We’re Writin’ a Book

Okay, when I say “we’re writin’ a book,” it’s a Dummies book. Which of course is a real book. But it’s not like we’re creating the next great American novel. More specifically, the “we” is my good friend and geo-location savant, Mike Schneider and me. And the Dummies book (Wiley imprint) we’re writing is Location Based Marketing for Dummies. To my knowledge, it will be only the second printed book on this subject. Our friend, Simon Salt’s book being the first.

In the book, we plan to cover a broad array of topics including:

  • Choosing the right platform(s)
  • Building a LBS campaign
  • Creating a relevant offer
  • LBS as part of your loyalty program
  • Integrating LBS with other marketing efforts
  • Developing a monitoring strategy
  • KPIs and Measurement
Mike and I have started writing the book already and plan to have the book wrapped up in March of 2011. The book is scheduled to be published in June of 2011. God willing, we’ll start the pre-orders around May. As soon as there is a link up on Amazon and Barnes and Noble, we’ll be sure you know about it.

By the way, I’d like to give a special thanks to our acquiring publisher, Amy Fandrei. She’s not only super smart but she knows her stuff and has already done a fantastic job at “herding kittens” so to speak. Let’s hope she’s not sick of us by the end of this process.

So How you can help?

I’m glad you asked. If you’re a LBS platform or vendor, we are interested in access to your executives, platform and case studies. If you see a new LBS hit the scene, send @schneidermike and I a tweet with the hashtag #LBM4D. You can also keep checking in and letting us know if you discover cool offers, glitches, Easter eggs and any other LBS topics that might be noteworthy. Tell us if you have specific things you think the book should cover, we are always listening.

And of course, you can read the book!

Location-based Services Goes Automotive

A few weeks ago, my friend, Eric Miltsch, sent me a direct message on Twitter letting me know that I might want to check out his latest offering called Car Zar. Having met Eric last year at the Driving Sales event in Las Vegas, I knew how passionate Eric is about cars AND social media. Eric in turn, knows how passionate I am about social media and location-based services. What I can tell you is that I think he’s onto something with Car Zar — especially for folks that fall into the “car enthusiast” category. Unfortunately, I don’t really fit in that category but I can appreciate what this app. will do for that crowd.

Here my thoughts on the app in the quick video blog I recorded.

Quick thoughts on Car Zar – LBS for Automotive from Aaron Strout on Vimeo.

Do you have an industry specific location-based app? If so, please let me know. I’d love to check it out.

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!

The NJ Nets Go-Walla! [UPDATED on 9/29]

If you hadn’t noticed, I’m on a bit of a location-based services kick these days. Not because I like technology for technology sake but rather because I see real business value that companies like Gowalla, FourSquare, Whrrl and even Twitter and Facebook are starting to provide through their offerings. For anyone that hasn’t seen the post I did a few weeks ago on location-based services, the comments are a MUST read (there are 45+ and still growing).

As a result of the aforementioned location-based post, I received an e-mail the other day from someone working on behalf of the New Jersey Nets regarding their current Gowalla campaign. The e-mail talked about the NJ Nets’ launch of a 225 x 95 foot painted wall at the corner of 34th and 8th Streets in New York City, just a few blocks from Penn Station and Madison Square Garden (the home of the New York Knicks). The wall features Nets owner and Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, and minority owner and hip hop legend Jay-Z. More important than the images of the two owners is the call to action at the bottom of the mural which states simply, “Check in Gowalla to get a special item.” Now I don’t know about you but even if I didn’t know anything about location-based services or Gowalla, I’d be tempted to jump on Google to find out more.

As a marketer, however, I was curious about what the goal of this program was. Yes, I’m sure it will generate hype and of course it will be a conversation starter (hell, it’s got a blogger like me writing about it so they are doing something right). But I wasn’t satisfied with that as my answer so I asked my new NJ Nets friend to give me more detail. He pointed out that with new ownership (Prokhorov and Jay-Z), a new coach (Avery Johnson), the third overall pick in this year’s draft (Derek Favors), and a new home in Brooklyn in 2012, that the Nets wanted to create an aggressive marketing campaign to let New Yorkers know the Nets are back and ready to compete. One way of sharing this excitement was by experimenting with new experiences like the one that Gowalla would provide.

To that end, I also like what Laura Castronovo, director of research and strategic marketing for the Nets, had to say about how this giant sign with the non-traditional call to action fit in with the Nets’ overall plans:

Digital Marketing is now a part of everything we do; whether it be driving traffic to our websites njnets.com and netsallnew.com or building up our social networking communities, having a digital presence is crucial. We also like to make our campaigns as interactive as possible. It made sense for us to include Gowalla on the Blueprint of Greatness 34th St wall so fans can engage in this campaign with us.”What are the results? As of this writing, there have been 90 organic check-ins to the spot. It also got coverage from TechCrunch which is never a bad thing (okay, mostly never a bad thing). But will this campaign help move the needle? I’m not sure. But you can bet I’ll be keeping my eye on how things progress. And you can damn well bet that next time I’m in New York near Penn Station I will be checking into Gowalla to see what kind of “special item” I’ll receive.

UPDATED on 9/29 based on panel information at the Location-based Marketing Summit in NYC.

This wall was just the first phase of the campaign. The important part of what the Nets did with @Gowalla is that they randomly gave away 250 pairs of tickets to a Nets game. People would win tickets when they checked in. The redemption rate was 15.2% which the Nets were very happy with. The key was that the nearly 80 people (2 x 40) were encouraged to take pictures, post updates, checkin on Gowalla, etc. This obviously led to a number of conversations and a good deal of earned media. With a franchise that’s struggling to regain some relevance in a town that has more than its fair share of successful sports teams, any kind of brand excitement was a net positive. To date, the Nets have been very pleased with the results.