April 16 is Foursquare Day: Are you in?

Do you love foursquare? Wesley Faulkner and I do. And we want to show our pride by celebrating foursquare day on April 16 in Austin with a party and a little charity while we’re at it.

If you’re interested, the first step is to sign up on Meetup here.

More details will be released on that page over the next week. If you would like to be one of four team captains please leave a comment below.

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.

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?

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.

10 Keys to a Good Location Based Marketing Campaign

Originally posted on my work blog at WCGWorld.com on April 7, 2011

If you aren’t familiar with location based services, some of the top providers are foursquare, Gowalla, YelpFacebook Places, Whrrl and SCVNGR. These services help companies engage with their customers and create loyalty 2.0 programs by exchanging value (offers, coupons, badges, mayorships) for tips, check-ins and spreading the word. In this particular post, I’m going to share 10 basic tips that any company can use to help build a successful location based marketing program:

  1. Be sure to claim your location across each of the top 5-6 location based providers, even if you don’t plan on regularly monitoring/engaging in all of them.
  2. Pick 1-2 services to use (hint: if you’re in the travel and entertainment industry, Gowalla is a great choice). One way to decide which service(s) are right for you is to see how active your customers are across each service.
  3. Find out who your influencers are (the mayor, ambassador or the person at the top of your leader board is usually a good place to start) and get to know them. Heck, invite them in for coffee, lunch, a wine tasting.
  4. Set some goals. Are looking to drive foot traffic? Loyalty? Sales? Engagement? Think about how to measure this.
  5. Pick a great offer. Note that “great” doesn’t equal “expensive.” Sometimes, a sign in your store/venue honoring the “mayor” might be enough. My co-author, Mike Schneider, and I have what we call the “Ben & Jerry’s Rule” named after one of the first successful campaigns ever to roll out on foursquare. They offered 3 scoops of ice cream for $3 for everyone that checked in (cost for 3 scoops is normally $5.50). And even better, the mayor got a free extra scoop.
  6. Measure, refine and optimize.
  7. Don’t be afraid to leverage the “game dynamics” of some of these platforms as appropriate. For instance, on SCVNGR, you might give extra points for a picture with the store manager. Or if you sell coffee, a bonus for the best drink recommendation.
  8. Remember to let people know about your program by putting up signs, telling them in your newsletter, including a mention on your “on hold” music, etc.
  9. Operationalize, operationalize, operationalize. This means that if you are going to run a location based marketing campaign, train your employees. Train yourself. And make sure you have whatever it is that you’re promising. Not operationalizing is where many companies fall down.
  10. If you are tech savvy (or have some tech savvy developers), try experimenting with some of the APIs these location based platform providers make available for free. You can jazz up your website or your mobile app.

Has your company launched a location based marketing campaign? If so, tell us about it in the comments below.

Top 10 Posts of 2010

Part of me hates these posts. Part of me feels like it’s important to be introspective and acknowledge what resonated with those whom I am fortunate enough to read me (even if just occasionally). What I have tried to do here is provide a little behind the scenes commentary — maybe my version of a “director’s cut — on each of my top 10 most popular posts for 2010.

  1. How Important is your Twitter Bio - Blown away by how many retweets and reads this got. It was a fairly basic post but it seemed to resonate. Not that I’m complaining…
  2. Are foursquare and Gowalla Just Shiny Objects - My favorite thing about this post was the conversation in the comments. I think no fewer than 15 new blog posts got written in the process and I learned a ton from people that are much smarter than me.
  3. What Marketers Want - This was the announcement post from our acquisition of crayon, Drill Team and StepChange earlier in the year. In some ways, this is like one of those great movies that you release too late in the season to be considered for the Academy so it ends up being a lame duck in the subsequent year’s voting. Glad to see this land in the #3 slot.
  4. Initial Thoughts on Facebook Places - Not my best post but obviously a hot topic. I’m still VERY interested in finding out how disruptive Facebook will be in the world of location based services.
  5. Brand Haiku - One of the most fun (and easiest) posts I’ve ever written. I was blown away by the fact that many of my blogger friends were willing to participate in this fun little game. Let’s just call this my 45 in 45 of 2010.
  6. Movember Time, Austin Style - Anyone that knows me, even a little – knows that I participated in Movember this year. I know, it gets old quick for those following me on Twitter and Facebook. But it was for a good cause. And we raised nearly $32,000 toward fighting cancer in men.
  7. Tale of Two CMOs: A Study in Contrasts - This goes down as the post with the most potential and the worst execution. I liked where it was heading but I immediately realized how hard it was going to be to write as a series the minute I started putting pen to paper.
  8. I See You - Maybe one of my favorite posts of all times. Riffing off the key phrase in the movie, Avatar, I loved what this post stood for. I was equally glad to see others embrace this.
  9. Pluralitas Non est Ponenda sine Necessitate - Flexing my Latin muscles a little. This was inspired by the principle of Occam’s Razor. Surprised to see this make its way into the top 10.
  10. The Power of One - the result of a little experiment I did on Twitter. I’m sure there was little to no statistical significance of my study but it was a cool concept. And I liked the comments.
So who else wrote a post that you liked a lot this year? Make sure you post it in the comments. If I get enough of them, I’ll either write a new post or at least include it in the body of this one as a post script.
Thanks again for taking the time to read and retweet me. Hope you have an awesome 2010 and if I’m lucky, I’ll see you at SXSW this year.

