First Your Profile Then the World

Big changes are brewing with Facebook as today many subtle changes were rolled out across the popular social network. Becoming a fan has given way to simply “Like”. This is an interesting trend and one that has longer reach than initial appearance.

Fans converted to “Like” so if a user was a fan of a brand or product that did not change. The addition of “Like” is an attempt by Facebook to expand beyond it’s platform and influence more of our behavior beyond the Facebook domain. Instead of becoming a fan of a page it is less of a commitment to simply like a page or brand and show a higher level affinity.

History has shown first with Friendster then MySpace that viability as a destination is short lived and users can be a very fickle bunch. Facebook is now focused on becoming the platform that business relies upon as well as expanding the Facebook experience first by incorporating your web history with ads it serves you but also to drive push the “Like” concept across the web via a toolbar.

Facebook Connect was a first step in the plan that furthered the reach by allowing 3rd party integration and additional dependency on Facebook. With 400 million users as a marketer why wouldn’t I want to drive interaction through this channel. The next step in the process was to launch a toolbar that focuses on distributing “Like” so that any interaction that you have outside of Facebook can connect back to your profile and further drive the value of the network. This then allows interaction wherever I may browse and the ability to share with my network.

This ties into another big rollout… Facebook Community Pages. These are not pages that map to a specific profile and don’t impact status updates. Instead they are public content from users status messages. Now updates can be friend specific or you can have access to the general Facebook population. This is an interesting play from a privacy perspective as initial research shows you can opt into sharing with the community feeds.

Another issue that shows Facebook is serious about dominating expansion was the announcement today around XAuth. xAuth is a proposed authentication standard that will limit the number of share this buttons and will automatically remember what networks you are a part of and only display those options. In theory that sounds great but two of the larger players are not on board. Facebook and Twitter are notably absent from the group that already has the support of Google, Yahoo, MySpace, and Disqus.

Facebooks noticeable absence from Google Buzz is yet another reminder that when it comes to expansion they want to be the primary. This and of course Facebook’s relationship with Microsoft. It will also be very interesting to see how Facebooks geo-location services will impact the Foursquares & Gowallas of the world. With a 400 million user base it could crush the 600,000 Foursquare users.

It will be interesting to watch how the changes in the platform, the desire to follow you wherever you may browse and add in the ability to serve contextual ads based on browsing history will impact user behavior. I see potential tied to some of the changes from a marketing perspective but time will tell if Facebook can go where few have gone before.

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

BlackFin360

6 Benefits of Foursquare

One of the areas that I monitor closely is the progression/adoption of geo-location services such as foursquare, gowalla, yelp, loopt, buzz and dream walk mobile. Geo-location services have been around for the past 4 years but are now gaining critical mass fueled by smart phone adoption and media attention around events such as SXSW 2010.

For this post I will focus primarily on the service based game foursquare and will follow up soon with a Gowalla post. For those of you who are not addicted to checking in to every location you frequent here is the 101 version of the foursquare service and why marketers & businesses alike should pay attention.

The opportunity tied to geo-location based services such as foursquare from both an agency/marketing perspective as well as a local business perspective are enormous. Local business can gain access to customer insights tied to geotagging, local search & location based analytics which can drive adoption on the local level well beyond that of the standard digital campaign.

The service can become an extension of activities that you are already engaged with as part of your everyday routine. This presents a new opportunity to interact with consumers wherever they may roam.

Foursquare as a service is available anywhere in the world. Meaning both domestic and international campaigns can be supported. To get the full experience (Friend interaction, leaderboards, etc…) foursquare requires an iPhone, Blackberry, Android, or Palm Pre.

For those whose immediate response is to point to smart phone adoption rates note that other options to engage exist including a mobile web option as well as an SMS check in option if you text to 50500 (e.g. @Red Urban ! typing a blog post). SMS checkins are only available in the US.

Example of Text check in

Geo-location services are driven by the concept of geotagging and takes advantage of the GPS technology that resides in your device. This in turn provides a means to digitally “tag” and interact with a physical location you just visited.

E.g. Pull into your local Starbucks, pull out your iPhone/android phone, initiate the app, select/create the location and click “check in”. Once checked in you can then interact with the location by writing a review (tips in foursquare) or you may be presented with a special offer.

Example of Special Offer notification as well as sample offer


With foursquare the primary premise is around rewarding users with three different merit systems. Mayors, Badges and Points.

1) Mayor – A mayor is a user who is in 1st place on the location leader board first place defined as most check-ins
2) Badges – Badges are awarded for achieving various milestones tied to either the number of check in’s at a given location or the amount of check in’s throughout the day or other criteria. As with Xbox Live achievement points recognition can be a key driver in influencing behavior
3) Points – Points are awarded at varying increments based on multiple factors such as a new venue may yield a higher point allocation

Example of Starbucks Foursquare Badge

From a brick & mortar business perspective this is a great service to be mindful of as you can begin to gain insight and influence behavior as well as monitor customer service. Instead of a local ad buy or in addition to it why not promote offers within a radius of your location or serve them directly to your customers as they enter your location.

