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Adding Social Mapping Services to Your Web Marketing Campaign

Whether you should use these social mapping services depends on the nature of your business, whether your customer base is using them, and which location-based activities consume your prospective customers’ time. Most of these services work on multiple smartphone, tablet, and desktop platforms, so the choice of device isn’t a concern. Consider these issues:

  • Many cellphone apps already offer a service (for example, weather reports, road conditions, and lists of gas prices at various stations around town) and then add a sponsor. If all you’re trying to do is reach the consumer-on-the-go who is ready to buy, ask yourself whether you need more than that. Maybe a pay per click (PPC) ad on a mobile search engine is enough.

  • Enough people living near or visiting your location have to use a particular geolocation application to make it worth the effort. This issue is nontrivial because most services don’t publicize this data. Research the number of users in your area with both the service provider and a third-party source, such as Alexa. The numbers can fluctuate widely.

    After you estimate the size of the potential audience (the reach), remember that only a small percentage of the audience is likely to become customers. Your best bet: Ask existing customers which location-based services they use.

    Like politics, geomarketing is local. No matter the size of the total user base for a specific location tool in your area, you may draw a large audience of geosocial users if you happen to own the pizza place across the street from the computer science department at the community college.

  • Your prospective customers have to be willing to participate. A TechCrunch report found that the Foursquare user base shifted from two-thirds male and one-third female in 2010 to a gender-balanced audience in 2011. However, other surveys show that three-fourths of women avoid location-based services, partly out of fear of stalking and partly from lack of interest. You must take privacy issues into account.

  • Demographics characteristics matter. Be cautious: The demographics and statistics on these sites change quickly as they become more popular and move out of the early adopter stage. ComScore found that location services in 2011 drew a predominantly young audience ― more than half under 35 ― and a disproportionate number of full-time students (23 percent).

  • The temptation is great to “go geo.” Current estimates show that locally targeted ads may produce results as much as ten times better than untargeted advertising.

To get an idea of the number of members on one of these sites, try creating a user account or look at their profile on Quantcast. Then scan the list of places in your area (sometimes called venues or spots) for the inclusion of neighbors and competitors, and look at the maximum number of check-ins at those locations.

Of course, a high-tech conference that draws a huge number of users may be a one-time opportunity worth taking advantage of.

Qdoba Mexican Grill counted on the Foursquare demographic profile of young males with its funny Foursquare promotion, shown in the following illustration. The restaurant chain awards a free lunch to the best shout (comment) on Foursquare about how to beat “burrito boredom.” To further extend the effect of its Foursquare campaign, the restaurant randomly gives gift certificates to people who also tweet their Foursquare check-ins.

The Qdoba Foursquare offer is a creative marketing use of a geolocation service. [Credit: Courtesy
Credit: Courtesy of Qdoba®; Qdoba Mexican Grill®; Qdoba Restaurant Corp®
The Qdoba Foursquare offer is a creative marketing use of a geolocation service.
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