Where You At? Location-Based Services For Marketers

Welcome to the age of mobility! No longer are audiences chained to their desks to send emails or forced to lug around cumbersome notebooks to update their Twitter or Facebook status. Old news? You betcha! But few brands are taking advantage of the recent ability to engage their audiences at any destination through their mobile devices.

As a marketer, I’ve often joked about implanting RFID chips into people or at the very least, tattooing a barcode on their forehead so we can track their activities and behaviors. Now we have something even better ~ all kidding aside. Most everyone has a cellular phone, smart phone or mobile device of some kind. Many are outfitted with a GPS. People are willingly sharing information with the world about who they are, what they are interested in, where they are going and what they are doing. Wake up marketers! This is what we have hoped and dreamed about for decades!

There are six location-based applications / services I’ve had my eye on recently: Brightkite, Foursquare, Gowalla, Loopt, Whrrl and Yelp. In this post I’ll briefly describe each and offer a few ideas on how to take advantage of these tools to complement experiences, drive engagement, foster community and build brand relationships with audiences.

1. Brightkite

What is it? Brightkite helps people discover where their friends are and introduces users to new people, places and events in their neighborhood. It also allows users to simplify their social life by posting updates to several social networks.

What’s so cool about it? Brightkite works like many other social networks with friends, fans, “like” function, filters and search. Users can also customize locations. The introduction of other people, places and events provides and opportunity to create recommendations based on user behaviors and preferences – a potential gold mine for marketers.

Where to get it? Brightkite.com

2. Foursquare

What is it? Foursquare is an application that works on any mobile device. It allows users to “check in” at different locations, share their experiences, earn points & unlock badges, and become the “Mayor” to unlock freebies at different locations.

What’s so cool about it? The incentive-based ranking system and organic tie to restaurants, bars, retailers and other points of interest creates a compelling promotional model that can drive real business.

Where to get it? Foursquare.com

3. Gowalla

What is it? The Gowalla application lets users share their location with others on the Gowalla network, as well as Facebook and Twitter. Users can earn stamps for their virtual “passport”. New locations can be easily discovered by users and added to the Gowalla network of destinations. Gowalla is only available for the iphone and android-enabled devices.

What’s so cool about it? The integration with other social networks is huge. This can begin to help marketers create psychographic and technographic profiles of their audiences across platforms. The passport incentive idea can also help drive business and monetize audience activities.

Where to get it? Gowalla.com

4. Loopt

What is it? Loopt shows users where their friends are located via interactive maps on their mobile phones. It also helps tie people to locations and events. Users can also share geo-tagged photos and comments with people in their network both within Loopt and other social networks. Although Loopt works with many mobile devices, some are not included.

What’s so cool about it? Loopt is really great for finding the physical locations of other people in your network to organize ad-hoc meetings, or for brands to reach out to users in their area for localized promotions.

Where to get it? Loopt.com

5. Whrrl

What is it? Whrrl allows users to check in to different locations, share photos and comments of those places with others, unlock secret societies of users based on your behaviors and create and analyze your “footstream” or digital record of where you’ve been.

What’s so cool about it? Great tool for sharing your experiences with others in your network. For marketers a great tool for creating loyalty and advocacy programs for select “societies” and for spreading promotions beyond the scope of traditional marketing efforts.

Where to get it? Whrrl.com

6. Yelp

What is it? You may know Yelp for their restaurant, retail and other services reviews.

What’s so cool about it? Yelp already has a built in audience and a robust database of places to go and things to do. Connecting people isn’t too far off. Good reviews will drive business both online and on the street.

Where to get it? Yelp.com

Here are some ideas to help marketers to capitalize on these opportunities.

Participate: Subscribe to these services and make sure your business information is up to date on service profiles.

Promote: Create special promotions for subscribers to these services. Freebies, coupons, specials, referrals and loyalty / advocacy programs.

Pull: Create special environments and host formal events and ad-hoc meetups for audiences who belong to these location-based networks. Become THE destination locally.

Partner: Create opportunities for cross-brand promotions within your company and throughout your business partners. This is a great tool for localized micro-affinity marketing. Think dinner and a movie, drinks and museums, office supplies and printing services, makeover, haircut and shopping spree. You get the idea.

Piggyback: For event and experiential marketers, partner with relevant local establishments to extend the event experience. Scavenger hunts, visits to retailers who sell products you showcase at the event, client site case study visits, hospitality events, local office visits can enhance your experience and provide proof-point connections to the real world.

We live in interesting and exciting times. As you consider the social media strategy or your business, ensure location-based services are a part of the plan. Never before have marketers had such an amazing opportunity to connect with their audiences at the moment of truth.

Have other ideas? Please share!

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