Monthly Archives: August 2010

Facebook Places the Foursquare killer

Much was made this past week with Facebook releasing their location based tool – Places.  Much of the fanfare around the launch was more about the logo that Facebook chose to use –

Hmmmm funny looks like the number 4…in a square, and who is Facebook looking to destroy with this new app…Foursquare! And they will do so, as well as Gowalla the other contender to own this space. Why? Simply put these two creators of the location based social services do not have any real differentiators to avoid being overwhelmed by the social media 800lb gorilla. Of course if you asked them they are less boring!

  • Yes Gowalla uses GPS to ensure that where you “check in” is really where you say you are, but since you are checking in via a smart-phone and since they all tend to already have GPS how hard will it be for Places to leverage this technology if needed?
  • Foursquare and Gowalla users have been more selective to who they include in their network. I agree with this partially. The more I thought about this I realized that the average user on Facebook has 130 friends, a lot? Well when you consider there are some with friends in the 1000s or higher you realize that many have single digit friends in their network. To me this means these users will not distinguish between someone they want to have as a friend on Facebook versus someone to follow them on Foursquare or Gowalla.
  • Foursquare and Gowalla have a switching costs vis a vis the levels users have reached. Um okay. Until that digital trophy or star I have pays the rent, gets me a job or puts clothing on my kids the switching cost is minimal. It just means I will need to check in faster with Places to get back to that “level.” I am also quite certain that Facebook will develop the cute and fun awards you earn!
  • Location location location, since the location based locations are created by the community, how hard will that be for Facebook to leverage its enormous network to build up? Plus Facebook Places allows you to check in to virtual locations, something the others cannot do yet.

I just do not see services like Foursquare and Gowalla being able to beat the network effect and sheer mass that Facebook will bring to the table. For Facebook it is an easy “sell” to its users – you are already using Facebook as your hub for social media and it is more geared towards the personal side of social media so adding a location based service, one of the most personal of social  media, is a natural extension.

I would also surmise that heavy users of Foursquare are also on Facebook, but the inverse is not necessarily the case. For those on Facebook but not Foursquare, why go through the process of rebuilding a network when you can just leverage the one you already have. Those of us who have used Foursquare and Gowalla we are probably already on Facebook, and since we will have more friends leveraging Places we will certainly not want to allow some location based rookie become mayor or have cooler stamps that us!

It was nice to have you around Foursquare and Gowalla, I wish I had more time to checkin with  you.

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Blackberry vs the rest – the battle for smartphone supremecy

As I wrote in an earlier post, RIM has an uphill battle when it comes to maintaining their place in the market. There is an interesting poll launched by ZDNet. From the early results, it appears that RIM is holding on to its lead versus their biggest competitors – Android, Apple and Windows (yes they are still around!).

These results as of 3:00pm EST on August 20 2010. Interesting data, but again something that Blackberry and RIM need to lean on – that from the business side of the world they can still command a leadership role. It is up to them to market and speak to this rather than worrying about Android and Apple – and how cool they both are!

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Facebook announces location based service – Places

No surprise but Facebook has jumped on the location based social networking functions with – Places. Clearly they are going after Foursquare and Gowalla, I realize I was being master of the obvious with that statement. While I am still debating how we can best leverage these services – from a business and marketing angle – one cannot ignore when the social media giant Facebook jumps on the bandwagon. For Facebook, it provides another source of data on their users, a potential gold mine they can leverage to sell to advertisers and marketers. It will be interesting to see how well Places works for Facebook.

A good point by Jonathan Yarmis:

Something to watch, for me I already went into my FB profile to check I had the proper security settings. Just saying!

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Blackberry – get back to your core business…businesses!!

I had a good lunch today with a former colleague today and our discussion at one point turned to the world of mobile devices. One company that came up was RIM and the Blackberry…mind you we both worked with RIM via our former employer so we  had been exposed to the Canadian company at a deeper level than simply as users of their hand held devices.