Why Geo Location Matters and Why You Should Attend Geo M

Cross-posted from schneidermike.com (with permission)

October 4-8, MITX presents Future M week in Boston. On October 4th, brands, marketers, technologists, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, students and business people and will gather in Cambridge at the Microsoft NERD to talk about the future of geo location and the future of geo marketing. Yes. This is a promotional post for an event that my company, Allen & Gerritsen is planning, but since you have read this far, I think you will find the content helpful in making a decision as to whether or not you should attend. For the record, I think you should, particularly if you are a B2C brand or working in the B2C space.

Making Money with Location

Everyone needs to be able to make money to be able to be a going-concern. In this panel,Jason Keath of Social Fresh leads a discussion that will look at revenue streams and service models that make sense. We’ll talk to two platforms that started with revenue models. David Chang will represent Where.com and Wayne Sutton will talk about Triout’s model. We also have Josh Karpf of mega-brand PepsiCo who can tell us about how applications like Pepsi Loot are important to their marketing and revenue stream. Jason Keath is not known for shyness, so I expect he will pose the tough questions and drive panelists toward talking about useful models and cases that drive business results.
Picture 9
geom_panel_1

Data and Loyalty

Why does it matter? Location is an important component in doing what every brand would like to do – provide a relevant message to its audience at a time when the receiver is ready to hear and act on the message. Everyone would like a reduction of noise and an increase in overall signal. The future of marketing is not casting a wide net, rather brands conitinue to hone their communications and become trusted companions that better the lives of those who need them. In order for this to happen the way we all would like it to happen, brands need access to data and they need to be willing to give something in return to receive.
Picture 25
In the panel entitled “Data and Loyalty”, Melissa Parrish of Forrester leads a discussion with 2 of the industry’s top thought leaders on LBS, Aaron Strout of Powered Inc and Simon Salt of Incslingers. They have not only been vocal about the space, but built solutions that incorporate their thinking. With the focus of this panel being data, we are elated to have the founder ofSimpleGeoMatt Galligan coming out to talk about how their database / backbone aligns the ecosystem by eliminating the disparity across platforms thereby making near limitless applications poss
ibilities – possible.
Picture 11
geom_panel_2

The Future of Geo

The day culminates in a visit from 3 of the top LBS platforms on the market. In the last panel we will talk to three heads of LBS technology shops and give them the opportunity not only to talk about their current plans for word domination, but about how they see the industry evolving. Jeff Holden of Whrrl, Seth Priebatsch of SCVNGR and Dennis Crowley of Foursquare, three very different location based platforms, will be asked to talk about why location is important today and what it means in the grand scheme and how it becomes increasingly useful for everyone. The end game needs to be a win for brands, consumers and for platforms and currently the fog-of-new is still very prevalent. Each company has a story to tell about engagement with the consumer, rewards, loyalty and relevant content.
This conversation will be 90 minutes so there will be plenty of time to get deep on the topic and to get the crowd involved. I’ll be moderating and as I prepare, would love to get your thoughts on some of the things you would like to hear about from these 3 gurus. Just leave a comment.
geom_main_panel

How Much?

$130 per person. Beam Interactive thinker and disruptor, Graham Nelson tweeted about the charge and I think this is the proper forum to address the question. We want to be able to provide snacks and libation to our audience and record the event while covering some of our costs. As you well know, it takes a lot of time and effort to plan an event of this size (and it’s nothing compared to the entire Future M event, kudos to MITX!). The point of this session is to provide an atmosphere to push the conversation to the next level. As one of the missions ofFuture M, the parent conference, is to promote innovation in Boston, we are currently talking to MIT about donating any profits to an innovation scholarship.
Picture 6

Where’s Gowalla?

