When there is nothing else to write about, online marketing bloggers have a few go to topics to keep their content stream alive. This year one of those topics was pronouncing the death of Foursquare and other check in apps. I just started using Foursquare a couple weeks ago, and while I’m not addicted to the premise, I do think it’s a fun little game to pass time with.
I also see possible marketing benefits if the application reach a critical mass of users, and the novelty that is sure to wear off as time passes. Foursquare is still growing, and all the articles that are calling 2011 “The Year the Check in Died” are simply random thoughts to fill dead air. Without some refinement by the network, that same article could be social canon two years from now.
Nihal Mehta, Kathy Leake and Michael Muse have developed a service that could spell disaster for Foursquare, but also has the potential to make Foursquare a mandatory app for mobile devices and to spark a check in revival. Their newest project called Local Response is a combination of search crawler, deal of the day site and check in app all rolled into one lean and actionable package.
Local Response aims to let businesses identify their best customers at the most opportune times across all social media platforms. After pin pointing a target and time, it will allow you to respond directly to them with context derived from aggregated content pulled from their publicly available information and social feeds.
With the ability to analyze tons of data quickly and put businesses in the position to respond to each potential customer within minutes, and the prevalence of wireless devices capable of connecting to the world wide web, businesses can deliver an incentive to lure you into a nearby store or entice you into trying a new product at a fast food restaurant. These responses come while you’re in the area, and also right after you’ve mentioned the business meaning you were likely going to stop by anyway. It takes a lot of guesswork out of point of sale marketing.
The cross platform operability and the context rich content offer more than just consumer tracking and automated response. Besides check-ins and other location specific information, Local Response can handle a more in depth analysis of public information and then aggregate it for businesses for use in social listening. For example if you were on a family vacation to the Grand Canyon and posted a status update saying that you are dying for a vanilla bean Frappuccino from Star Bucks, a coupon code from Star Bucks would be nothing more than spam from an application that is spying on you.
Businesses using the Local Response dashboard would also see the pictures and status updates related to the Grand Canyon, they would see the city you listed as your residence, and they would know you were heading home on Sunday. A scheduled @mention for Sunday morning listing various Starbucks locations along I-40 and wishing the customer a safe drive home would be both thoughtful and opportune, even though the research into the user’s publicly available information is more in-depth.
Local Response is not an app that has to be downloaded by users so anyone with a public profile on Twitter is fair game. At one time Foursquare was considered a competitor, but it’s looking more and more like the two companies could both benefit from working in tandem. The question that hasn’t been answered is how receptive are consumers to another invasion of their privacy? The information used by Local Response is public, but many users feel that using information about them without their knowledge is a major invasion of privacy (just look at the backlash directed at Klout lately). Even though it would dramatically shrink their pool of potential targets, it may be wise to start the service as an opt-in deal instead of something you have to opt out of after the fact.
The possibilities for tracking and responding to trends and adjusting your strategy on the fly are limitless. As global positioning technologies and wireless devices improve the service can only get better. As they integrate more information streams into their feeds and companies learn how to form their responses, the ability to connect in the instant when it’s the most important will become more valuable. Business will soon be tracking you through your mobile device, and you’ll allow it because the best discounts and coupons will only be available when they think it’s appropriate. The difference between Local Response and Groupon or Yelp! Is that you own your customer relationship.
Groupon and Living Social pretty much makes you give the product away, and then reimburse 25 percent of the sales within 90 days. Other applications and websites ask that you share your customer with them, sending that customer to fill out reviews whether they bought something from you or not. Local Response is a silent partner; you decide which leads to act on, the best course of action and how personal to make each message. Companies retain complete control over their marketing strategies through Local Response. Until now I thought trust and mobile were an oxymoron in the field of marketing, but Local Response has found the sweet spot that will extend social media marketing past Facebook without alienating the business or customer.