TAG | Geo-Targeted

Connecting Online Social Efforts to Offline Meetup Fun

As a marketer, where do you put your offline “geo-targeted” efforts? A college film club, a local Alliance Française, a Chamber of Commerce, Singles Clubs? As you hone in on your intended demographic, you may have already or will one day find that Meetup.com can complement an online social media campaign. It continues to surprise us as to how many people overlook this fascinating resource to not only build brand awareness but even bring people together in the real world. This is of special interest to those marketing offline events. Upon a recent visit to an old ally at Southern California Outdoor Adventurers, Media Needle’s Bernard Yin was inspired to talk with founder Chris Ashford about his strategy and experience.

B: Chris, please tell me what social media platform has served you best and why? Maybe offer a quick example or anecdote. I know of you as a result of Meetup.com which makes a lot of sense to me because your community is all about outings and activities. Feel free to elaborate on how this has worked out for you.

C: Meetup.com has been a tremendous platform for SCOA and we have leveraged as much as their API allows. SCOA’s focus is all about being outdoors and active. Meetup’s is “Doing something” – the similarities enabled us to crowd source. With eyeballs, we built a crew and executed on some amazing activities.

One trip we spent 10 days in the Yucatan swimming with whale sharks, learning about sea turtles, checking out amazing crocodiles and living as fishermen! We stepped up our local game with sea kayaking and spear fishing, which were unique to the pool of people served through Meetup. The old saying if you build it they will come was true in this setting. Two years after starting from scratch we had 2,000+ members. Once we had the numbers, we understood there was an opportunity to engage outdoor equipment manufacturers for sponsorship. At the time, Meetup.com was eyeing this space – and would not provide analytics to us! It was never our intention to build a web presence and community but due to the lack of the tools required to have a conversation with potential sponsors we had to. I can remember speaking with a large snowboard manufacturer who contacted us with an opportunity for sponsorship, Their first question? “What kind of traffic are you getting?” From that moment on our relationship with Meetup.com changed. Why were we paying for a service that served up Google Ads on the content we produced and a service we had to pay for? While we were trying to differentiate, they were advertising similar focused groups on our home page.

While we still leverage Meetup’s sourcing capabilities and some of their content our online focus is our 5,000 strong community of adventures. We chunk out 120 – 170 page views a month, 1.5-2M hits/month and about 2000 uniques. Some of your readers may say that’s it, why are they excited over those numbers? Keep in mind we are laser beamed focused on people in the SoCal region. We think more impressive is the 40+ events per month we host. During our busier months we reach 150-200 real live people. It is the latter that we look to capitalize with equipment manufacturers.

Think about it – Burton Snowboards spends millions on marketing to get customers but how much are they spending to keep them? Once they buy the snowboard, what brings them back for the jacket and hoodie? SCOA provides a laser beamed channel to active outdoor people hungry for adventure and product knowledge. Our customer loyalty programs are ready and just need a little push to get going.

It is an education process. We have hit the larger accounts but all they say is – ‘talk to us when you reach 10,000’. The small mom and pops typically do not have a marketing budget or the sophistication to take advantage of our services. But we keep working it everyday. We will find the happy medium.

B: Do you see a shift of any sort in how social media, technology and communications overall might affect SOCA in the next year or two or is “business as usual” the modus operandi for SOCA for the foreseeable future?

C: In order to stay ahead, SCOA will have to keep evolving. The Meetup.com pool is saturated with outdoor adventure groups. Differentiating ourselves is crucial. We are in the process of working some collaborations with Mountain High (http://www.mthigh.com/) and Adventure Link (http://www.adventurelink.com/). Their content and our social networks will increase awareness and ultimately bring activity. How much will depend on growing our Twitter and FB reach. For organizations our size – small – it isn’t enough to just have one. They all need to be connected and focused on specific goals. Our collabs for 2012 will provide unique contests and adventure content we think our members will get excited about and get outside – the win/win for everybody.

