Emerging TechnologyMobileSocial Sharing – Moving Beyond the ‘Like’ Button

Social Sharing - Moving Beyond the 'Like' Button

A look at new location-based services and apps that reward and help people.

Most of us are active sharers of information with mobile and our social networks. We broadcast our pictures, thoughts, and locations to be viewed and consumed by all of our friends. As we continue to look at how both mobile and location-based services (LBS) affect our behaviors, what about the reverse of this model? What are we getting at an individual level as a result of this participation outside the normal sharing benefits? Let’s look at three types of added benefits that marketers and developers are beginning to provide back to users who actively participate across social, mobile, and LBS sharing.

“Can You Help Me Find…”

Today you can easily access a lot of basic marketing information based on your location, but we’re starting to see an upswing in what we’ll call “secondary” marketing data that provides added benefits to the user.


A small but illustrative example is Powell’s Books, an independent store in Portland. The store has created an iPhone app that provides customers with turn-by-turn in-store directions to the specific books they are looking for. It adds a utility dimension to LBS by not just routing to the nearest store, but replacing the in-store help of a kiosk or store associate.

While this is a great example of user-focused functionality, it’s also important because it creates a marketing opportunity. Think of this model applied to big box and home improvement stores – it gives a very targeted messaging opportunity. Over time, we’ll see expansion of these types of models, and several startups are already aggregating in-store map data. While the accuracy of GPS is not always reliable enough in dense urban areas to get to a specific product, there are great near-term opportunities, and it’s important for marketers to continue to add dimensions as LBS evolves.

“I Got a Free Pair of Jeans…”

Think about all the virtual currencies out there – Facebook Credits, Kickbucks, FarmVille cash, Bitcoins, Microsoft Points, Delta SkyMiles. Virtual currencies have evolved over the years into a compelling incentive for marketers to drive loyalty through simple rewards for avid customers. Frequent flyer miles paved the way, and now these currencies are common in social networks, games, and apps. In some cases, they hold more value than real cash, while in others, they are rapidly turning into real cash. Virtual currencies are gaining a lot of attention, and this will only increase with platforms like Facebook Deals. Add location in the mix and it again means new marketing opportunities while providing a payoff to the user.

Take transactional advertising as an example – Shopkick is a mobile app that rewards shoppers with Kickbucks in exchange for performing different actions at a retailer: walking in, scanning products, and “liking” different goods and deals. These Kickbucks add up to big discounts on items at retailers like Best Buy, Target, and Crate & Barrel across the United States. Recently, Shopkick announced a partnership with The CW television network to reward Shopkick users with Kickbucks for audio-tagging commercials that air during CW shows. It’s a win-win-win-win for Shopkick, the CW, the advertiser, and the user. Shopkick gets more users, the CW and advertisers know more people are watching their commercials, and the user gets more Kickbucks to spend at their favorite retailers.

“I Wish Someone Understood My Love of…”

Proximity adds an important layer to social networking. Applying mobile and LBS creates the chance for a spontaneous rendezvous with someone with a deeply shared interest. Think of it as behavioral and geo retargeting for friend finding. Users can be matched on a combination of content, topic, and now location. Numerous mobile applications are focusing on proximity-based social networking:

  • Color is a mobile photo-sharing network that organizes content by location uploaded rather than pre-existing social connections. The app was used to promote the premiere of the movie “Water for Elephants” by collecting photos taken on the red carpet and making them available for the public to see.
  • Conga is an application that builds a profile by looking at a user’s Foursquare and Twitter history to create a record of where they have been, then cross-references it against other users and notifies them if there is anyone who they have unknowingly crossed paths with repeatedly. The service can also be used to simply reconnect with someone they may have met at a bar, party, or anywhere else.
  • BuzzE is an iPhone app that focuses on helping users find interesting things to do in their immediate proximity and then find new friends once they arrive. After choosing from nearby event listings, BuzzE users can chat and play icebreaker games with others at the location.
  • LoKast allows users to set up a profile including photos, videos, and music for other nearby users to browse. When users converge at the same location, the app alerts them of each other’s presence. LoKast has generated some interest in the music community and garnered partnerships with acts such as New Kids On The Block and Third Eye Blind.

Marketers can take advantage of these new types of applications by helping their audience find others that share their passions. The key is to figure out what the audience would like to discuss or collaborate on with others. We’re just beginning to see the potential of proximity-based social networks and will continue to see a lot of innovation here, both with independent apps as well as the large social platforms.

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