Tag Archives: web2.0

Foursquare and Gowalla enable true “when and where they are receptive” messaging

Foursquare and Gowalla are the most well-known location based social networks.  They’ve been around for some time, but like Twitter before them, have now reached a Tipping Point of online social media conversation and debate.  Both were much discussed at the recent South by Southwest conference in Austin, as were location based services in general.

Are you signed up yet? To find out more about them, check out Crunchbase.  In a nutshell, both services use geo-location technology to pinpoint where you are.  When you log on via your mobile device, a window shows stores, restaurants, museums, cafes, etc. in your immediate area, and when you check in to one of these locations, you can automatically let friends and followers know, write a message or leave a comment, tip or rating.  You can also read other users’ comments about the location.

Foursquare also incorporates gaming elements through a system of badges that you earn when you become, for example, the most frequent visitor to a place, or have visited a certain number of new places.  As odd as it sounds, people really get into this and it obviously provides promotion and merchandising opportunities for businesses and retailers. Foursquare works with businesses to provide stats based on audience check-ins, so a local restaurant might offer a special deal to its “mayor” (the badge awarded to the most frequent visitor) and his followers to drive loyalty, increase frequency of visits, or motivate lapsed visitors to come back.  Businesses can also set up loyalty programs for customers to earn points every time they check in, redeemable against future purchases.  Those are just a couple of examples of how local businesses are using Foursquare to boost traffic and sales.  You can find more information on Foursquare’s information page for businesses.

Indeed, much of the discussion of around location-based services has been about their marketing value to small, local businesses.  But as these services develop and add on new features, they will become just as valuable for major brands and businesses as well.

An age-old tenet of traditional media planning is to reach consumers when and where they will be receptive to the message.  Indeed, one could argue that a major issue with the traditional one-way, one-to-many communications model of the last 150 years — aside from the fact that so much advertising was, and still is, tedious and boring — is that too many messages reached the wrong people, at the wrong place, at the wrong time.   Location-based services like Foursquare and Gowalla can change all that.  What’s especially exciting is that these services can deliver those messages precisely at the moment when buying decisions can most likely be influenced and acted upon, at the point of sale.

Imagine you’re a mom, it’s Saturday morning and you’ve checked in at your local Tesco or Safeway using Foursquare.  Among your Foursquare friends and followers are other moms like you.  Let’s pretend Foursquare has an interface that allows you to list the categories and brands from whom you’re happy to receive information, as well as an opt-in function that lets you choose when you receive that information and when you don’t.  (It will happen soon enough!)  You opt in because this is precisely when and where you are receptive to hearing about the latest deal on diapers, the newest flavor variety of your favorite salad dressing brand, or a new recipe suggestion for preparing a quick dinner for your family that evening.

Some other ways Foursquare might help you out:

You point your iPhone at a new item you’re considering, and Foursquare immediately shows you comments and reviews from your friends or the broader Foursquare community.

You check in to Foursquare and you receive a personalized thank you message from Tropicana Orange Juice for buying Tropicana each of the last three times you went shopping at this location,  with a 50% off coupon for your next purchase.

Gerber Baby Food lets you know that 10 moms in your Foursquare network also buy baby food and if you all buy $5,00 or more of Gerber this week, you’ll all receive a buy 1 get 1 free offer the next time you visit the store.  You message your friends to let them know.

None of these functions are available yet, but it’s only a matter of time until these or others like them are.

Social media purists may find the notion of using Foursquare and Gowalla as a channel for marketing messages anathema.  Many would say that it’s fine for brands to participate in social media, but if they do, it needs to be in a genuine way, with a human voice, through personalized one-on-one conversations.  I agree that the possibility of the social web to enable more human, collaborative exchanges between people and the companies they buy from is one of the most exciting aspects of the new, post-broadcast age.  But it’s not the only way of doing things.  If a social media service empowers consumers to receive promotional messages from companies and brands that are of interest to them, where and when they want to receive those messages, and on top overlays that information with additional opinions and commentary from their peers, I don’t have a problem with that.  As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, one of the main reasons that people become fans of branded Facebook pages is that they want to learn about special offers, free samples and promotions.  So apparently consumers don’t have a problem with it either.

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“Search and save” on Facebook, Twitter?

In episode 533 of the For Immediate Release podcast, Shel Holtz provides a remarkably lucid and convincing defense of companies and organizations creating Facebook fan pages.  This was in response to comments from members of the FIR Friendfeed room predicting the end of commercial fan pages on Facebook.

Shel points out that many fan pages are indeed ineffective, because the creators have clearly not put much thought into why people might want to come visit the page.  One of the main reasons customers give for visiting a fan page is to find out about special deals and offers.  Like this one from Starbucks, which was in my Facebook newsfeed this morning.

Of course, there are other reasons people interested in an organization or brand might become a fan and be motivated to return to the page regularly.  As Shel points out, patients with chronic illnesses might become a fan of their local hospital to learn about seminars that help them to manage their condition.  It’s not hard to imagine other reasons as well.  A local retailer could keep its customers up to date on sales or the arrival of a hot new product.  Museums could announce new exhibits, or alert people to slow days when popular exhibits might be less crowded.  Presuming not everyone buys their books on Amazon, a local book seller could let literary types know when a new novel was in stock or its author would be appearing for a reading and book signing.

The point of course is that a successful fan page starts with the consumer.  What do they need, what might be of value to them, how could a Facebook fan page help?

Another aspect is particularly important. Companies and organizations can of course feed this information to people elsewhere on line, through their own web sites or email, for example  But that demands more effort and time than most people have today.  It has to occur to them to go to the web site, they need to take the time to remember your URL or find it in their “favorites” list, or consciously decide to click on your email vs. all the others that are cluttering their mailbox.  For more and more people, Facebook is where they are anyway.  And when they’ve opted in to your fan page, you are there with them, because everything you announce shows up in their news feed.  They don’t have to go to your information, your information goes to them — automatically.