Because some of you have asked: Where’s Gowalla? Brightkite and Gowalla both expressed regret for being unable to attend. Facebook is still a non-responder.

See You There!

Come out for a day of discussion filled with a balance of best practices, ideas, innovation and though leadership.

Fail or Fab?

At a minimum, I always try and get up a blog post a week. Sometimes I’m really motivated (and have the time) and manage two or three. Given the fact that I recycled some old material in my post yesterday [transcript from my podcast with Mahalo founder, Jason Calacanis] I felt that it was only right to do at least one semi-original post.

Trust me, this one won’t be a real thought provoker… but it does summarize a few of my observations on recent web 2.0 and social launches/enhancements. As always, please feel free to disagree with me or share your thoughts on this week’s “Fail or Fab” post in the comments below.

  • FAIL: Apple’s new music social network otherwise known as Ping. If you’ve tried it, you know exactly what I’m talking about. To get more specific:
    • One of the first music recommendations it provided to me was the artist, Cher. Now I’m not offended by this but if you take a look at my library, 95% of it is made of bands like Phoenix, Pearl Jam, Rage Against the Machine, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Tool and The Exies. Yes, my kids do have a few Adam Lambert songs in there but really? Cher?
    • There is no easy way to connect to my friends. I can hunt and peck for friends by searching for them. OR I can invite them to join Ping via e-mail. Not a good way to make this sticky or to encourage viral.
    • Allowing me to connect with artists or to download the songs on their iPod playlists is just pathetic. Yes, I’m sure there will be a bunch of 13 year old girls that do this (and maybe 50 year old dads going through their midlife crises) but I don’t see a ton of people falling for the banana in the tailpipe trick.
  • FAB: Google Instant. Now let’s not kid ourselves… this is nothing more than a feature. But it’s a damn cool feature. One that anticipates what you’re thinking before you think it… and then auto suggests it via your search window. Wait, are there little robots in my computer that are watching my every move?
  • FAB: Facebook’s auto-translation pop up when you are on a foreign language page. The two things I like are: one, it’s subtle (the recommendation gradually drops down from the menu bar) and two, it recognizes that my language is English and that the page I was not. We need more smart technology like this (visual below).

  • FAIL: Like Twitter, FourSquare has screwed with me more times than I can count… yet I keep coming back for more. Call it blind love. But at least Twitter doesn’t have a real competitor. FourSquare does. They need to cut back on the checkin fails… pronto!
  • FAIL: Blogger’s new “I’m trying to be like WordPress” spam filter. While I like how it works, the fact that it notifies you that you’ve got a comment, if it’s flagged the comment as spam, you have no way of finding it unless you remember to go and look in Blogger’s special spam inbox. As a result of this new functionality, I made poor Jeff Cutler resubmit his comment twice (and almost a third time) before realizing what was happening. With WordPress, I’m notified every time there is a comment, spam or not. At that point, I can decide what I want to do with that comment by clicking on the link in the e-mail notification.
If you like this format, let me know. Maybe I’ll try and do one of these every couple of weeks or so.

5 Initial Thoughts on Facebook Places

My guess is that I’ll be 50% wrong about what I’m about to say in this post… In baseball that’s a fantastic batting average. In surgery… not so much.

In case you didn’t hear, Facebook made it’s foray into the world of location-based services yesterday with it’s announcement of Places. If you haven’t checked it out yet, it’s pretty straightforward. To checkin, you must use the most recent version of the Facebook iPhone app or the iTouch mobile site for Facebook. Although I’ve discussed the potential negative impact Facebook could have on existing location-based service providers like FourSquare, Gowalla and Whrrl, I’m going to change my tune a little (this is where the 50% wrong part could come into play).

