Archive | May, 2012

Wielding Hyperlocal Brand Influence

24 May


While the concept of steering marketing communications towards a small number of influential networkers isn’t new, the idea of quantifying and using online influence has only truly taken flight recently. As social networks continue to grow rapidly, so has interest in influence. Global companies are realizing the importance of targeting high profile bloggers, journalists and celebrities, and have increasingly sought to reach out to these influencers for word-of-mouth (or “like”) endorsements.

Local is a natural extension of this this idea, as brands increasingly look to target influencers based on their geography.

Klout, which launched in 2008 with the idea of empowering all influencers to benefit from their networks, was in the news last week with the announcement of its own version of brand pages called Brand “Squads.”  Klout calls these pages a “way of giving influencers a place to be recognized and have a direct impact on the brands they care about most.” And while influencers get excited for their potential to be recognized by top brands, social media marketers also have plenty of reasons to be excited for this cool new tool. Klout’s new Brand Squads will showcase the top 10 influencers of that brand. These are the people who most frequently talk about that brand on their own social networks. You also have the ability to see the top 100 influencers.

So what do you do with these people? If you have a list of brand loyalists, you have a list of people who are willing to provide you with feedback about your business — people who genuinely care about your growth because it has an impact on their life. Make them feel like an integral member of your community, and ask them to write reviews, be beta testers on new product rollouts, and refer you to others that might like to use your products or services.  If you can identify these influencers by geography, they can be converted into brand advocates who can potentially drive new customers to your locations.

To help on that front Klout is also releasing a new mobile iPhone app, via their two-month old acquisition of Blockboard, a company that had been working on geo-location-based social network. An Android app is also in the works.

Another player in the game is Kred, which launched in 2011. Rather than measuring users on scores, it ranks according to ‘influence’ (when others retweet, reply or follow you) and ‘outreach level’ (when users reply, retweet or follow a new person or list).

So how does it differ to Klout? Well, unlike Klout, Kred provides a breakdown of your activity and updates your Kred score in real-time, rather than daily. Additionally, Kred lets users add offline ‘real world achievements’ that add points to your score depending on factors such as size of company, timescales and certificates. Similarly to Klout, Kred also uses a +Kred system for you to reward your peers.

Kred also places users in communities based on twitter bios and the hashtags and keywords from users’ posts. Each community receives a Kred score and Kred users that have shown particular leadership in their community are named ‘Kred Leaders’. Kred markets to brands by providing them with a list of Twitter users who are most influential in these communities.

Last week the company announced the Kred API, which allows marketers and others to find influential people based on their data mine of hundreds of billions of social media conversations from Twitter, Facebook posts, and 40 million blogs forums and other sources. The data is indexed and filtered to allow discovery of people discussing any topic by their keywords, hashtags, bio, interactions, location or community.

With this feature, brands can pinpoint influential people on any subject or within communities connected by shared interests or affinities. As well, location-based data can be returned for any keyword, hashtag or @name.

Traackr is another tool that let you indentify influencers in a particular field through something called Alpha Lists.  This is a great way to segment influencers based on a particular topic of interest.  Yesterday, Traackr announced a geo-targeting search feature that enables you to segment these Alpha List influencers by country.  While it only supports Canada, the US and UK, the company plans on quickly rolling out other countries and even city segmentation.  Full disclosure, the location-based marketing A-List (as seen below) is curated by me and shows the concept nicely.

It’s clear that for brands there is an ever-increasing array of tools available to help us find the true local advocate. We must remember, however, that influence is not only the ability to drive awareness and get recognition, but also a function of credibility, expertise and the ability to convince people to make decisions. In many situations, salespeople are the most important influencers of decisions, but they may not have any presence in social media.

Like most things, the answer is situational. For consumer companies with mass audiences, the factors measured by Klout, Kred and Traackr are probably pretty good indicators of a person’s ability to create awareness. For B2B companies, you need to look entirely outside of those areas. Analysts, media, peers, resellers, government officials, regulators and even academics can be far more influential than anyone in social media.


How Location-Based Services Are Reinventing Radio

17 May

While much of the location-based marketing discussion has been centered on mobile couponing and retail applications, there is a much wider implication for traditional media that should be considered.

