Recently in marketing Category

Foursquare.pngSo what's hot in social media today? Location, location, location! That's right, location-based services appear to be gaining critical mass. This trend is driven by the proliferation of handsets with built-in GPS receivers, including the iPhone, Android devices such as the Droid, and the BlackBerry, as well as the proliferation of social networks.

I often marvel that my iPhone is smarter than my computer. This is because the phone knows where it is. On the iPhone, a Google search turns up local options at the top of the list. The iPhone knows which buses go by this street, and when they arrive. When I'm traveling, I can pull off at exit 275, and the phone knows which hotels are nearby, making it easy to find the best deal for the night.

Marketers are licking their chops over this. It's one thing to have a thousand friends on Facebook. But businesses want customers. They want to drive transactions. Location-based services close the gap between relationships online and IRL ("in real life").

Any discussion of location-based services must include Twitter, even though Twitter is not directly a player in the location-based services marketplace. What Twitter does bring to the party is the largest mobile social network, real-time data and the open API that breeds third-party invention and reinvention. Most location-based services seamlessly integrate with Twitter.

Twitter has added geolocation to its database (to turn it on, log in to your account, and go to settings > account). While Twitter does not post your location, third-party applications can now access it. Twitter is essential for the growth of location-based services because it is by far the largest mobile social network as well as the also the largest real-time network.

Today, the hottest location-based service is Foursquare, which Mashable's Pete Cashmore has called "Next Year's Twitter."

Foursquare links to your Twitter account, and broadcasts your location and comments to people in your network. As you visit places, you "check in" and in the process unlock badges. The highest badge, Mayor, entitles you to discounts and other offers. Foursquare was developed by some of the team from Dodgeball, an earlier company that was acquired by Google. While Google has a location-based service (Latitude), the company doesn't appear to have done much with Dodgeball.

Foursquare functions as a "Saturday night leaderboard," for friends across the city. It helps answer the question, "Where is the fun tonight?" Soccer moms use Foursquare to arrange play dates.

While this sounds fun (and also trivial), it's important to think about this important characteristic: on Facebook, we talk, but getting together is an abstract concept. Foursquare drives interaction in real life. Think about your last visit to a coffee shop, with all those autonomous individuals in their own little bubbles, typing away on their netbooks. Foursquare has the potential to link those people together. Definitely a good thing.

Foursquare has just published its API, which means that programmers will be taking the code, mashing it up and creating new applications. This is exactly the same sort of innovation that has driven the success of Twitter, so give it some time and pay attention to how the service changes. The next killer app could be in here somewhere. 

Foursquare has also just expanded to new cities. To see a complete list, visit Foursquare's home page and look on the bottom right of the screen.

Foursquare and Latitude are but two of many emerging services that wrap up social features with real-time data and geolocation. Also in the mix are Loopt, Gowalla, Layar, Whrrl, Brightkite and Buzzd. Can you say shakeout?

While these emerging services may seem like silly uses of such powerful technology, I urge you to try one or two, and think about how they might evolve given the right mix of people, hardware and imagination.

We'll revisit location-based services and discuss some of the players in future posts.
My favorite store is having a sale this week, but you wouldn't know it by looking at its web site.  

That's because the site just sits there. It's little more than a business card with some pretty pictures. The site isn't updated because it's a hassle to do it. If the job requires a web designer, complex software and an arcane process called FTP to send information to a server, it's too complicated to do regularly. 

But it doesn't have to be that way. A new kind of web site - a content management system, or CMS - makes it easy to administer from a secure dashboard. And when it's easy, you'll update it when you're having a sale. A CMS can be expensive, as a custom-designed and programmed site might be. Or it can be free, if you use an off-the-shelf or open source tool. Many companies use blogging platforms such as WordPress or Movable Type as their CMS. If you need more power or control, there are open-source tools like Joomla or Drupal. When you choose one of these, you gain support from communities of experts who provide free programming modules or visual themes.
What good is a web site if it just sits there? I'm hearing from more and more small businesses and non-profits who are ready to start taking measurement of their web traffic seriously. For these smaller websites, Google Analytics is a powerful and easy solution. Here's a treasure trove of support information from if you're just getting started with Google Analytics.

Here's a quick overview: start by creating an account with Google. Your analytics account can be created from your Gmail login. Google Analytics will then provide some code that you'll place on your website. Depending on how your site is configured, you'll put it on every page, or in one place that's served up with every page. When visitors hit your site, the code will "phone home" to Google. You'll view the results a day later on a very nice dashboard viewable from your Google Analytics account page.

If you're a Movable Type user like me, a good place to install the code is in your Footer template file, just before the </body> tag. You just need to put it on your site once, since the footer is served with every call to your site. And, since it's in the footer, disruption to the user is minimal, since it's served last. Note that this code is "off the page" text; it's not visible to your site visitors.

There's really no excuse to not measure your web traffic. It's not hard to get started, and the service is free. Do this today!


photo courtesy of Giant Ginkgo

Last week was pretty good for Illuminati Karate, a web developer in Raleigh, North Carolina. The company snapped up an expired web domain for $10 and resold it for a profit of $34,990.

The domain? The library's online vendor, Yuma Solutions, carelessly let the domain expire. And Yuma should have known better. It initially bought the domain for $3,000 - from yet another squatter.

 Welcome to the wild world of online identity, where seemingly anyone can appropriate a brand's name. Don't think it can happen to your company? Consider the threats:

• Cybersquatting, which occurs when someone purchases a domain that points to your brand, such as the example above. While there are laws against cybersquatting, it can be expensive and time consuming to win. And the so-called squatter may have a legitimate right to the name. In the early days of the Internet, a jazz club in New York called The Blue Note was outraged to discover that someone had already purchased the domain The owner, a music club in Columbia, Missouri, felt it had a legitimate right to the name. It, too, was The Blue Note. The New York club had to take legal action in Missouri, where it lost.

