Social Media and Location…..

 

Social-Media-Bing-Maps

You have checked into the local cinema on Foursquare or the weekend retreat via Facebook places. You’ve tweeted your recent experience at restaurant and now with the aid of GPS you have shared your location. Was this truly the intent, did you really want to share your location to the world and have your private life so publically on display.

For many people this is something of a concern but for some Enterprises this is an opportunity, an opportunity to target an audience that is not necessarily a member of a loyalty an affiliation programme. The benefit of Social Media and Location Based Services to organisations is still in its infancy and if used effectively could prove extremely lucrative in the long term. At present organisations such as Ben & Jerry’s will willingly give the mayor of their local outlet a free scoop, or a regular registration on Foursquare could earn you 250 Starwood Preferred Guest points. It’s this early adoption of incentivizing members that is steadily leading the growth in Location Based Social Media or Location Based Social Networks.

But what value does this truly add to a business? For large businesses one would assume this is as an obvious decision, extending your reach to a wider community, promoting a new product or service to a community that is digital, a community that may not match your traditional target audience or demographic, a community that potentially has a low loyalty threshold, a mobile community presenting an opportunity to differentiate yourself from your competitors. For large organisations this is a tick in the box but for small organisations the same rules apply. More and more businesses ranging from large corporations to small local tertiary businesses are changing the way they market their brands to incorporate Social Media with many businesses focussing their entire marketing efforts to incorporate the various Social Media tools available.

Regardless of size businesses, all are looking to reach a community of users or looking to promote a service, product or an event and as such relying on an outdoor campaign, or 30 second TV or Radio slot is not enough. Social Media provides the perfect medium for 2 way communication and with the growth not only in mobile and tablet devices but the use of Social Media through these devices companies can truly measure the effectiveness of a brand campaign, event or promotion.

Mads Holmen from BeOn (formerly goviral) makes a valid argument regarding the impact of Social Media. “Social Media provides the only environment where a single share or like could lead to a 1000 followers….” He followed by stating that the effectiveness of a Brand experience shared for 18-34 yr. olds is 42% via social and 24% via email compared to 47-65 yr. olds 17% via social and 30% via email.

For brands the key concern in implementing a marketing strategy is cost. By adopting a comprehensive Social Media strategy through the various options available organisations are able to minimise cost and reach out to their targeted audience. At a recent digital event in London a marketing director of a large FMCG organisation stated “Do not think of Social Media as a mechanism to share photos or updates from your recent holiday. Think of Social Media as a locked door waiting to be opened to your service or product.” As a business one of the factors that remains key is knowing that you are targeting an audience that is going to impact your bottom line. No point reaching out to the masses if you are a local media company supporting Scotland and most of your followers are in Sydney.

This is where Location Based Social Media comes into its own. With many applications today, requesting users to register their location, there is an opportunity for organisations regardless of their size gain greater insight into their consumers and their behaviours.

Loyalty programs today provide brands with an understanding of their customers spend and purchase habits but if linking location based services to the stack allowed brands to gain insight as to where that purchase took place, how much was spent, what was purchased as well as sentiment then brands could become even more powerful at offering a personal service to their consumers.

Consider the following scenario: a customer checks into his local cafe and purchases a Latte, then visits the local deli to purchase a sandwich checking in and commenting on the freshly made lunch. With this information the café could offer there consumer an incentive for a further check-in with a money off voucher against a purchase of a coffee purchased with a sandwich. Win-Win for both retailer and consumer. This level of deep insight into the purchase alongside frequency of visits to the coffee outlet provides the retailer with valuable intel on intent. It also provides an opportunity for the retailer to tailor promotions targeted to the individual or focussing on those less popular items. Why subsidise your top selling brands when you can subsidise those shelf fillers that are gathering dust?

More and more applications now are requesting users to allow their location to be tracked or to share data with a Social Media service such as Facebook, Twitter or Foursquare. This extended use of Location Based Services is still in its infancy but if used effectively could provide brands with the level of data that was previously only achieved through extensive and costly marketing campaigns as well providing organisations to be closer to their consumers, enriching their purchasing experience and promoting loyalty.