B: I am impressed by what you have achieved, what are some of the goals of SOCA? What is the “next level” in other words.

C: Thanks for the kudos. It has been a ridiculous workload and we were lucky, every step of the way we had competent, capable people around to execute. On the one hand, friendships, relationships are important to nurture. Ultimately you are talking about trust. On the other, the Internet is the great disrupter – as long as you keep it fresh and interesting people hang around and momentum grows. Skip a beat and lose momentum, it takes an inordinate effort to get it back.

B: Has the SCOA experience offered any insights of a “bigger picture” that you care to share?

C: Ultimately, marketing and advertising will be centered around your network’s recommendations. I have clicked on many the Facebook ad that has my friends’ recommendation by it. Recommendations are everything. At SCOA, we strive to provide a professional and well-run organization. We strive to work with other well-run and professional organizations. Hopefully our members recognize that and stay with us and spend their hard earned dollars with us!

B: Thanks Chris. You really hit the nail on the head with “SCOA provides a laser beamed channel to active outdoor people hungry for adventure and product knowledge.” and I feel this applies to most Meetup communities in general. We may circle back with further questions or thoughts to throw around.


Note: SCOA currently has Columbia Clothing as one of their sponsors.


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Passing GO – Local Mobile Marketing

Local mobile marketing can be associated with a plethora of words: Opportunity, innovation, growth, gainfulness – the list goes on.

Whether you own a small business or a large corporation, your purchasing decisions will have a distinctly local bend to them, marking the true importance of the local aspect of local mobile marketing. Ultimately, no matter the size of your business, you should be concentrating on local as it applies to you.

Appropriately, Adam Horwitz and Tim Donovan bring you Local Mobile Monopoly. The duo originally teamed up for Mobile Monopoly, released in December 2010, which revealed how to make money using mobile phone marketing strategies.

Their new product, Local Mobile Monopoly, was released in March and comes in a training video, software and text messaging services format. The video trains marketers on how to best use local mobile marketing, and guarantees profits through the use of mobile phones. The all-in-one mobile marketing tool is geared to benefit a variety of businesses and is ideal for new users and experienced marketers alike. Ultimately, the service claims to empower marketers’ local efforts with guaranteed success, mainly because it is founded on the idea that the local market is a gold mine.

Let’s break down the details: According to the CTIA, The Wireless Association’s semiannual wireless industry survey, 91 percent of Americans own a mobile phone. About 20 percent of these users (50 million people) own “smart phones,” mobile phones with Internet browsing and emailing capabilities.

Since smart phones bring online search capabilities to mobile users, businesses should include mobile search strategies in their overall marketing plans. In one of the most common applications of mobile search, customers rely on map apps to locate local businesses while on the move. Platforms like Yelp, for example, have built-in search functionality coupled with ratings contributed by members. Through Yelp, people can access coupons and discounts posted by businesses and accessible through “check-ins” on smart phones. This benefits both the business and the customers, who can also notify friends of their location, giving the whole process a “game” feel as well.

As local marketing dollars rapidly shift from traditional to online channels, the benefits of mobile marketing for businesses become clearer. The ability to enter the mobile version of a web site, garner email access, conduct map searches, access social media for referrals and use text messages for offers, coupons, etc. is invaluable.

By 2015, almost 25% of local marketing spent will be in the online space. Local Mobile Monopoly is just one of the many new services that will materialize as this arena continues to grow.


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Which Platform Do I Get On? Part I

*This is the first of a two-part series on social media platforms.

The key to navigating the ever-growing world of social media is to divide and conquer. With three main types of social media platforms– those that help you network, the ones that help you promote, and those that help you share- ease of navigation is a necessity.

A platform that allows you to network, like Facebook or LinkedIn, is the most commonly used. Whether you’re interested in getting back in touch with an old flame or making new contacts in the business world, using a social networking site is the easiest way to do so.

