foursquare: The arrival of the location based business "game"

I’ve been on this huge kick of creating visibility for products online lately. All I can think about is how to gain visibility for an online brand. Along with that, I’ve been really interested in two other things: Local and Location Aware applications. I’ve had my eye on Yelp for a bit, but even more so lately as the mobile market is growing. But, even more than Yelp, I’m a huge fan of foursquare since I jumped on the bandwagon back at SXSW. Something I really like is that, like any smart business, they are adapting the product to the market and use. They’ve created a product that included Social Game features and recently launched foursquare everywhere. Now, don’t get me wrong, Yelp adding checkins could totally change the face of the game and knock foursquare out of the Mayor spot, so-to-speak (I had to do it!).

So, that all said, it’s important to note, that I wanted to take a look at foursquare from a perspective outside what everyone else is talking about with how cool the app is, but rather, talk about how it is great for marketing/monetization opportunities going forward.

1. Building Social Capital with Mayorship & Badges

As I mentioned opening this up, they added social gaming to the local mix and understand that social capital is an asset that is ever so important in todays online world. With the creation of Mayors and Badges, it creates an opportunity for individuals obtain a larger amount of social capital within their local cities/neighborhoods.

As a local business owner, wouldn’t you want to know who the people are that frequent your business and have an online presence. I know I would if I was a local business owner, I’d want to know who the people are that have the ability to talk up my business.

We’ve all heard Tara Hunt talk about The Whuffie Factor, and, it’s all very true, social capital is very important now and will continue to be moving forward. I think as local businesses understand that, they will start figuring out ways to market via channels like foursquare. Furthermore, smart local marketers will start figuring out ways to leverage foursquare when working with clients. Also, think about all the chain restaurants that have the ability to build this as a nationwide local targeted marketing initiative as more and more users adopt this.

2. Local Advertising with a real revenue model

I’m a marketer and I look for revenue models as a sign of a product taking that next step into the major leagues. I see foursquare having a major opportunity to create sponsored events, sponsored or featured locations, etc.

Now, before you say, “Why would they do that! Businesses paying to be listed is not authentic!” Think about it, when banners on the web came out, people threw up their arms, when Google Adwords came out, people yelled from rooftops, and when ad.ly (one of my fav. startups, btw) came out, people were outraged via Twitter…do you see a pattern??

It is inevitable for sponsored and premium/featured listings to be highlighted within the content that we see on a daily basis. Saying that it is evil and not right, is thinking without logic. Businesses can not live on without REAL revenue models. Here is how I could see something like this playout:

3. The ego is more important than you think

I’ll bring up Mayors and Badges for the second time in this post because it is worth the mention again. I think something we have failed to see in most Social Media products is the ability to touch the human Id and ego boosting. While we choose to ignore it and pretend it doesn’t exist, it is the base for all human activity. When we feel better about ourselves through any sort of ego-stroking, we tend to do that activity more: championships and trophies in sports, awards in entertainment, etc. Gaming companies do a great job of this, and you have to give credit to Zynga for recognizing this and on their platform with Mafia Wars and Farmville:

But, look at other Social Media platforms, Digg removed it’s top diggers list years ago because they didn’t want the users having more power than the product. Twitter has yet to introduce any sort of ego-boosting platform, (outside of the retweeting functionality), and Facebook really doesn’t have any way of producing this either at this moment. But, introduce foursquare in the mix and you’ve got a real tool for ever so important ego-stroking that we all choose to ignore. Becoming a mayor makes people feel self important, it provides a feeling of self worth. We shouldn’t think of it as a bad thing, it’s human nature for christ’s sake.

Whenever I tell people about foursquare, the first I find friends get excited about: becoming a mayor or getting badges.

4. Capturing local search results:

Being that I’m someone that understands SEO and the search game, I’m always going to look at opportunities to drive traffic. Now, while Yelp does have this market pretty cornered, as they have tons of authority in the local/review market, within a short period, I’ve seen foursquare locations show up top 10 and even top 5 in many situations for local results:

5. Customer Service has never been more important!

Consumers are now subconsciously advocating companies or they are talking about their complete dissatisfaction for another company. Remember, more than 50% of people will make a purchase or purchasing decision based on the reviews of that brand. If I see someone checkin via foursquare is talking about how horrible a location is, I’m probably not going to want to check it out. At the same time, if people really enjoyed their experience, it will make me add it as a to-do item in Foursquare.

This basically is the flip-side to what I talked about when it came to local/in-stream advertising. Customer Service is ever so important, because, even if you are paying for prime placement and top dollar for sponsorships, you can’t fake the overall customer experience.

The truth is, without even knowing it, consumers are becoming what I’ve dubbed: “Subconscious Advocates.” Consumers are revolutionizing the way they tout the brands, restaurants and shops that they love via the tips they leave or the shouts they make when they check-in to a location. Because of this, businesses need to create
opportunities to “wow” these customers and influencers daily, otherwise, I believe they will start to feel it as the market starts to adopt these services more and more.

What do you of the location aware model and/or foursquare? Where do you think it will end up or how will it play out?

Keep the conversation going on twitter, follow me: @tonyadam!

