Turning “Check-Ins” into “Checkouts” – the New Holy Grail for Social Marketing?

I do not use foursquare, in fact I am even a little mystified by the craze around the whole “check-in” concept that has even stirred Facebook to create its “places” feature.

But the fact is, whether we’re targeting using mobile phones, check-in data, Facebook places information, or whatever, geo-location is here to stay. Now, the question becomes – “do we become hyper-personal or hyper-local as social marketers?”

In my opinion, hyper-local presents more opportunity. (And in some cases, hyper-local is almost a subset of hyper-personal – but I digress…) In a B2C word, it is in my mind more important to catch consumers “where they are” rather than with “the right message.”

Sound confusing?  Let me explain…

For example, if I am sitting at home and I am hit with a great deal on a particular food item from, say, Taco Bell – I may say “that’s a great deal” and probably forget about it next time I am out and thinking of a good lunch spot. But if I were to get a text or Facebook message or @reply on Twitter while I am within 50 feet of a Taco Bell at 1PM – I am probably more likely to say “hey, I think I will try their new bacon and bubblegum Gordita Supreme for lunch!”

(Now, the “relevancy” of something like fast food here is going to be different than say that of a shoe company where I might be inclined to purchase online etc.)

We are beginning to enter an age where B2C brands can easily collect and store tons of geographical data on customers – freely given up by the use of social media. Coupling the location data with other freely given up data – around product preferences (what I “like” on Facebook for example) can create a dossier on individuals. Marketers could create rules to send mildly personalized offers at logical times to consumers performing trigger events like a check-in.

And thus by getting a somewhat mass-produced message to someone at the right time may be more effective than trying so hard to craft highly individualized messages that have less temporal relevancy because of the medium (my desktop PC rather than my phone) and the location (stuck at work versus being able to actually go grab a half-price margarita at Chili’s after 5PM).

5 thoughts on “Turning “Check-Ins” into “Checkouts” – the New Holy Grail for Social Marketing?

  1. I stopped using Foursquare after I realized that all my data was inside one company’s silo, that the data was not mine, that the data was not portable, that the service was not substitutable, and that Foursquare (near as I can tell) makes money by selling my data to marketers who want to put crosshairs on my back.

    The latter is not a bad thing if a real relationship of some sort is an outcome. That is, if a handshake and not just a checkout is the result. It is a bad thing if bad guesses outnumber good ones and cause more annoyance than sales (or some other positive outcome). Lots of possibilities between and beyond those, of course.

    Some local context… I go into Peets Coffee near Harvard Square often enough to be a Foursquare “mayor” there (and I may have been once). Peets gets lots of checkouts from me already, so I doubt I’d want them to start marketing anything more to me than what I’m already getting there. (Though I would like a communication path inward to make suggestions from time to time.) Once when I was there I checked in to Foursquare and got a promo message offering a discount on a burrito at a nearby establishment. The discount was just for mayors of something. I didn’t want to bother checking to see if I was still a mayor of anything, so I didn’t. Thus I thought it was a bad promo. But it made me think of what a good promo might be. Would it be something a friend recommended? Sure, but not if that friend was paid to recommend it. (I have followed “tips” from friends on Foursquare, every once in awhile. And I would de-friend them if I knew they were paid to shill.) Would it be a “mildly personal offer,” like you say? What would that be? Something from nearby coffee place that wanted to challenge Peets? Maybe. Not sure.

    I think Foursquare and other social mediators have much bigger opportunities as conduits of messages from buyers to sellers than in the (advertising-defaulted) reverse direction. But I don’t see much action there. Maybe you know of some.

    My wife and I did use Groupon for the first time today, to sample a nearby breakfast place. With respect to this recent post — http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/doc/2010/09/17/keeping-relationship-humanized/ — we asked our waitress if the campaign worked. She said it did increase the number of customers while the campaign ran (ours was one of the last to come in), but that she was sure they won’t use Groupon again, because they don’t want customers who only want discounts. Draw your own conclusions about that.

    Anyway, the holy grail remains mythical until proven real. And I’m not betting on that one.

  2. Great points Doc, thanks for sharing…

    I especially like the idea of having a competitor leverage check-in information…your Peet’s example is great – what if Starbuck’s offered a free latte to someone who checks in to the Peets across the street every morning? Interesting idea of using geo-location and smart timing to win over consumers.

    But you make good points in the beginning – a lot of this has to be seamless, immersive and fun and not an intrusive, shill-based experience.

    Ultimately, as you note, we are really on the front end of this new wave of marketing, and no one is sure where it will lead us or how and when it will crest.

    Good stuff, please keep reading and contributing!


  3. Even though a part of me is still creeped out by how much a mere speck of Internet history can define your likes and dislikes, I got to say that it’s pretty convenient sometimes, especially if you’re in a time crunch.

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