Promoting platforms, like YouTube or personal blogs, allow you to do just that: promote. Oftentimes, it isn’t even clear what someone is promoting; personal-style blogs, for example, seem to be promoting nothing more than daily outfits. Upon closer look, however, many of these blogs feature the latest fashions, both in clothing form and through ads, and bloggers can be compensated, whether with money or gifts of clothing, etc.

Lastly, we have platforms that allow you to share, like Digg and Delicious. These platforms operate through closely-knit communities that are not easy to infiltrate. Try to get voted up on Digg and you’ll realize instantly that it takes months of interaction with other users to build up the trust needed to share within the community

If you’re a networker and you like sites like Twitter and LinkedIn, check out Quora. This platform is a sort of best-of the Q&A platform format; a combination of LinkedIn Answers or Yahoo Answers with the look, feel and simplicity of Twitter.

Also check out Color. The platform uses location-based services like GPS to allow users to share the photos on their handsets with people—both strangers and friends—nearby (within a 150-foot radius of a user). Users can also create albums and social groups for photos from a specific event, and can also comment on photos and shoot video.

If you like YouTube and WordPress, try Instagram. This is heaven for tech-junkies and social networking addicts. Snap a photo with your iPhone and then edit the photo as you like, choosing a filter to transform the look and feel. Then, send to Facebook, Twitter or Flickr – it’s photo sharing, reinvented.

If you like sites like Delicious because you enjoy the thrill of sharing sites with like-minded web users, try a social shopping experience in 2011. Sites like Svpply and Polyvore allow users to create inspiration boards, generate user feedback, and ultimately, mimic a real-time shopping experience, minus the long lines and annoying interactions.

Next week, we’ll discuss some more business-oriented social platforms, like Wildfire and Buddy Media.


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The Trend Forecast: 2011

It’s February, and that means that most (if not all) social media experts have already released their predictions for the social media landscape of 2011. Social media is an interesting field in that the rapidly changing dynamic is truly what defines it; without the quick turnover and fast-paced edits we’ve grown accustomed to, social media would become stagnant.

True to form, 2011 is expected to feature some big changes and some powerful emerging trends. Since almost everyone in the blogosphere has released their version of 2011’s Emerging Trends, we thought we’d make it easy and act as a filter, picking the best ones and summing them up.

Expansion: This is a given, but the companies that pioneered corporate use of social media are bound to integrate social media further into their business plans. It’s not exactly breaking news, but expect to see large companies like Starbucks taking social media to the forefront of their business plans, especially in terms of global marketing.

Location-Based Services: Foursquare’s major appeal in 2010 was based on its ability to produce interactions with people and places on the go. In 2011, Facebook is positioned to take location-based services one step further, with advanced data and planning that will make the application not only fun, but business-savvy. Expect Facebook to surpass other social networks, including Foursquare, when it comes to location-based services.

Social Media Overload: Social media experts, who use their networks for work-related activity and on a constant, daily basis, are already used to the overload that comes with owning and using multiple profiles. 2011 may bring this phenomenon onto “regular” social media users, who will feel overwhelmed by the availability of so many networks. To tweet or to Facebook or to maintain your gchat contacts or build a Foursquare profile? Incidentally, this excess should bring about a positive change: More platforms like Hootsuite will be developed, in order to provide users with an integrated and simplified social graph. 2011 will be the year of social media organization.

Google Returns to the Top: Okay, so Google wasn’t really able to succeed in creating their own network- take a look at Buzz, for example . Google’s skill lays in indexing, and already, Google’s algorithm has become smarter about Twitter data than…Twitter itself. Search for old tweets in Google just by typing in a few words, and you’ll be able to locate old gems. Ultimately, Google should be able to take advantage of the social web by indexing any and all social data they can get their hands on.