Why being a strategic marketer is so important

I’ve spent the last week at my parents house in a little town in Los Angeles called LaCrescenta. It’s been the first time I haven’t been in an office for over 1 week in 10 years (side note: this is the first time I’ve been at my parents for this long for almost 5 years). It has been good to take some time and reflect on things and do a little bit of looking at things from that 10 thousand foot view. Which has led me to thinking about why it is ever so important to take time, take a step back, and think more strategically.

Looking at things strategically

As it turns out, having your head down and not taking the time to create a strategic approach to things isn’t always the best…well…STRATEGY. I’ve learned a lot about how to think more holistically and strategically over the past 4-5 years. This has created opportunities for me to truly be strategic, innovate, and lead teams, while also delivering value tactically on a daily basis.

As we all know, much of marketing and creating great products is really understanding an industry, verticals within it, the overall market, and/or a customer and their needs. The creation of the new types of media, such as social media sites like Twitter, has truly shined light on how important a customer is. You can find many posts around the web talking about engaging customers, honesty, and being transparent (funny thing is, thats all some social media people talk about, but I digress). The point is, the days of shouting at people via television ads isn’t really “moving the needle” the way it use to, and, as consumers really look to at different forms of consuming media, we have to understand the people we are looking to reach even more.

Being strategic provides opportunities to see what you might have missed.

We are all in “go mode” and trying to make things happen daily, trying to “provide value.” There are so many days that I sit there and engage in social media, work on editorial calendars, and put together plans, etc. for the companies I am working for that I don’t have the time to think strategically. This becomes a problem because a lot of things that are glaring situations or opportunities tend to pass you by.

But, the question is, when you are spinning your wheels just trying to get stuff done, are you really providing value to your organization? Your Client? and even more so, the consumer?

In my opinion, you are not. That is why being more strategic provides opportunities and more value in the long run. Being strategic means stopping what you are doing, analyzing a consumer, and finding out what they are actually looking for. Analyzing a journalist and finding out what they would write about, what they would link to, who they would reach out to. Even better, looking at data to understand patterns, user behavior, etc. that will truthfully provide value to a consumer. Which means you, as a strategic thinker is providing more value by obtaining more customers or actively engaging, re-engaging, and retaining more customers.

Set aside time to think strategically

Taking the time out daily or weekly, gives you an opportunity to think more holistically as a marketer. Take time to think about what people want. Marketing is not about pushing a message or advertising your product. Marketing is truly understand what is important in any given marketplace. Marketing is the process of creating value in an industry that will ultimately lead to obtaining customers and retaining customers.

An example of this can be a product you offer or a template that you develop for your website. Some time ago, I was putting together specifications for pages that should be built on a site. I threw them together from an SEO perspective. Title Tags, alt tags, URLs, etc…you name the technical requirement, and I had it spec’d out. The problem I didn’t think through was, am I really creating value? Am I really understanding what people want out of those pages? Would customers be happy? Would the Media? Would Social Media Users? Overall, that was the problem I was not thinking through and that is an order of magnitude greater than any title tag or url in the long run.

I hit this realization that I should not just try to get stuff done and should actually take some time to think through a problem. Now that I have, I have made sure that I dedicate time to actually blocking out periods of time to think more strategically on a weekly basis. During that time, I switch my surroundings and either go to a coffee shop, lock myself in a conference room at the office, or something of that sort.

Consultants can help with Strategy

There are three ways that bringing in consultants can help with the problem of thinking strategically as an organization:

Consultants can provide a fresh set of eyes that are not tightly integrated with your business, along with being able to be objective about features, content, etc. because they are not vested in the design, for example Discover More Here. Hiring a strategic consultant also means they will not be inundated with trying to deliver on daily traffic goals, daily product meetings, etc. They will be able to work externally, analyze a business, an industry, and the consumer and make recommendations that you can implement.

Hire consultants that are tacticians to help alleviate your daily support needs. Whether you are managing communities, doing something tied to SEO, managing PPC campaigns, etc. All that matters is that you are bringing someone in to alleviate the fact that you need free time to think more strategically. Many times, a business has learned so much about their industry that they have all the research necessary to think strategically and just needs to time and ability to step away from day to day processes to actually do just that, think strategically.

Being a consultant now at days is no longer about specialization and more about strategy. Todd Malicoat just recently wrote about being a Business Management Consultant and I think its so important to think that way now. Just being a PPC consultant, SEO or Social Media Marketer isn’t going to cut it going forward. It is the exact reason that I am happy that I have prided myself in becoming a generalist in technology and the Internet. Understanding all facets of project management, product development, ideation, marketing, etc. is so important. But, be careful, because, just like the ever so popular “Social Media Experts” that can talk about being one, but, don’t really understand it. The same goes here, being a business consultant and advising businesses isn’t just knowing a few things, it’s being a generalist that understands all aspects deeply enough to truly provide holistic feedback to an organization about their market, their product, etc.

Overall Web Strategy is crucial

Overall, it is important to start thinking more strategically as businesses start to evolve online. Being strategic, being a leader, and understanding a market is more important now than it ever was. Being a true marketer involves understanding an industry and providing value. We should all be striving to provide more value to organizations going forward.

Have you spend enough time on web strategy? Are you hoping to spend more time on it? I want to hear what people are thinking about thinking strategically overall!