To that end, here are my five initial thoughts about Facebook Places (hat tip to friend and fellow LBS enthusiast, Mike Schneider, for helping push my thinking on this front):

  1. Facebook ‘likes’ boring - I had an epiphany yesterday after ReadWriteWeb’s coverage of the Places announcement yesterday. Facebook doesn’t want to crush the players in the location-based field, it wants to provide the scale and infrastructure that they’ve been sorely lacking. Most telling was RWW’s interview with former Facebook engineer, Yishan Wong, who theorized, “My guess is that Facebook’s product tries to commoditize the ‘boring’ parts of location while providing a platform for the ‘real’ location-oriented companies (e.g. Foursquare, Gowalla, Booyah, Yelp) to build real products off of. Based on what I’ve heard from various sources, companies like Foursquare find the ‘venue management’ business to be quite tedious and not the real source of differentiating value… so commoditizing this aspect of their business doesn’t threaten their core value proposition.
  2. Businesses will seize the opportunity – It took all of 24 hours before all-in-one checkin rewards  site, Topguest, announced that it was including Facebook Places in its service. It won’t take long before others follow suit. The potential access to 500 million members/eyeballs/customers will do that.
  3. Places appeals to the masses, not the early adopters – Mike Schneider and I were going back and forth earlier on Twitter about how disappointed he was in the lack of innovation on Places. My Quick’n’Dirty podcast partner, Jennifer Leggio, and I had a similar conversation yesterday on our weekly show. My take is that Facebook intentionally didn’t include any sexy new features for two reasons a) they want to appeal to the masses so keeping the UI and functionality as simple as possible was essential and b) if bullet number one above is correct, Facebook wants other LBS players to do the innovating while it does its LBS platform thing.
  4. Facebook will make a killing in geo-targeted ad revenue IF Places takes off – I may hate ads, but the more relevant and geo-focused they are, the more inclined I will be to react to them. Check out eMarketer’s post yesterday for more details on this topic including forecasts.
  5. Places will create a privacy nightmare for Facebook – I bet you thought I was going to yadda yadda over this one. Nope. This is the thing that could make or break Places. The major sticking point being the ability to check people into a location. While I personally like this feature in theory (and it is unique to Facebook as far as I can tell), this will cause plenty of problems down the road. It will only take 1-2 times of someone being checked into a location that you either don’t want to be checked into or weren’t actually at… but by the time your friend/parent/significant other sees the update, it will be too late.
How about you? I’m sure I’ll get some push back on some of my predictions. But you know me, I welcome the discussion!

Are FourSquare and Gowalla Just Shiny Objects?

If you follow my Twitter stream or listen to my weekly podcast, you’ll know that the question of whether I think FourSquare and Gowalla are shiny objects is a loaded one. Of course I am bullish on the value location-based services like FourSquare, Gowalla offer large and small businesses alike. Truth be told, however, I’ve had a hard time telling clients and prospective clients alike that it’s time to go guns a blazing with location-based services for two reasons:

  1. There’s not enough critical mass… YET
  2. Facebook with it’s 450 million users could come in and crush both FourSquare (~2 million members) and Gowalla (~1 million members) in a New York minute if it decides to get serious about geolocation
With that said, that doesn’t mean that I don’t think companies shouldn’t be starting to think about how to incorporate location-based services into their marketing and social media mixes. Fortunately, there are a number of big brands that are already starting to test location-based services (more FourSquare than Gowalla). TO that end, I’ve provided a list of the companies experimenting with Foursquare below [list is courtesy of David Stutts with a hat tip to the folks at SocialPath for pointing this work out).

  • Starbucks (side note: I'd like to think my wife and I played a role in Starbucks launching this one
  • The Bravo Network
  • Dominoes Pizza UK (I like this one a lot)
  • Jimmy Choo
  • Pepsi (interesting note on this one later in the post)
  • Zagat (this is a no brainer IMHO)
  • Warner Brothers
  • Tasti D-lite (what they are doing is very smart)
  • The Wall Street Journal
  • Marc Jacobs
  • Coach Men's Store
  • The Financial Times
  • HBO
  • Harvard (sounds like fun)
  • Metro
  • VH1
  • Pennsylvania Tourism
  • History Channel
  • Planet Hollywood Las Vegas
  • Huffington Post (not using FourSquare but mimicking what they are doing)

And here is the presentation on SlideShare that David put together. Click through to get the details on each program.

20 Interesting Things: Foursquarehttp://static.slidesharecdn.com/swf/ssplayer2.swf?doc=cdocumentsandsettingsdstuttsdesktop20interestingthingsfoursquarejune2010-100601132808-phpapp01&stripped_title=20-interesting-things-foursquare
View more presentations from David Stutts.

So we've seen who is experimenting with location-based services like FourSquare but let's take a step back and look at why companies might want to engage in location-based services.

Loyalty
At the end of the day, location-based services like FourSquare and Gowalla are ultimately going to be best at creating long-term loyalty with existing customers. Companies like Tasti D-Lite have started to figured this out by feeding their reward programs through point of purchase experiences which in turn check users into social sites like Twitter and FourSquare. And when a customer checks in, he/she earn points toward free food/drinks.