Which brings me to the last point.  Most of us don’t have our eyes constantly glued to our Facebook news feed.  The same goes for Twitter.  Facebook should create a “search and save” tool, like an RSS feeder, but for Facebook posts.  It would have a function that allows you to enter the names of the fan pages from whom you would like to receive posts, and then automatically collects those posts for you to review at a time that’s convenient, with the reassurance that you didn’t miss the latest big deal or event.  I’m not aware of a tool like this, either on Facebook or Twitter, where it would also make sense.  Do you know of one?

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Objectives for a hypothetical FMCG brand on Twitter

In a January blog post on Mashable, Jennifer van Grove wrote about 40 brands currently active on Twitter (“40 of the Best Twitter Brands and the People Behind Them”). It’s a worthwhile read. What’s interesting is that not a single FMCG brand makes the list.

This made me wonder. Is Twitter not a space that can be useful for marketers of fast-moving consumer packaged goods? I started to think what the possible objectives for an FMCG brand on Twitter might be. This is what I came up with. Some are somewhat specific to FMCG brands, but most aren’t.

Let me know what you think. And tell me others that occur to you.

I’ve framed the objectives with reference to women, since women generally are the decision makers about most packaged goods brands for the home.

  • Nurture strong relationships with women through dialogue, personal connection and conversation and by providing our brand with a human face and voice.
  • Drive commitment and loyalty among expanding numbers of women through the growing group of socially active individuals using Twitter and other social media platforms.
  • Multiply connections with our brand through relevant content that generates retweets and other viral actions.
  • Listen and understand how women truly feel about our brand and products through the immediate, real-time and truthful expressions and interactions that Twitter encourages.
  • Meet, connect with and acknowledge our brand’s most passionate users with an eye to further energizing their active endorsement of the brand.
  • Generate good-will, buzz and positive word of mouth through our brand’s efforts to engage, respond and share in real time on Twitter.
  • Identify, discuss and resolve issues or negative word-of-mouth immediately as these arise — for example, questions regarding sustainability, safety of ingredients or materials, product problems or dissatisfaction with performance, questions about usage instructions, etc.
  • Build awareness of promotions, price offers, events and other initiatives more effectively through pro-active opt-in of brand Followers on Twitter and through those Followers spreading the word to their personal online connections and communities on Twitter and elsewhere online.
  • Build awareness and drive traffic to other brand locations online, e.g. web site, Facebook page, etc.
  • Ultimately – generate increased sales and market share through women’s increased commitment, loyalty, appreciation and love for the brand and the people behind it.


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A Hippocratic oath for managers — is it an idea whose time has come?

My first post of the new year expressed the hope of a new, better type of marketing inspired by social media and online communities: “Marketing that is truly transparent and honest, that acts with integrity — always.   …That will raise the title of ‘marketer’ in the public’s mind at least a few rungs up from its current ranking slightly above used car salesman as the grungiest, most lowly of professions.”

Apparently two professors at the Harvard Business School, Rakesh Khurana and Nitin Nohria, share similar hopes.  In a visionary article entitled “The Reinvented Manager,” which appeared in the 1/2009 issue of the Harvard Business Review, German Edition*, Khurana and Nohria make the case for transforming business management into a true profession, including a code of ethics and a supervisory body to oversee professional standards.  There would be an exam, like the bar exam all lawyers must pass in the United States, as a prerequisite to practice, and the overseeing organization would have power to censure individuals violating established standards of conduct.

The article is particularly topical in light of the recent excesses of the financial sector, but it reflects the same shift of outlook embodied by online communities, social media and the conversations taking place online thanks to web 2.0 tools.  It’s a shift that demands integrity, partnership and responsibility to the community from brands and businesses.

Here are some of the most interesting and thought-provoking perspectives from the article:

Over the past ten years there as been a decline in the self-control of, and ensuing trust in, business.  Managers have lost much legitimacy.  They will only regain society’s trust by rejecting the economic philosophy that management’s sole concern should be the maximization of shareholder value, while markets and government take care of the rest. (Milton Friedman be damned!)

Managers should serve a higher purpose — society as a whole.  They “should view society as their real customer and strive ultimately to provide society with sustainable businesses that create value.”

To the question whether codes of ethics are actually effective, the authors reference the American political scientist, Robert Axelrod.  According to the article, Axelrod has shown that a defined and unified ethical framework and shared professional ideals influence behavior decisively.  Khurana and Nohria  conclude that “Morally impeccable behavior is an important component of the self-image of professionals (like doctors and lawyers) and most will seek to preserve this sense of professional self.” (Doctors maybe. Not sure about lawyers.)  “We know from the social sciences that people’s actual behavior is strongly influenced by the expectations that are placed upon them.”

The authors go on to provide a draft for  a “Hippocratic Oath for Managers.”  This is my favorite part of the oath from a consumer-centric, social media point of view:

“I will undertake to represent my company’s performance correctly and transparently to all relevant parties, in order to make certain that investors, consumers (my italics) and the general public are able to make informed decisions.”

Khurana and Nohria elaborate on the challenges that the establishment of business management as a profession would face.  But they believe these can be overcome and their vision achieved.  Above all, they are convinced it is necessary, an idea whose time has come.  They don’t pretend that this would eradicate all marketing transgressions in future.  But they do argue convincingly that it could bring about a meaningful and worthwhile shift for the better.

*The original article appeared in Harvard Business Review, October 2008, under the title, “It’s Time to Make Management a True Profession.” Reprint or PDF available at Harvard Business Publishing.  Quoted passages are my translation from the German.


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