The Informed Consumer: Mobile devices and social networks are joining together to make the consumer more powerful than ever. With access to discounts, coupons and targeted offers at all hours of the day, consumers can make more informed decisions. The ability to compare and contrast different brands even at the point of purchase, whether during online shopping or even at the cashier in the store, will force retailers to step it up. Expect to see more instant mobile coupons, online group discounts, and flash sales.

Integration: In 2011, technologies like mobile, geo-location, RFID, tablets, and Internet-enabled appliances will allow for sharper communication and a merging of experiences. Already, GoogleTV and Samsung are bringing internet apps to television. Department stores are experimenting with the virtual shopping experience; recently, Macy’s launched a dressing room experience that lets shoppers find clothes on an iPad and then try them on virtually. The shopper can even ask for feedback from their friends and family in real-time and check out the view using an augmented-reality mirror. By texting, e-mailing, and using other social networks, the consumer will be able to experience what mimics, and even surpasses, an in-store shopping experience. TMI meets virtual shopping- what could go wrong?

Ultimately, 2011’s success will be determined by just how far these emerging trends are developed, and just how these developments flourish. It comes down to usability, which is what social media is based on anyway. It will be an exciting year in the world of social media, for sure.


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The World of Social Media

With 2011 fast approaching, it is time for a social media recap of 2010, global-style. This was the year that Facebook took over the globe, and we end the year with almost 600 million users around the world. While Facebook might be the most popular social network, however, it certainly isn’t the only one with worldwide appeal.

Italian blogger Vincenzo Cosenza has, for the second time, published a visual map that portrays the most popular social networks around the world. The map is based on the most recent traffic data (December 2010) as measured by Alexa & Google Trends for Websites.

According to Cosenza, since June of this year, Facebook has “stolen” important nations from previously strong competitors, so much so that 115 out of 132 countries analyzed name Facebook as their market leader. Notably, Hungary, Poland, and even Mongolia have switched over from local strongholds to the global site.

We’re also seeing a rise of interest in Twitter and not surprisingly, in LinkedIn. While Facebook spans generations, however, Twitter has previously been identified as a “younger” social networking tool. Its growth against MySpace in Australia, Germany, Italy and Canada, then, doesn’t do much to prove that Twitter has gained the all-ages following it needs to compete with Facebook in global market domination.

Twitter’s appeal is undeniable: The visibility of its most frequent users, celebrities, excites “normal” users. Then, even for non-celebrity tweeters, a sense of voyeurism continues to remain with the site. The site is more energetic and fast-paced than MySpace, and while “tweets” can give away crucial information about participants, the site isn’t as sleazy as Myspace was in its heyday.

LinkedIn’s rise was inevitable. Why wouldn’t other countries jump to embrace a site that provides free networking in a career-oriented atmosphere? LinkedIn gives employers the benefit of screening employees before they even request an interview and in this way, it tightens up the hiring process. It also gives employees the chance to present themselves in a professional manner online, and countries like Australia, Canada, and the UK have embraced this.

Ultimately, while Facebook, Twitter and MySpace continue to dominate most of the world’s social networking market, there is tremendous room for growth in the new media sector.

New Media expert Brian Solis breaks down social web involvement by country, and the results prove that each country has a unique dynamic within their social networks.

17.6 million Americans blog, compared to the Netherlands 1.3 million and China’s 89.7 million. Are these numbers surprising to you?
World Map of Social Networks


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ROE the new ROI

Social media has become part of our life. Today, pretty much everyone is using some form of it. Every local store, cafe, club and event has a Facebook page. Every brand has a Twitter account and every white paper ever written has been turned into a SlideShare presentation, for some self-proclaimed thought leader in a Linkedin group to share.

In this completely connected, totally viral, absolutely transparent, geo-targeted, digital world we live and work in… you have to be social. But how do you justify the time and expense it takes to maintain that presence?

Now that social media has passed the point of “why do I need it” to “what do I do with it” the quest to determine the ROI of social media has become more complex.