Let's be honest, while it's nice to earn frequent flier or hotel points, the act of earning them isn't all that exciting. Yet earning bragging rights by becoming mayor or even showing off the fact that you are buying jeans at that cool new boutique downtown is much more fun. As a business, incentivizing more checkins and thus more opportunities to buy stuff and share that experience with your customers' networks has nothing but upside for your top and bottom lines.

Discovery
One of the things I like most about FourSquare from a personal perspective is the discovery element -- both in terms of places and people. As someone that is still feeling his way around Austin, TX, I love watching colleagues like Natanya Anderson (big time foodie), Doug Wick and Kathy Warren alert me to good places to get a meal, watch a game or grab breakfast tacos to go. It's also useful if I'm at a conference or sporting event to see where my friends are. Even if we're not connected, many people cross-post their FourSquare and Gowalla status to their Facebook and Twitter pages.

Discovery also comes into play with people. If I'm at my local coffee joint, it's fun to know who else frequents it. In some cases, it can lead to fun connections that one wouldn't normally make. As an example several months ago my now friend, Jenna Oltersdorf, noticed that I was the mayor of her local Starbucks. Curious as to who the person was who laid claim to such an honor, she reached out to me via Twitter and asked if I'd like to grab coffee sometime (at that Starbucks of course). In related fashion, my colleague, Joe Jaffe, tells a similar story of him bumping into a prospective customer at a restaurant in San Francisco while seeking out the mayor.

Reach and Referrals
The win here is that while customers are working to accumulate points, bragging rights or free stuff by checking into your store on location-based services like FourSquare and Gowalla, they are also sharing you with their network. Better than that, they are also implicitly (and sometimes explicitly) endorsing you by letting others know they patronize your establishment. Think about the power of running a promotion where anyone that checks into your store more than three times over the course of a month gets a one day discount of 25% off all merchandise. In doing so, you've created a reason for customers to 1) visit your store multiple times and 2) let their friends know about it when they do.

Hurdles
Before I get you too hot and bothered, there are few additional obstacles that need to be overcome before location-based services really take off:

  • Scale - while location-based services are growing rapidly, they still only represent a few million people at best. This could change in a hurry if Facebook gets serious about location-based services but in the immediate future, it's really the early adopters that are leading the charge.
    [POST SCRIPT: in publishing the post, I forgot to pay off the "Pepsi" reference above... several weeks ago, I h
    ad a hallway conversation with
    Bonin Bough, director of social media for Pepsi. We were talking about LBS and I told him my theory about Facebook swooping in and crushing FourSquare and Gowalla. He said that he didn't see it that way and that his bet was on someone like FourSquare that truly embraced business and a desire to help them succeed would ultimately win. This was later confirmed when Pepsi announced that they were partnering with FourSquare as noted above]
    Potential impact on growth = BIG
  • Gaming the system – it is still possible to check into a location without physically being in that location. However, Gowalla has always been a stickler about GPS proximity to a location (to a fault when they first launched) and now FourSquare has followed suit by announcing that you can only accumulate points AND earn mayorships by being within a certain proximity of where the location was originally created.
    Potential impact on growth = SMALL
  • Privacy – this is a tricky one. More and more people (including myself) are becoming increasingly aware about whom they tell about what they are doing. I think the way LBS providers overcome this is to increase the security and the privacy around who can see what and when.
    Potential impact on growth = TBD
  • Pain in the ass factor = while checking in can be fun, it also requires a conscious effort that can sometimes take up to 3-4 minutes to accomplish. This is particularly awkward when you are meeting friends out and they have to wait for you to check in before they can talk to you. My belief is that location-based services over time will allow you to preset places that you frequent (similar to wireless spots that you’ve connected to in the past on your laptop or smart phone) that will auto-check you in. This would go a long way in increasing the checkins by customers with a lot less aggravation.
    Potential impact on growth = SMALL
Summary
While there are obstacles that could stand in the way of companies adopting location-based services, I am a firm believer that the rewards far outweigh the risks. In fact, if someone were to give me a truth serum and demand that I tell them what the next “big thing” was, I’d be hard pressed to not say location-based services. Don’t take my word for it though. Instead, keep your eye on the twenty companies mentioned in David Stutts SlideShare presentation above and see if they continue to embrace these new tools.
What do you think? Am I living in my own universe? Feel free to tell me how you feel about the future of location-based services in the comments below.