To date, the location based marketing boom doesn’t seem to have developed as promised. No one seems to be talking too much about Foursquare and other location based social platforms, and from what I’m witnessing online, and in conversation, very few businesses are paying attention to location based services.
The general consensus I’m hearing from those in the marketing and business community is that since “no one is using them,” perhaps we should be spending our marketing time and dollars elsewhere. After all, we’re told to fish where the fish are, and focus our efforts on those platforms where our community and customers are spending time. Right?
Not so fast.
I think that many businesses, particularly those in the retail, service, and hospitality industries, are making a mistake by not paying attention to location based properties online. Many have moved past the concept too quickly. We went through the Shiny Object and Next Big Thing Stage to the Yesterday’s News Stage a bit too rapidly. The real problem is that the users got excited about these services, jumped on them early, and then got bored, all before businesses really understood what their role was. So by the time businesses started thinking about Foursquare, etc., the users were moving on.
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Understand this: some people are still using these services. Others still have the apps on their smartphones, even if they don’t use them often. Mostly because they don’t have a reason to use them. With the continued rapid growth of smartphone adoption, location based marketing is going to become more important. Mobile and social are becoming more closely entwined with one another, and location based services are being built into most of these devices.
Here are a few things to consider as you make a determination as to how location based marketing will fit into your plan:
1. Many of the social platforms you’re already on have a location based element
It’s not just about Foursquare. You can also check in on Facebook, Google Places/G+, and Yelp, among others. That functionality is already there, so you might want to take advantage of it. In fact, people might even be checking in without your knowledge. Be aware of the opportunities that exist for you on your current social properties.
2. Your accounts might exist without your knowledge
When people have checked in to your business, they might have created a listing for you. A proper online audit will help you locate these properties so that you can claim them and optimize them. Never let someone else control your online properties. If you claim these pre-existing listings, you can make sure that the basic information is correct. If people are already checking in, make sure they are checking in to something you have at least a little control over, as opposed to no control at all.
3. Location based marketing isn’t just about check-ins
Another major aspect of location based sites are the reviews that your customers are posting, both positive and negative. Plus, most location based sites offer you the opportunity to tell the world about yourself. This can include basic business information, along with photos, videos, suggestions, tips, and sometimes even offers or coupons.
4. Think search and SEO
You have a website, a Facebook page, and perhaps a Twitter account. Those are all sites that can show up in search results for your business. But add Yelp, Foursquare, Google Places, and more, and suddenly you have a much stronger online presence. Each of these location based sites is indexable by the search engines and can give you a boost when someone is looking online for the goods and services you offer.
5. They are easier to maintain
Some social networks require a bit more maintenance than others. But while sites like Twitter and Facebook work best with regular, daily updates and interaction, sites like Foursquare and your Google Places listing aren’t so labor intensive. Once you set them up and optimize them, you can get away with much more infrequent updating. Not all sites require the same level of attention.
6. Create deals
If it makes sense, think about creating some sort of check-in deals, coupons, or mobile offers that will draw people in. Remember, the deal has to be good enough that it will bring in new and repeat customers, and make them want to check-in. On the other hand, make sure your deals aren’t so good that they send you to the poorhouse, or cheapen your brand. It’s a fine balance that might take some experimentation to figure out.
7. Publicize, publicize, publicize
I think one of the reasons the location based land grab came and went is that we have short attention spans. Some of us tried these services out for our businesses, and we didn’t see the quick return we wanted, so we walked away. But here’s the thing: many businesses created profiles and deals but never told their customers about them. This is a common problem in the social media realm. This isn’t the Field of Dreams. You can’t just build something hoping that customers will come. You need to use both your online and offline properties to promote your check-in deals. Don’t expect your customers to find out on their own; tell them!
8. Make the ask
There is no shame in asking your customers to check-in. There’s also no shame in asking them to write reviews of your business on one of your chosen platforms. Review sites often skew toward the negative because we are a negative people. We like to complain. When we have a bad experience we can’t wait to get online and pen a negative review. But when we like something? Not so much. But the fact is that if you are conducting your business properly, a very large majority of your customers leave happy. Feel free to suggest they write a review of your business online.
9. What is your competition doing?
Perhaps your competition hasn’t yet discovered location based services, or has walked away from them. This gives you an advantage. On the other hand, perhaps your competition is all over them, and is reaping the benefits in terms of marketing and SEO. A carefully developed location based component of your marketing plan can help you maintain a level of competition.
10. It’s word of mouth
Word of mouth marketing is often the best form of marketing for any business. It’s based on the concept of influence, as people tell those who trust them about your business. Location based marketing is merely a way of harnessing the power of what your customers are already doing. They’re already talking about things they like on Facebook and Twitter; now you just need to tap into that and try to get them to do it on your behalf. It formalizes the word of mouth process a little.
Location based marketing isn’t dead. On the contrary, I think it is still in its earliest stages. There are some exciting things happening out there, and once developers work out a lot of the privacy issues related to this type of marketing, I believe that we’ll see a lot more on the horizon.
Don’t ignore location based marketing sites. Evaluate them and what they have to offer, and make informed decisions. Claim them. Optimize them. Offer deals. And encourage your customers to use them.