I attended Social Media Breakfast 19 just outside of Boston on Thursday, October 21. Its theme, “Location Based Services – The Good, The Bad, The Opportunity.”
I arrived hoping to get a perspective on how companies might use location-based services, or “LBS,” (like Foursquare, Gowallah, Whrrl and Facebook Places) outside of the obvious retail “check-ins.” To some degree, I was not disappointed. There were good questions, even if they did not all have answers.
First up: we all know that retailers and restaurants use LBS, though many remain unaware. What about non-retial; b2b companies, software vendors, content producers, etc? This is one of the questions that got asked, but not really answered by the panel. I don’t blame the panelists (which consisted of Sarah Amitay of Mobext, John Dobrowolski of SCVNGR, and Nataly Kogan of Where), as they are going to apply their tools where the money is. It’s up to companies, and those of us who advise them, to figure out if and when LBS makes sense. One attendee I spoke with works for a large software company that was using LBS for events at the company offices, and while it added to the event, there is still an uncertainty of the value of LBS in that corridor.
Another big question that came up was of using LBs to reach out. If people are proactively checking in to your venue, aren;t they already fans? How do you reach outside of that base? One good answer I heard, from SCVNGR’s Dobrowolski, was that location-based campaigns needed to be promoted outside of the campaign itself. That sounds obvious, but it’s not necessarily the way dome people in social media are wired to think. Integrating any social media campaign with overall marketing, advertising and /PR outreach efforts has its own pleasant side effects too, of course, bringing some traditional marketing discipline to social media and creating more exposure within the corporation to the nascent social media efforts.
Next is the question of LBS’ relative youth. It certainly has not reached the mass scale of Facebook, or even Twitter. So why bother with it if the real crowds aren;t there yet? Many people are interpreting a recent Forrester Research missive as just that: to stay away from the LBS space until it reaches a certain market maturity. More than one person attending called that out, recognizing that experimenting with younger media before they are “prime” helps marketers be ready to use it effectively when the time does come.
I’ll leave with one last nugget from Where’s Kogan, that “discovery” could kill search. I won’t go that far, but location-based recommendation, and the ability to find things based on that, is an extension of the “human assisted search” idea that has been struggling to come back into vogue, and is best exemplified (now) by using Twitter and Facebook for discovery. Location, indeed, adds a new dimension. We are still figuring out new ways to make that work.