We both lamented at how far RIM has fallen in the world of smart phones. Remember when the Blackberry was the “coolest” device one could own? It was the one device that we could get our emails on, make calls, had a fully qwerty keyboard and eventually do some web browsing. Wow. It was great! Then other players came on the market to compete such as Palm’s Treo. All this changed beginning of 2007, with the announcement of the Apply iPhone. Of course some scoffed at the  new kid on the block, you could not remote scrub the phones if lost, you did have the speed of a Blackberry server to deliver your email and sync you calendar and overall the new iPhone was a cute toy but would not get into corporate America. Throw into the mix the fact that Steve Jobs always seemed to be allergic to the corporate business and RIM thought their world was safe. Ooops.

Today, we also have the Android from Google that has come out with a vast amount of devices running the operating system coupled with the newly released iPhone 4 and are breaking down the barrier between consumer and professional smartphones.

This past weekend, RIM released their new hand held, the new Blackberry that would once again seize what is rightfully RIM’s a leadership role in the smartphone space. Unfortunately the sales from the first weekend were nothing short of a disappointment  – 150,000 units sold. Compare this with iPhone 4 that sold 1.7m units during its first weekend. I realize we can argue that we are comparing apples and oranges, but the perception is that RIM has completely lost its fast ball. Some would even argue that RIM is on the verge of…saying bye bye.

Now the reality is that RIM still holds a solid market share 43% vs Apples 25% an enviable position, except when you realize that Apple grew that share from nothing to where it is today in 3 years. Couple this with the rapid growth of Android from Google and you have a situation where RIM is fighting a defensive battle against 2 formidable opponents. However there is a silver lining in all this…something Jay brought up today at lunch. The other news about RIM has surrounded their problems with the government in Saudi Arabia and the fact their encryption is too strong to be snooped on. Now RIM has had to allow governments to have some visibility into the communication. If the governments of Saudi Arabia, China, Russia to name a few cannot break your encryption what does that say about  your security? It is pretty darn solid.

Rather than competing with Apple and Google on the “coolness” factor – go back to your core business – the business world! I realize that the iPhone is creeping into that space, but rather than trying to compete on the battlefields dominated by Apply and Google position your devices as rock solid, robust, safe and can be trusted to protect your corporate information. Hey if the Saudi government cannot hack it, how could your competitors? I am sure that most IT departments and companies would much rather know their corporate smart-phones have this level of security.

It might not be sexy, it might not have a coolness to it but companies are not all Nike, Adidas, Disney, Apple, Google, Facebook…but there are many businesses that grind away without the “coolness” glow and do very well at it. It might be time for RIM to recognize this and focus on this strategy, otherwise, as George Colony wrote, it might be goodbye RIM.

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Mind your Ps and Qs with your social media

An interesting article about the usage of social media from Careerbuilder.com. Nothing too earth shattering, basically stating that a third of companies are leveraging social media for their corporate goals. I think it is safe to say that the thought that social media is only for entertainment or idle communication by teenagers is rapidly evaporating. Social media is and will become a greater part of our every day activity in the corporate world, just like web sites did 20 years ago. What stuck out to me in the article is the following:

When it comes to managing social media strategy, 43 percent of employers report that their marketing department handles social media outreach, followed by public relations (26 percent) and human resources (19 percent).

No surprise in the first two statistics, but the third – close to 1 in 5 companies have their HR departments managing social media. This just reinforced the fact that more companies are using these channels to vet potential employees. What does that mean?

That you need to be very conscious of how you are seen via your social media channels. That picture from your frat days on Facebook, funny to you and your friends, might not be so funny to a future employer. Checking in every night on Foursquare at the local drinking hole….maybe go off the grid with that information. Again, it does not mean you should not have a social life nor use social media, but just remember it is a very competitive world we live in and also becoming more open. The wall that used to exist between your professional persona and personal life has been made easier to look over. You might rationalize that what you do on the weekend is your business, but if you advertise it, then you have exposed to the public. Some of whom might not approve and if they are deciding between you and another candidate, that could be the deciding factor.

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iPad – changes marketing mix?