• Typosquatting, in which competitors purchase domains that are similar to a legitimate one in order to redirect traffic. For example, you could purchase and receive a fair number of visits from sloppy typists who meant to do a Google search.

• Phishing, in which a malicious web site poses as a well-established brand and solicits personal information. Phishing schemes typically target companies with online ecommerce, such as banks and credit card companies.

• Brandjacking, in which someone poses as your company in any online exchange. This can include popular social networking sites like Facebook or MySpace. Not long ago, a woman calling herself Janet set up the account ExxonMobilCorp on the Twitter microblogging site. She answered questions and shared expertise about her company, including the observation that the Exxon Valdez was not one of the worst 10 oil spills. The problem? Janet was not an ExxonMobil employee. While her account has been shut down, to this day no one knows who she was.

netflixlogo.jpgRejoice! Macintosh users can finally instantly view Netflix movies on their computers. For the past year or so, this feature has only worked with Windows computers. The Mac viewer is in Beta, so there may be little hiccups here and there.

Here's how to get access to instant viewing with your Mac. First, you must be a Netflix customer. If you are on an "unlimited" plan, you can use this feature all you want. Other plans have monthly limits. 

You'll need to download Microsoft Silverlight 2 software and install it. Then, follow this link to opt in to the beta test. Restart your browser. Then you should be able to view available Netflix titles instantly.

For high quality viewing, you'll need a fast Internet connection. Here's how Netflix sees it:

  • High quality: 1.6 Mbps or faster
  • Medium quality: 1 - 1.5 Mbps
  • Low quality: less than 1 Mbps

Not sure if your Internet is fast enough? Test your connection speed here.

Netflix is also in the process of rolling this service out to selected devices that are more at home connected to your television set. These include the XBox 360, newer Tivo boxes, the Netflix Roku player and combo players (which include a Blu-Ray drive) from LG Electronics and Samsung. 

You don't have to be a futurist to know that the days of the shiny disk are numbered. This multi-platform approach, combined with Netflix's vast catalog (more than 100,000 titles and growing) and excellent customer service, position Netflix to be a leader in the post-disk era.

Crave more Netflix information? Visit Hacking Netflix, an unauthorized blog that covers the service in great detail.

I've written previously about creating text that's reader friendly, but also creates meaningful keywords to search spiders. Several readers and students have asked for more information on keyword tools. Here's an excellent list of tools to try
As a public relations professional, I'm always thinking about relationships. That's my stock in trade. But for most of the world, it's money that does the talking. You gotta have that do-re-mi. 

Of course, smart businesses build relationships and make money. I was reminded of this the other day, when I attempted to return something to The Bicycle X-Change, a store in Wichita, Kansas. I had purchased a cable for a vintage three-speed English bicycle that I'm restoring. It turned out my existing cable was OK, so I returned to the store to claim my $8.49. I had with me the cable in its unopened package and my receipt.

The kid behind the counter told me he could not give me a refund, only store credit. I protested, so he got another employee to tell the same story. He pointed out that the receipt says "no cash refunds."

I told him that I understood that the business made that choice, but that it was unacceptable to me, and that I could also make a choice. I walked out of the store.

So who cares? What's one little customer?

Maybe nothing. But I do own six bicycles, one of which always seems to need some sort of attention. I am a former president of a bicycling club. I have organized 100k bicycle touring events. In college I worked in a bicycle shop. I once built a recumbent bicycle from scratch. When my friends are thinking about buying a bicycle, they ask me what to buy, and I go along with them to the store. In a very local way, I am a bicycle opinion leader. 

I gotta think that somewhere there's a bicycle shop that wants me to go home happy. 

Here's another way to think about my failed attempt to get my $8.49 back. The shop wins. They get to keep my $8.49. And every month, they'll turn around and spend crazy money on marketing to try to get people to walk into the shop. Yellow pages. Newspaper ads. I've even seen television ads for this modest shop. 

And they could've had me for free.

This is the lesson of the world-is-flat-social-media environment in which we live. In the old days, businesses sent a stream of messages to their customers, who listened. Today, many of the messages about a business come from its customers, who tweet their experiences. Blog about them. Write reviews on social media sites and message boards. Search engines organize this stream of information and make it easy to find for other customers. Research validates this concept: these messages are more credible than traditional ads. An entire industry has sprung up to manage these new online relationships. Social media marketers and public relations professionals help businesses understand this interactive environment and optimize their performance so the messages work for them, not against them.

I've started riding my bicycle to work, and am saving up for an Electra Amsterdam Royal 8. Know any good dealers near Wichita, Kansas?

PR Squared, by Todd Defren, SHIFT Communications. Small agency that plays big, good balance between traditional PR training/technique and a solid understanding of how the Internet works.

Micro Persuasion, by Steve Rubel. He works for Edelman, a leading PR firm, and one that has positioned itself as social media-smart.

seth godin's BLOG, by, well, Seth Godin. (that's his capitalization, not mine). More marketing oriented than above, Seth is always swinging for the fences. Sometimes he connects, sometimes he whiffs. His writing has some of the qualities of Wired Magazine, always in search of the BIG IDEA (my capitalization). There's always a next BIG IDEA to push the old one out of view. But, having qualified his world view, he's fearless and imaginative, and you will learn something from him.

Find your own favorite social media/PR/marketing blog. Visit the Advertising Age Power 150 and toss some clicks. FYI, seth's BLOG is ranked #1, Micro Persuasion is  #9, and PR Squared comes in at #40. This week, that is.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of recent entries in the marketing category.

just for fun is the previous category.

public relations is the next category.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Powered by Movable Type 4.23-en