In the marketing and advertising world, we must admit that we are always looking ahead for the next big thing. A few years ago, it was text marketing. Now, it is social media and mobile marketing. Emerging slowly, but with some force, is the use of geo-location services to reach and reward our audiences in new and unique ways.
The combination of location based services and social networking are now represented on platforms such as FourSquare and Gowalla. And according to an article in the May 10 edition of Advertising Age, Facebook is setting up its very own location based capabilities. And with a platform as large as Facebook, which adds millions of users each day, location based marketing might take off on an entirely new level.
McDonald’s is said to be one of the first to sign up, allowing users to “check-in” at restaurants and share their food choices with their networks. This function will be going live shortly after Facebook releases its location based functionality.
While location based marketing is still in the experimental phase, it brings great advantages to marketers. It gives you the power to communicate with an audience on an entirely different level. You can reward them for “checking in” with promotions, offers, or coupons at your store location (a la foursquare). You can also give them the ability to share what they love about your brand, service, or product with their friends, while they are at your brick-and-mortar locations. This helps your customers pass the word on even faster (beware: even if it’s negative!). Geo-location services are turning physical places into virtual avenues of communication.
Location based services are great for local businesses, too, allowing small business chains to reward their most loyal customers. They offer special promotions and offers to those that come into their store or restaurant the most often. It is a brilliant idea for driving foot traffic into the store, and making that experience an interactive one.
While Facebook’s upcoming implementation of location based functionality might mean big things for marketers and consumers, there are some serious privacy concerns for users. With the overwhelming amount of negative feedback that Facebook received for their default privacy settings and Open Graph idea, we can conclude that users might not like the capability of letting their entire network know where they are and what they are doing. But hopefully, Facebook will allow share options once the location functionality goes live.
In most cases, location functionality is opening the door for further communication between marketers and an audience. More so, it attempts to bridge the physical gap between a company and its consumers. With the increasing interest in platforms like FourSquare, and the soon-to-be released Facebook location features, we may be looking at a new marketing phenomenon that will become part of the communication norm.