One area that is just emerging in this is radio. Last fall the National Radio Systems Committee (NRSC), co-sponsored by the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) and the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), released a Request for Proposals on location-based services technologies for terrestrial radio data broadcasting that could form the basis for future NRSC standards and/or guidelines. The goal of the NRSC is to identify new and innovative services using geo-location data that will benefit broadcasters and radio listeners alike.

“Local radio offers an ideal platform for the delivery of location-based services. This investigation by the NRSC will help to identify new opportunities for broadcasters to serve their communities and potential new sources of data broadcasting revenue,” said Kevin Gage, executive vice president and chief technology officer of NAB.

Digital radio technologies, specifically HD Radio in-band/on-channel digital radio, and the FM subcarrier-based Radio Data System (RDS), are already being used to disseminate traffic information, which is one type of location-based service.

Screenreach Interactive, based in the UK is one company that has been working to meet this need.  The company’s Screach technology is compatible with most smartphones, including iOS, Android and BlackBerry. Screach allows two-way interactions between a smart device and any content from other platforms such as digital screens, broadcast media, print, or simply within the app itself.

Screach was recently embedded in a series of apps through a partnership with Bauer Media, which aims to create “next generation radio applications delivering location-based, interactive services.”

Bauer Media’s radio apps have been downloaded more than one million times in the past year, reaching many people each week via its 42 radio stations. Now, it will use the Screach SDK to integrate the technology into its apps. This, in effect, will let Bauer create real-time, location-based content delivered to consumers while they are listening to radio via their smartphones.

Coming at it from a slightly different perspective is Pandora Radio. Because Pandora sign-ups collect zip codes, marketers can use geo-targeting to reach specific demographics through the system. The system enables advertisers to target users by age, music genre, and geography.

In one effort to target consumers, last year, Pandora planned a concert at the Largo in Los Angeles featuring Aimee Mann. To find concertgoers, Pandora sent messages to Pandora listeners who had given a “thumbs-up” — the site’s version of “liking” — to one of Mann’s songs and lived within driving distance of the venue.

At a recent event, Tim Westergren, Pandora’s founder and CSO, said: “You can put together really interesting events that you really couldn’t before.” He suggested that entire tours could potentially be planned based on fans and distance from venues.

Radio has reached a turning point, Westergren said. “At the core of that transformation is personalization. We’re migrating from a signal that’s broadcast to unicast, where people can create their own stations.” Unicast radio will ultimately replace broadcast radio because it “knows you,” he added. Pandora has been working with many brands to place location-based ads in stream for app users.  Home Depot, Norstrom and JC Penney are just a few of the early advertisers working with them.

It seems that as location-based marketing evolves, marketers are beginning to understand that it’s not just a mobile medium, but in fact a data point that cannot be ignored.  The ability to segment and target consumers based on location and location history will prove to be invaluable regardless of the medium.

How Local Gyms Can Use LBS Fitness Apps

14 May

Location-based fitness apps like Runkeeper and Runno are making it easier for individual users to trace their steps and get encouragement from others as they get in shape. The apps add elements of gamification to health routines, earning points, tracking workout progress via GPS, and counting distance traveled and calories burned.  But the real opportunity here is for local gyms and spas to get on this the location-based health kick.

Imagine a fitness club, where you “check-in” via an NFC-enabled smartphone, can see which of your friends are at the club now — and perhaps the more you visit, the bigger discount you get on next years’ membership. The potential for leveraging location data and services in this environment is limitless.  That same check-in could also digitally assign you a locker, show you the history of club usage by day and machine to help you plan your programs better, and link-up with heart-rate monitors and wearable sensors to communicate wirelessly with treadmills and other equipment.

ScreenScape, a provider of place-based media has been providing digital-signage solutions for many community venues including fitness clubs.  They recently partnered with Lifestyle Family Fitness and Mayfair Fitness Clubs in Canada to bring them the ability to deliver highly localized ad content and visual recognitions of Foursquare check-ins on screens in each venue.  In the Mayfair case they are even streaming content from their YouTube channel into the screens for patrons’ enjoyment.

Mark Hemphill, Founder and COO of ScreenScape says that “place-based media is a natural fit for fitness clubs.  There are tons of applications ranging from fitness videos, to membership drives and loyalty programs that make it a natural application for both venue enhancement and member engagement.”