A few months ago I was having a conversation with an energy company regarding the use of mapping for their business. During the conversation a question was asked whether they could integrate Twitter into Bing maps to provide them with some idea their brand awareness. Using a Twitter Map application created by a partner we were able to search for their brand and have the details populated on a map with some interesting results. The results ranged from feedback regarding their service not only from their region but also from individuals touched by their services whilst visiting a friend, customer, supplier etc. in their region. This level of data was compelling enough for them to start considering how they direct their marketing efforts to help them in re-evaluating how they communicate with their customers but also consider how they focus on the locations where they have had impact outside of their focus. The end result was the development of a Location Based Social Media strategy.

With the growth in consumer facing Location Based Social Media services still in its infancy we can clearly say that there is a potential for enterprise focused services in this area to be born and grow alongside the consumer applications. It also places Location Based Services such as Bing Maps, Nokia Maps and others in a different league…no longer just there to provide me the location of my local store but to also provide me with the value that I as a consumer can obtain from that store.

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Trends in Mapping

After 8 years of working in GIS within Microsoft and Bing Maps with some of the leading brands in the industry and a few smaller ones as well as a few start-ups you tend to find that the discussion points, pain points and needs of the many tend to follow a certain theme.

These themes, for me have formulated into or have evolved into a set of trends that I use to define the use of location intelligence within the corporate and consumer space which I am now going to share with you.

I must highlight that this is by no means a confirmed list of industry trends but more an observation on the key factors that impact the use of mapping or are factors that, in my experience, have been considered when integrating a GIS platform within an application be it mobile or web based.

1. Evolution from a single location

The most popular use of web mapping has been within store locator type of applications. Typically these applications only required the need to provide a single location as a reference point. Where is my local store, where is my local station, where is my local restaurant? These are the type of questions that were answered by these applications. However, consumers are now no longer satisfied with just finding their local store or restaurant, they need more information regarding their search or context to their search results. Be it the opening times, is there a pharmacy etc. at my local store or an image of the property, potential costs for purchasing the property, local transport facilities etc. If searching for a potential property. Our need for information has become far greater than before and as a result has provided companies with an opportunity to share more information.

2. Location to Location intelligence

With this shift or evolution from a single location companies now have a greater opportunity to share data and information relevant to the search results. The basis of this information is not only to inform but to add value to the end users search experience. People now wish to see:

· Location data

· Local attractions, attributes, destination data relevant to the application

· Travel information

· BI data

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Integration of maps into web applications is becoming ever more challenging as the demand to see more is becoming greater. We are seeing traditional GIS players such as ESRI, Ordnance Survey, MapInfo etc., providing their customers with the opportunities to integrate their content and data with the more dynamic interactive maps of today.

The dependency on maps is growing at a faster rate as the desire to see more increases.

Big Data and the Cloud presents another twist to the movement of Location to Location Intelligence. It presents an even greater opportunity for companies to manage their data and GIS tools provide the medium by which content and data can be presented in a meaningful to the end user.

But what we are also seeing is more and more organisation becoming content generators and distributors, providing data such as census data, purchasing behaviour, social behavioural data etc. with a geographic relevance for organisations to ingest and present to their users.

3. Desire to see more

Organisations are now starting to pay attention to the information they present either internally or their workers or externally to consumers. Too much information can be overload and too little can lead to end users dis-satisfaction. British Airways use of mapping, within their Avios application, is an ideal application demonstrating the “not too much, not to little” concept. The application allows its users to search for a holiday destination based on their points balance, the information presented allows them to see the number of destination choices available, the destination and the number of points required. The value here is allowing the end user to make a decision, a choice, without distorting the selection process with other unnecessary information. We can say that the content itself now has a currency for the site holder. The currency of the content will only retain its value if it fulfils the requirements of the user.

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We must also be mindful that the desire to see more is not only confined to the content integrated. Basic features of any interactive mapping platform is also a key requirement and as such Better Geocoding, Clarity and Accuracy of Aerial, Satellite imagery is also imperative. Maintenance and regular updates will ensure that the content retains its currency to the end user.

4. The Social Scene

The use of Social Media tools over the last decade has increased beyond comprehension. There was a time where our daily activities; what we do, where we dine, where we stay, our vacation destination etc. is ours, private, well in this world of check-ins, tags our everyday experiences are now known to the world be it through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Myspace or Foursquare. This increase in Social media has provided an ideal platform for marketers to gain an insight into our behavioural patterns – where we shop, where we dine or go on holiday, how we interact with their products and brands. Understanding our location in these instances provides an important role in supporting how a marketer can gear a campaign. An active Social check in endorses your social activity and location as well as providing an ideal opportunity for organisations to target their services to you. At present this is pretty much untouched but does present an untapped opportunity for brands to provide targeted time based incentives.

