The thing with Location Based Service like Foursquare and Whrrl, is the thing with all social media marketing initiatives. Most people don’t consider how their customers are going to use it, how it will integrate with their business model, and how it will do the one thing we’re all in business to do: MAKE MONEY. That’s why I was so excited to participate in a panel with John Kim, of Whrrl, to discuss how we did just that.
In a day filled with frustrating people who. while running LBS companies, could not articulate the ROI of marketing in the space, I was really happy to be in a panel that was doing just that. Check out our presentation for the run-down on what Whrrl and Murphy USA have seen in terms of measurable ROI on location based networks.
The issue that cropped up the most was that LBS is still too small to “move the needle,” for large companies. Really? What about small companies – they are even less likely to see appreciable results? Marketing within LBS isn’t about “moving the needle,” it’s about vision. It’s about understanding the need that social media fills in people’s lives, how that is changing consumer behavior, and where things are going. Increasingly, social media is becoming a “shopping filter” for people looking for new products and services. I browse my friends’ shared netflix reviews for new movies. I may ask my Facebook friends for a recommendation for a good dentist. And when a friend posts something like, “Hey – great sale at Walmart on Sodas!” I’m actually pretty likely to go to Walmart and make a purchase. We are nearly 6 times more likely to trust a recommendation from a friend than an ad for a product.
Imagine not being tied down to a computer on Facebook. Imagine not needing to ask a question of friends and wait on an answer. You’re out in the world, deciding on which gas station to visit, or which restaurant to grab lunch at, and BAM – you can see recommendations from friends, or just other people who’ve been there. Adding a location to all of the things we share through social media adds an invaluable layer of relevance to them. It gives our social graph a context to help us make decisions- “Do I want to stop at Citgo for gas, or Murphy USA? Oh, my friends go to Murphy USA, and I can win free gas there today! Great!”
Part of problem with gathering anything meaningful from our online connections previously has been in curation – how do I know which friend recommendations or comments are relevant to me, for the place I’m at, and the decision I’m making? With location + affinity categories (IE Whrrl’s Societies), we get an instantly curated set of recommendations and content, based on what’s most relevant to us at the time – where we are at.
Some people say that we shouldn’t allow these channels to get overloaded with ads and marketing messages. But I think doing that misses the point. Murphy USA can offer something of value for visiting – many customers want that. Heck, MOST customers want that. That’s what we do when we leave the house: we spend money. We buy things. We look for something to do or experience. And as our social graph becomes a tool to help us do that, whether it is from peer recommendations, or brand offers, we’re all in a better position. As Aaron Goldman said, in his book, Everything I Know about Marketing I Learned From Google, “Sometimes, a brand IS the answer we’re looking for.” Marketing messages, especially from companies that understand LBS and social, and are making smart value propositions, are something we should WANT in our social interactions, not something we should avoid.