The sensation that is the iPad has been with us for less than a year and already we are seeing the impact it has on our personal lives and professional lives. I will admit that when the iPad was announced I was very excited about picking one up (lack of funds not withstanding) but once it came out I was less enthusiastic. I ran to the local Apple store to play around with what appeared to be an iPhone on steroids, and I just was not that enthralled with the device. I really wanted to be, but nothing. Since then, my attitude has changed again back to my original emotion. I am looking forward to scrounging the necessary funds to purchase an iPad, the ability to quickly turn it on, surf the web, read publications, play games, use Flipboard and countless other apps available is too much for me to resist. However a tweet I saw recently made me think about how does the iPad impact our marketing strategy? Or does it?

I complete agree that marketing has been impacted by the rise of social marketing and the explosion of hand held devices. We can now reach our consumers and target audience in a way never dreamed of 10 years ago. Mobile ads and promotions have been around for a while – we can send coupons and promotions directly to your iPhone or Blackberry. We are seeing an increase in the ability to send event tickets to your mobile device, we are even moving towards having electronic boarding passes for flights. However, do we need to overhaul our marketing thinking because of the iPad?

No. That does not mean we cannot think about how we would leverage this new form factor of mobile computing in our marketing efforts. However as marketers we need to contemplate how we reach our target audience and how we can leverage signals our audience can share with us to better meet their needs. The combination of web enabled mobile devices and the rise of Social Media has allowed Marketers to target a more precise audience as well as allow for a true conversation to occur with that market. The iPad is just another category of product. Tablets have been around for a while, it is just the iPad has made the tablet simpler to use and let us face it more cool.

As a marketer think about how you can leverage the fact consumers have another form factor for mobile computing. For your marketing programs can you leverage a larger screen? A touch screen? A tablet that reacts to motion? These are important to think about when you are looking to change and introduce some marketing campaigns. However do not get carried away…marketing, like business remains anchored in simple tenants (simple but not easy to master). Just think about how these new technologies can allow you to reach your marketing goals and do not allow the shiny new toy distract you from what your business and marketing goals entail.

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Is FourSquare right for your marketing mix?

At this point we all know what Facebook is and some of us might even use Twitter on a regular basis, so of course we now have other social media outlets – location based sites like Foursquare. The New York based firm is just over a year old and has created some good buzz.  So what exactly does the service do?

  • It is a location based service – you sign up for an online account and add an app to your mobile device. Like other social sites you can and are encouraged to invite friends and expand your network.
  • When you go somewhere – restaurant, hotel, bar, or any other countless location you can “check” in via your device. You can also provide tips and to dos – giving your network your spin on places (similar to Yelp). It can help you explore your city or a new city.
  • As you check in to locations, you can earn trophies and mayor awards – basically achieving certain goals such as having over 10 checkins or having checked in at over 5 Starbucks’ locations. Based on being the one with the most checkins Foursquare will anoint you mayor of a location.
  • Of course all this allows you to measure yourself with your network…

The service appeals to our base need to network with our peers, but also accumulate “trophies” and “prizes” to show off that we are cooler than the next person. Let us face it since we have been little, we have been exposed to and trained to accumulate and show off our prizes. As children we collected pins, stickers, Barbie Dolls, baseball cards, girl/boy scout patches and the list goes on. We have collected items all our lives – a fun excercise look in your colleagues offices and see how many tchotchkes are lying around the office or better yet look for the stacks of name tags and lanyards hanging on someone’s bulletin board. You realize we continue to collect and look for symbols of our activity.   I will not claim to understand what drives us to do so, but safe to say I think many succumb to this urge. That is why Foursquare has struck a cord with that aspect of human nature.

So how can business and marketers take advantage of this? Obviously businesses with brick and mortar facilities need to make sure they can be “checkin” to, even throw a sign in your window with the Foursquare logo. Encourage your patrons to check in and to add tips. Also do not hesitate to read what some patrons are saying…clearly if on of the tips is “the service is terrible, slow and rude” something you might want to correct. Since tools such as Foursquare allow everyone to be a critic, if you are catering to this audience make sure  you are aware of the this channel.

What about other marketers for services or B2B businesses? Should you leverage this channel? Absolutely. Be creative. For example – promote your clients! If you are services based business who works with large retailers have a campaign for folks to check into their locations – add some insight into how you are working with those companies. We have much to learn about how to leverage location based tools. With Facebook moving into the space, it is clear that we have only scratched the surface with this aspect of social media.

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