Geolocation: where is your business at?
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“So, what is the next Facebook?” It’s an innocent question that I get asked from time-to-time by friends and family. I have to look back at them and say that “I don’t really know.”
I am being slightly disingenuous though, because you don’t have to be genius to figure out that mobile technology will significantly shape the future of social networks. But I also know that if I tell them that is the case, and mention geolocation games such as Foursquare and Gowalla, I’m usually met with blank stares.
A study in the US this week concluded that only 4 per cent of online adults use ‘geosocial’ services like those two mentioned above. This research was criticised in some quarters for being incomplete, but even if flawed it does give a decent indication of the real level of uptake – despite the hype.
So if Foursquare et al have been overhyped and only work for users with the right kind of smartphone (four million so far in Foursquare’s case), why do I think they represent the next big thing?
A few main reasons spring to mind: one, the world’s biggest social network has entered the foray with Facebook Places; two, the future (and the present) of social networks lies in mobile technology, with smartphone sales soaring; and thirdly, geolocation services are a natural progression of social media marketing –and ultimately, all social networks want to somehow make money.
The third reason requires a little further explanation. Social media has transformed the way brands connect with customers and each other. Only the advent of television has had a more significant cultural impact on the way in which marketing is conducted.
While online marketing has been a wave breaking onto the shore over the past ten years, social media is that wave’s white crest. It has ushered in an unprecedented era of the two-way marketing that has significantly transformed the way companies communicate with their customers. If geolocation is a future iteration of that movement then it makes sense to take notice.
So what does this mean for businesses? Well, Foursquare – and now Facebook Places through its Deals Platform – both give businesses the opportunity to provide offers and promotions to customers, something that has been enthusiastically embraced in some quarters. For B2B marketers things are a little less clear cut, and it may be the case that they never really have an application.
Perhaps of far greater importance to B2B marketing (and again reflecting the importance of location-based marketing) are the changes Google has recently made to its Local Search function. The search engine has integrated previously separate local results into general search engine results to create ‘Place Search.’
The development means that business that have one or more specific geographical locations are no longer likely to rank for local searches (e.g. “Butcher Leeds”) unless they have a Local Business Listing.
Even if Facebook Places and Foursquare don’t currently seem relevant to your business, this is one development everyone should take notice of.
Image credit: Nan Palmero