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Foursquare have begun to test this in markets such as the US. Check-in to a certain location or venue a user is then presented with an opportunity to take advantage of an offer in the nearby vicinity or encourage multiple check-ins in the same location to benefit from a future saving.

Facebook presents an open opportunity for SME’s to encourage their customers to check-in and share their location and experience with their friends – and incentivise this exchange for their troubles, an ideal way to promote a brand.

The London 2012 Olympic Games was classed as the most digitally connected event during Social Media Week in London 2012. The BBC and LOCOG were able to determine the success of the Torch relay by mapping Tweets from spectators, Sponsors such as Samsung, GE, Coca Cola ,were able to collate valuable data based on the events that they were connected to, athletes shared their experiences of London, the games as well as the facilities provided for the games. As social listening tools become more and more intelligent we will see an increase in their adoption as key tools in driving marketing behaviours and devising campaigns and offers based on location.

5. Make it Mine

Over the years the desire to make maps a part of the look and feel of a website has become a key factor in differentiation for many organisations. It’s the small changes, the subtle differences that make the greatest impact, a branded pushpin, mirroring corporate colours within the borders or pop up box, changing the navigation controls for your own user base, the personalisation of maps has grown to provide the consumer with a better user experience but has also become a key component for organisations in enhancing their brand awareness.

Many organisations spend considerable time and budget on customisation of the mapping integration and in some cases involve design agencies to add that little extra.

Take the image above under “Desire to see more”. The map forms part of the Avios experience to the British Airways Executive Club Member. The look and feel, navigation controls, information boxes, pushpins etc. all represent the corporate image and therefore provide a complete user experience in line with the rest of the site.

But this does not just end on here. The ability to integrate data specific to your application and specific to the needs of the end users is another form of personalisation as is the presentation of that information.

6. Integration

There is an abundance of different technologies available for companies to invest in and the investment decision is based on a multiple factors; business needs, budgets, suitability, functionality etc. The need to and ability to integrate mapping tools with other technologies has become ever more important. As a result these technologies need to provide the flexibility and the ease to integrate within their current environment technology. Additionally many companies invest in more than one mapping platform to fulfil a given a task as the capabilities of the platforms can differ. Even in this scenario there is sometimes a need to integrate.

Whatever the need may be organisations need to consider the following when developing an application that integrates a mapping interface:

· mobile technologies

· Cloud solutions

· Browser independencies

· corporate infrastructure

· Incumbent investment in Technology

· Flexibility of integration

· Scalability

· Roadmap of the platform

Whether it be the map styles, data or even just how the maps are integrated, mapping tools need to be flexible to allow for easier integration of data whether the solutions are internally focused or external. The ability to create a unique experience for the end user can be the deciding factor sometimes on the success of the application.

7. Maps in Apps

Finally, no trend would be complete without the mention of mobile. My reference to mobile encompasses not just cellular devices but also tablets and smart devices. With the growth in these devices presenting apps over the last decade maps have become one of the key factors in app development. Maps in Apps provides companies with providing a different representation of their service, allows organisations to add greater context to data. Mapping providers, as a result are changing the way maps are made available to developers.

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Subtle changes such as making the overall map control lighter for mobile devices, providing offline capability in mobile applications, incorporation of augmented reality are just some examples where either individual components or complete functionality is made available to organisations and the development community to benefit from and utilise.

With the apps currently in the various market places or stores, irrespective of operator, we can say that many of the mobile apps incorporate some if not all of the above 5 trends.

CONCLUSION

With a wide array of mapping platform choices available to organisation the decision as to which is the most suitable is not an easy one when developing an application for your customers or for your own use. However by having access to the right tools, documentation and support in delivering a platform that ticks all the boxes is of paramount importance. Bing Maps provides a wealth of resource to its customers and to the development community through the availability of an interactive SDK, API’s to suit yo9ur application requirement, Enterprise Support Team, technical documentation available via MSDN as well as local technical support via your Bing Maps specialist who you can reach via mapemea@microsoft.com.