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How Will Facebook Harness The Power Of Location...For Brands?

Will FB introduce transformational marketing tools for brands?

New Media on Ulitzer

Social networks are poised to be the most-effective marketing tool of the next decade. Facebook is the biggest social network and word on the street is they will announce location-sharing functionality very soon. While this new feature will make Facebook more interesting and compelling for individual users, location sharing is not new.

What would be new and what would interest me is if Facebook introduces transformational marketing tools for brands that will link Facebook campaigns to incremental visits to locations where real products can be purchased. These incremental, verified store visits and real-world product  interactions could very well become a new ad unit, and could reshape the very nature of how mobile advertising ROI is measured.

A New Consumer Touchpoint

Before I address Facebook-powered brand interaction linked to real locations, I want to back up and address why social networks have taken the marketing world by storm and become so popular generally.

People voluntarily linked by something in common (friendship, an interest, or a preference for a brand) can convey subjective information with far more impact than the traditional “broadcast” norm that has ruled for so long. Sounds pretty obvious, but this is the fuel that social networks run on.

Since it’s no longer only individuals that can have Facebook pages, companies can interact with consumers who have opted-in to their specific social sub-network, within the larger Facebook ecosystem. Messages initiated by the brand and information conveyed is disproportionately impactful, due to the highly prequalified nature of the opt-in audience.

Remember, these new social media touchpoints are also a two-way street. Members of these opt-in brand sub-networks (Facebook fans) can interact with the actual company producing the products and their collective input can shape the products or services offered. Companies can engage in real dialogue with their customers like never before.

A Huge Opportunity: 26,143 years/day

With a reported 400+ million registered users and 250+ Million active users spending 55 minutes daily on Facebook, Facebook is best-positioned to win the race to integrate location and roll out location sharing functionality for consumers on a grand scale. If they are smart, they will also introduce innovative location-based marketing tools for brands and companies.

Of US companies on Fortune’s Top 100 list, almost 70% reported having Facebook pages. Each averaged about 41,000 fans and was posting 3.6 new messages a week (Report from Jan 2010).

Wait, let me back up a second and get out the calculator: 250 Million users at 55 minutes each daily is 13.75 Billion minutes a day, or 229+ Thousand hours! This is the equivalent of….26,143 years spent interacting with Facebook, each day. Facebook, if it were a country, would the third largest in the world and now threatens Google for web traffic generated. Facebook is very well positioned indeed.

Location, Location, Location

Either through a GPS receiver (outside) or cell tower triangulation or wifi location systems (inside), most mobile devices are “location enabled” and can share this location information with the social networking application interfaces people chose to access. The fact that we carry a device as we go about our daily lives that knows where it is becomes even more significant when we consider that this is when we are in contact with real goods to buy and the locations that sell them.

If, as is expected, Facebook helps make location sharing within social networks ubiquitous by introducing this functionality on a grand scale, the opportunities for marketing campaigns that utilize shared, opt-in real-time location information should grow very rapidly.

Again, while location sharing among individuals is neat, the tracking of opt-in interactions with actual points of sale is the real financial opportunity for Facebook. Odds are, consumers will not mind an offer to try a new coffee flavor while they are in a coffee shop, if they have volunteered to share the fact that they are there. Google now takes in $23 Billion a year on the AdWords educated bet they made back in 2000. That is: ads can be both effective and unobtrusive,  if they are contextually relevant.

Checkins, QR Codes and ROI

According to Forrester, the amount of real-world sales influenced by online ads/marketing will be $1.4 Trillion by 2014.  The percentage of sales influenced by the web is increasing at a compounded rate of 9% annually. Yet these linkages between online research and offline sales are almost totally untracked. By understanding this research online, buy offline (ROBO) “gap”, you can start to see the potential upside of linking a Facebook-powered marketing campaign to actual in-store visits and what this means for measuring ROI.

For popular “checkin” platforms like Gowalla and Foursquare, place-labeled location sharing serves as the cornerstone of their whole model. Facebook could mimic this and introduce “Facebook Checkins”, allowing mobile users to tap a button and instantly post where they are and (optionally) what they are doing, as a status update.

This same functionality could be linked to campaigns run by brands and the metrics tracked and fed back to the brands. If a special deal or offer is needed to incent users to checkin, fine. Most businesses already thrive on these proven revenue drivers. Large national incentive and loyalty programs already in-place could provide the fuel for these programs to take off fast.

Why are those funny little square Quick Response (QR) codes suddenly so important to understand? Because consumers can scan them with a phone and they both deliver information to the application that scans them and use this information to launch little portals between the real world and the virtual, online world. Sounds odd, but this is only because this way of quickly interacting with a place or product is in its infancy in the US.  Take a trip to Japan if you want to comprehend the potential impact of tracked campaigns that make use of QR codes. Here’s an example, from last year.

Facebook QR codes for brands or location checkins could drive incremental tracked and quantified consumer interactions with the dealer doors where branded goods are sold (or even with the actual product). Facebook could capture all the details of how and when this occurred and, I’d imagine, be able to deliver a compelling ROI/metrics story to keep brands signing up for more.

Stay Tuned..

Facebook’s F8 conference is next Wednesday April 21st in San Francisco. It is widely predicted that they will launch location sharing for their users and, possibly, unveil related news for brands.

How will Facebook harness the power of location for its 400 Million registered users and give brands the tools they need to track social network marketing campaign ROI in new ways? This is what I will be watching for, as this is where the money is. Stay tuned..

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Wilson Kerr

Wilson has 11+ years experience in the Mobile and Location Based Services (LBS) space. Recently, he became Director Of Business Development and Sales for Unbound Commerce, a Boston-based mobile commerce solution provider. He has deep expertise in the areas of mobile commerce, social media, branded location integration, branded content licensing, and is knowledgeable in a broad range of navigation technologies. Wilson has worked with top tier brands, content providers, device manufacturers, and application developers, including Nokia, Unbound Commerce, Tele Atlas/TomTom, The Travel Channel, Langenscheidt Publishing, Intellistry, Parking In Motion, GPS-POI-US, and others. Wilson is a blogger on all things location-based, edits the LBS topic page on Ulitzer, teaches a Social Media 101 class, and has served as a panelist and speaker at Mobile LBS conferences and networking events. Wilson has held positions in Business Development, Sales/Marketing, and Digital Licensing at The North Face, Outdoor Intelligence, Fishing Hot Spots Maps, Tele Atlas North America/TomTom and, most-recently, Unbound Commerce. Wilson left Tele Atlas to start Location Based Strategy, LLC in 2007. Company Website: http://www.LBStrategy.com. Twitter: @WLLK

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