Whether you are the fitness conscious consumer or the club providing a place to work out, location-based marketing enables truly powerful hyperlocal models and opportunities for true integration of people, places and media.

With the Rise of Social Discovery Apps, Purpose and Privacy Are Key

1 May


Much of the talk this year at SXSW was about social media discovery apps (Highlight, Glancee, Sonar, Banjo, etc.), and it got me thinking about the why and how we should be using location-based services to connect with others — and more importantly the sharing of our data.

One of the most powerful aspects of social location platforms is that they can provide a deeper level of connection to people, places and events. As humans we have a natural desire to connect with those we create bonds with and often seek to grow those networks and groupings based on interest or geography.

This latter point is definitely a growing trend — the ability to go anywhere in world to explore what’s happening. Think of the upcoming Olympics, elections, world events, etc. Human desire creates in us a need to turn to social media to get info from the source and establish new connections; Tools like Banjo have become among the best sources for real time info and pics. They provide the ability to eavesdrop in on real-time conversations anywhere in the world.

There are lots of studies showing that people’s desire to appear popular by amassing large followings (i.e., 500+ “friends”) is in fact not a reflection of true connections. In fact, a study by Robin Dunbar of Oxford University showed that the human brain is limited to maintaining only about 150 meaningful relationships. An even more telling study by Matthew Brashears of Cornell University found that the number of true confidantes the average American has has dropped from three to two over the last 25 years, and that the percentage of people who don’t confide in anyone about important matters has skyrocketed from 8 percent to 25 percent.

Originally created to serve as a photo-sharing utility for a group of 50 friends, Path grew exponentially after a redesign in late 2011. It became so popular that it was featured at a hackathon hosted by an app developer in Singapore. During the event, a disturbing privacy breach was discovered: The Path app was accessing and copying the iPhone’s entire contact list and uploading it to a remote server, all without asking permission. Needless to say, online privacy advocates went crazy with criticism. The privacy concerns even resulted in some congressional hearings.

To the company’s credit, Path now asks for permission before accessing your contact list — but knowing that any app can access info like that without your knowledge can be highly unnerving.

Banjo, which announced last week that it has one million users, alerts users when friends have checked in nearby using services like Facebook or Foursquare. Additionally, you can view current public check-ins, and geotagged tweets and Instagram photos on a map, allowing you to get a feel for social activity in your local area or anywhere in the world. It’s more of a social media-powered location browser than a friend recommendation service like Highlight, which alerts you when other users with similar interests are nearby.

In an interview, Damien Patton – CEO of Banjo says ” To understand how Banjo respects users’ privacy, it is important to understand how the service works.  Banjo shows publicly available social posts from various social networks like Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, and Instagram.  Any post that appears on Banjo appears because the publisher has chosen to include location in his or her post.  Depending on the network and privacy filters of the social network used to publish, the posts shared may be visible to the public generally or to select individuals only. Banjo maintains the privacy settings of its users’ networks so that posts are shared with the intended audience only.”

So, the bottom line is transparency.  When building platforms like these, we must give the user control over their data, privacy settings and the ability to define their likes, dislikes and other preferences.

Personal Empowerment
In an always-connected environment, where users’ activities and behaviors are tracked across the web, we as consumers are the crop whose role is to yield up personal data to Big Data farmers. Today’s marketers are extremely focused how they can maximize the vast amount of data we yield; the different ways that they can analyze, refine, and process this data; and ultimately the monetization of that data.

There is a new personal empowerment coming where consumers participate in markets in their own right.  We will be able to decide if the price is right, and if it’s not, just walk away.

In a Big Data world, where personal data is seen as a corporate asset to be mined and analyzed, we’ll be furnished with the tools to negotiate over the price at which our data is traded. Today that data is simply appropriated. Online services, such as Google and Facebook, insist there is a value exchange. They provide us with a free service and they get our data in return. It sounds great.

New models are emerging however that enable a sense of control.  Witness new companies focused on Small Data, like Personal and Singly that have created personal data vaults (PDVs) where we knowingly contribute our data with the intention of being rewarded each time it’s used by those same marketers that so freely trade it today.

It’s a new world, with new challenges.  The tools are there for us to make stronger connections, engage in dialogue and even make money — we need only embrace them.