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Earn Media with Your Location-based Marketing Campaign

In location-based marketing, earned media is a two-way street. It is one of the primary objectives of any social media campaign, but deserves to be promoted in its own right with traditional public relations efforts.

Earned media includes all those phrases you’ve heard over the years, including word of mouth, buzz, and viral. It also includes good old-fashioned public relations (press releases, e-mails, and phone calls). Customers spread the word about your company, brand, or campaign — you essentially earn their trust enough to help you with marketing.

Check-ins (which are earned media) are increasingly coming up in search results on Google and Bing. If someone searches for your business or does a local search for your category, there’s a decent chance that one of your customers’ check-ins could come up on the top results page. Thus, earned media has a longer life than paid media.

In addition to being search-friendly, location-based marketing can also help generate other earned media with traditional media, bloggers, and your customers. The New Jersey Nets received coverage in the form of hundreds of articles and blog posts. (Just do a Google search on Gowalla NJ Nets.) In addition, tweets included numerous ecstatic updates from Gowalla users who checked in and won tickets to the game.

Tweets during the NJ Nets Gowalla ticket giveaway campaign in 2010.
Tweets during the NJ Nets Gowalla ticket giveaway campaign in 2010.

One avenue to good earned media is having the right offer. Create an experience, such as meet the chef, owner, designer, or head of product development. Host a wine tasting or ice cream sundae party.

Not only will you get people talking about it, but the people who attend will post pictures, Facebook status updates, tweets, and maybe even a blog post. With enough conversation about a particular topic, the traditional press — many of whom are now on Twitter and Facebook — may start to take notice.

Here are a few suggestions on things that you can do to drive more earned media:

  • Create a council or ambassador program.

    Tap some of your best customers and get them together quarterly in person or via phone to ask them what they think of your program, offer, or platform.

  • Create a special day at your venue(s).

    Invite the current top-checker-inner to give a little talk. Offer free coffee, cookies, sliders, cocktails, or whatever you can afford. Invite the local press to the event; you can usually find their contact information on their web pages.

  • Start with a game.

    Even if you decide to go with Yelp, Gowalla, Facebook Places, or foursquare as your platforms, start with a scavenger hunt on SCVNGR. Make it coincide with a big event in your town or city like a Victorian fair, a holiday celebration, or the local carnival coming to town. Give away prizes — they don’t have to be fancy — to the top 20 teams or individuals.

  • Make sure that your paid and earned campaigns coordinate so that you can get the maximum bang for your buck.

    If you do Facebook ads or take out a full-page ad in your local paper, point readers to a specific activity or series of activities.

Look at what some of the businesses in your area have done and what has resonated with customers by doing a few Google or Twitter searches. foursquare has a number of local business programs.

One of the biggest mistakes you can make is not preparing for what happens after you’ve initiated a campaign. For example, TGI Friday’s offered a free hamburger to their first 500,000 Facebook fans, but did not think far enough ahead on how to engage fans once they signed up. You can waste a lot of money and time by not thinking through your post-launch customer engagement strategy.

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