This week the MZ blog has been hijacked by the Planning department, and true to form we’re kicking off with a stat: Morgan Stanley recently showed that by 2015 we’ll probably be accessing the Web using our phones more commonly than our computers. Which means that over the next five years we’ll increasingly be accessing information on the go.
This ‘mobile movement’ is already building up a good head of steam. The last 18 months have seen geolocation social networks such as Foursquare and Gowalla take off, particularly the former who recently passed 100million check-ins since launch. These are social games, so to speak, that give you points and rewards for ‘checking in’ to different locations you visit, allowing you to leave recommendations for a venue/shop/restaurant that can be seen by others when they check in to the same location.
These tools have got the early adopters talking, with both experiencing notable growth following SXSW in March. And unsurprisingly some big brands have also decided to trial these platforms as marketing tools, most notably Starbucks who are offering the person with the most store check-ins $1 off their coffee every time they stop by, and Diesel who offered Foursquare users who checked in close to their New York outlet a free t-shirt if they came in to the store. Both campaigns returned mixed results, especially in Diesel’s case where the offer only ran for one day.
With the average geolocation social network user being 18-35 and male, both these brands have good cause to trial these platforms. And we can garner some simple learnings from their experiences: geolocation communications need to be quick to grasp, seeing as they’re being accessed on the go; and should run over a considerable time frame. Just because people are being exposed to location-relevant content, doesn’t mean they have the time to go out of their way to take advantage of an offer – as was the case with Diesel’s one-day-only deal. As with other social media strategies, these offers take time to spread to the relevant audience.
In terms of geolocation social networks becoming mainstream, the recent announcement that Google will no longer continue to support Google Wave shows that drawing the early adopter crowd isn’t enough to carry a technology into the mainstream. Google Wave failed due to its inability to demonstrate how it can easily help people improve what they already do. And if geolocation social networks like Foursquare don’t quickly provide their users with better rewards for interaction, we may see a similar decline.
Ultimately, the full effect of location-based social networking may not be seen until the behemoth that is Facebook decides to enter the landscape. 40% of the time that users spend on Facebook is already via mobile devices, so the integration of location-based elements into their social network is likely to be the tipping point for the masses to interact with each other and brands based on their location – and Ronald McDonald seems to agree with me.
Nick Davies is going places