some of the most well-designed ones, look a lot like a miniature version of the full web experience. The fact is that the most important thing that apps can do is something most of them aren’t doing: communicate with the consumer. Communication is still the primary purpose of the phone, and by downloading an app the consumer has already told you they want you to be a part of their daily life. By not taking advantage of that opportunity, businesses are missing out. Our goal is not only to put that opportunity within arms reach, but also do it the right way, with the highly relevant location context that consumers expect.

<Aaron> Doug, Localpoint sounds really interesting, I look forward to seeing a demo soon!
<Doug> My pleasure Aaron. Anyone that’s interested can see more details on our website but I’d be happy to give you a demo soon! And thanks for taking the time to learn more about Localpoint.

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.

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?

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?

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.

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.

Pre-Commerce and Location-Based Marketing Mashup

[cross-posted on WCG's Common Sense blog]


Last Wednesday, I had the pleasure of presenting to about 75 business professionals at the Big Frontier conference in Chicago, Il. The event is run by Steve Lundin who is a peach of a guy and knows a thing or two about events (he’s been running them for 12+ years now). The goal of the conference is to feature 1-2 book authors who write about the innovative ways that businesses are evolving.

Originally, my colleague Bob Pearson, was supposed to present along with fellow author, Rick Mathieson. An immovable set of meetings combined with the fact that I too happen to be a book author (and know a thing or two about Bob’s book, Pre-Commerce) conspired to put me in the presenters seat at the event. After chatting with Bob and Steve, we decided to do a mashup — a best of so to speak — of Pre-Commerce and my upcoming book, Location-Based Marketing for Dummies.

What made my presentation relatively easy is that we live and breath the concepts from Bob’s Pre-Commerce book at WCG. It is also helpful that the idea of location-based marketing works nicely as a sub-discipline within Pre-Commerce. And lastly, location-based marketing fits perfectly across one of the most important core concepts of the book, namely the 4 A’s (which replace the 4 P’s), by providing ways for businesses to create greater awareness, assessment, action and ultimately ambassadorship for their products and services.

While I won’t share all of the slides I presented — you can find all the models, back-stories and anecdotes from Pre-Commerce in the book — I’ve incorporated three of the slides that really resonated below.

These are a few of the major shifts taking place in the world that are driving the way consumers want to (and should be) engaged by businesses big and small.

 

Leveraging the what people are doing online versus trying to change their behavior is critical to becoming a Pre-Commerce company

 

Recognizing the "Ten Channels" of online influence and how to create meaningful content for each is key to improving SEO and engaging customers.

As far as the location-based marketing portion of the presentation, I used the content from a previous blog post I did titled, Ten Keys to a Good Location-Based Marketing Campaign. If you want the Readers Digest of the ten rules, I’ve listed them below:

  1. Claim your location
  2. Pick a service (or two)
  3. Find your influencers
  4. Set goals
  5. Pick a great offer
  6. Measure, refine, optimize
  7. Gamification FTW
  8. Market your program
  9. Operationalize, operationalize, operationalize
  10. Play with the API

Based on the audience feedback, it appeared that the event was a success. It didn’t hurt that Rick picked up where I left off sharing several important trends from his latest book, The On-Demand Brand, including two that are near and dear to my heart i.e. mobile and augmented reality. My two favorite examples Rick shared were 1) the increasing importance of branded games (people like to play games) citing Burger King’s success with its Kings Game. It sold over 3 million copies and was linked to a direct increase in food sales at the locations where the game was sold and 2) the shopping experience of the future. This second example included not-too-far from reality concepts such as:

  • auto-checking in as you walk into the store (he had me at “check-in”)
  • receiving special offers based on your profile
  • sharing which clothes you are trying on with friends on Facebook and getting their opinion
  • watching videos of runway models wearing the item you are trying on background on design by the designers themselves
  • the ability to walk out of store while wearing the clothing you just tried on because you are already registered with the store and an RFID or NFC reader scans the item as you walk out

Have you read Pre-Commerce yet? Or On-Demand Brand? If you have, what’s your favorite model or example from the book?