Since you are asking people to put numeric quantities around human interactions and conversations, which are difficult to quantify, trying to determine the exact return on your investment is not easy and in the long run, may not a good idea. To really understand the impact of social media and social technology on an event, promotion, brand awareness or even product sales, people need to measure the “ROE” … return on engagement.

At Medial Needle, we have been finding valuable “returns” manifesting themselves in ways not always anticipated at the onset as a result of our marketing efforts. More and more, we’ve come to see these unexpected fruits and proverbial rewards only appear because social media was strategically integrated into a marketing agenda.

For example, Media Needle recently executed a food campaign outreach program. While servicing a very small, archaic and insular cooking listserv, we uncovered a hive of influential webmasters; each with robust email lists and social media profiles. So what at first appeared initially to be a seemingly insignificant target community mushroomed into one of the campaigns top case studies. Clearly social media bears the markings of what we once more readily called “viral marketing”. Another campaign had us establish a quality dialog with a key target community. Despite a lull in activity on the client’s end, we maintained the relationship. Six months later, the two partnered successfully for a robust promotion. Anticipating these in conventional ROI terms, especially at the onset of the campaigns would have been impossible.

Thinking about social media in terms of a simple bottom line number puts the whole thing on an old school path of problems and risks, missing great opportunities. Essentially, you have to stop relying solely on the numbers. With social media the trick is to focus on what your numbers end up leading to. ROI is an effect of quality ROE.

If your goal is to participate in the conversation, to enhance your relationship with your audience and become a trusted member of the community that surrounds your brand; then your ROE has been set into motion. Once you’ve paved this foundation, the more conventional ROI models of sales, registrations, new followers and fans etc. will begin to kick-in, proving the benefits of a well-engaged social media agenda versus a dry and uninspired one.

Finally, ROE like everything else social media related, has a variety of definitions. Here are two good ones: We wish to cite Jason Falls’ here http://www.socialmediaexplorer.com/2008/10/28/what-is-the-roi-for-social-media/

Sarah Evans’ different but complimentary tome here: http://prsarahevans.com/2009/05/15-ways-to-measure-return-on-engagement-roe-of-social-media/ as a valuable point of reference.


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GPS-aware mobile devices have become commonplace, making connecting the dots between what you’re doing and where you’re doing it easy. Now that businesses are actively exploring the opportunities that location-aware services provide, location will matter more than ever.

Everyone is Sharing Location Based Information

This year, Twitter, Foursquare, Loopt, Gowalla, Google and Facebook will all make it easier for people to share real-time, location based information and post location-aware updates.

This past December, on Christmas day Facebook was the most trafficked web site in the United States. Now it wants all of it’s users to become more open. Altering the default settings on millions of people’s status updates, in the hopes of making more Facebook updates public and searchable.

Get Ready for Location-Aware Status Updates

Sometime later this year Facebook will start to implement opt-in location-aware status updates. Knowing where your Facebook friends are having lunch or going for a run is a just as important, if not more so, than knowing that they’re doing it. So in much the same way that Foursquare shows you check-ins from friends and people checked in at events, Facebook will provide context around status updates in the wild, but on a much broader scale.

The social element of this voluntary disclosure allows marketers to tap into an engaged network of users and offer special promotions based on reported location. We expect FourSquare and other apps with a hybrid location/social-networking component to grow significantly in 2010.

Geo-Targeted Marketing

As the number of GPS-enabled devices continues to rise, expect to see a variety of innovative marketing solutions created to facilitate geo-targeting (i.e. in-aisle, in-store or in-proximity) and automated direct-marketing campaigns that are pushed to consumers with GPS-enabled mobile devices.

Business Will Capitalize on Location-Based Services

With the growth of location-based services and mobile apps, business now has the chance to minutely target consumers.

Of course this explosion of location based information will no doubt lead to main stream media stories of location-sharing gone wrong and will be used as cautionary tales for those who live their lives too openly. But once people begin to understand the value of connecting through location, more and more local business will capitalize on location-based services on social networks and mobile devices.


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