6 reasons to care about Foursquare as a business

1) Customer insight and word of mouth – You can gain invaluable insight into the behavior patterns of your customers. You can analyze visit trends as well as gain insight into their views of your brand

2) Customer service – With the ability to get near real time feedback as users interact you can gauge the sentiment of your users

3) Customer retention/ Loyalty Program – Forget about punch cards, track loyalty via check-in’s and reward those who frequent establishments with special offers and recognition

4) Viral Effect – With the auto post of updates to Twitter & Facebook with badge unlocks and options to post your check-in’s the viral impact of check-in’s is amplified with this service moreso than other geo-services to date

5) Big Brands are taking note – Starbucks (See image above) & Dominos have already started campaigns with Foursquare and with various media partnerships this trend will quickly continue to rise

6) Measurement – One of the powerful elements of the service is the analytics option that is currently being rolled out. As a business owner it is possible to track: Total checkins, unique visitors, when and if users shared their updates (twitter, facebook) as well as analysis of demographic breakdown and ability to track usage over time

Example of foursquare business analytics screen

One additional service of benefit to businesses and users of foursquare is snacksquare. Snacksquare which is powered by foursquare and is a location-based advertising provider that facilitates local businesses automatically delivering SMS text messages to potential customers that check in near a venue (proximity service). The site also allows end consumers to find the best deals ahead of time vs. just being notified via check in. This framework + the business analytics begins to form a more complete package for marketers & businesses alike. For more information on Snacksquare here is a recent Mashable article.

With additional focus being paid to geo-location by the big players such as Facebook, Google, Twitter, etc… It is natural evolution that foursquare is focused on extending APIs and integration as their valuation (recently 100 million) continues to sky-rocket.

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

BlackFin360

5 React

One interesting campaign that I have come across recently is the 5 React experience. 5 React is a new Wrigley’s flavor of it’s 5 Gum line. 5 took an interesting approach to engaging trial of its product (sampling) and the result is a fun experience that provides a complete loop… viral –> digital –> direct mail –> back to digital –> Viral. (All of this to sample a pack of gum) Imagine what your brand/product could do to create an immersive experience such as this.

I first heard about “getting your black envelope” through status updates (viral) and it definitely got my attention. Upon initial entry to the 5 React site you are presented with a visually appealing home page that has a “Matrix” style option of selecting two doors. Once you decide to begin the initial experience you connect via Facebook Connect.

This is key in that Facebook Connect allows for micro-sites outside of Facebook to pull in relevant profile information that ultimately links back into your Facebook profile to enable further spread of the message through your Facebook network. E.g. login, Facebook profile information be it photos, text from your information, etc… can be pulled into an external experience that is then shared back via Facebook Status updates to drive an engaging experience.

One of the other benefits from a brand perspective is to eliminate yet another login from a user experience perspective. Facebook connect,  OPEN ID, etc… are a great way to lower the barrier of entry for an external micro-site and to give a feel of integration with consumer networks vs. proprietary authentication methods. Another great example of Facebook Connect is with the Prototype Experience.

Once connected via Facebook the engagement begins as images from your Facebook Profile are then displayed on multiple screens to provide a feeling of connection and the wow factor of your images being incorporated in this manner. The next step is the actual fulfillment form to request your black envelope to get your code to open the second door and to get your free pack of gum.

My black envelope (more like a small black box) arrived a week later and it contained the 5 React gum sample as well as my unique access code & a pair of 3D glasses.

Now it was time to input my code and experience the 3D elements of the campaign.

Upon entering your code you are greeted by 3D enabled geometric shapes, then you are prompted to interact with your keyboard. Your keyboard interaction then drives the experience of taking photos from your facebook profile and morphing them based on your keystroke interaction that can then be submitted into a larger gallery and shared to your networks. Once submitted you can then experience what other random 5 react users experienced as well.

My immediate takeaway was a very positive and engaging experience all tied to a gum sample. This is great example of how to create an engaging experience that lives outside of Facebook but provides the benefits of the network, drives sampling in an innovative way, leverages viral channels RE: the black envelope and creates a 2D/3D experience that is engaging, fun and memorable.

By the way if you are interested in creating an engaging digital experience similar to this please reach out to me and allow us to create a compelling digital campaign.

5React was a collaboration of Firstborn (3D Modeling & Left Door Experience) and Evolution Bureau. EVB designed the package and built the 3D glasses experience & gallery.

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

BlackFin360

iAd

With the iPhone OS 4.0 Keynote today the announcement of iAd caught our attention in the office. Moreso than multi-tasking & the thousands of API’s iAd offers the chance for a true revolution in mobile advertising.

The ability to provide Rich Media advertising within the application is key for marketers, brands & developers alike. There were some great quotes from Steve Jobs today:

“On a desktop, its about search. On mobile, search hasn’t happened. People aren’t searching on their phones. People are spending their time in apps. The average user spends over 30 minutes using apps on their phone. If we said we wanted to put an ad up every 3 minutes, that’d be 10 ads per device per day – about the same as a TV show. We’re going to soon have 100m devices. That’s a billion ad opportunities per day!”

For now Apple will sell and host the ads with a revenue split (60/40 with devs getting the 60) and ads are done in HTML5 (Sorry Adobe). The apps will be fully interactive like their rich media web counterparts and the fact that ads have access to location to tie into geo-location is another win.

If I were a dev/marketer/agency I would get the SDK yesterday!!!

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

BlackFin360

iPad Launch Day – Review

Part of my job is tied to staying on top of emerging technology and the latest entry launched today in the form of the Apple iPad. After being in and out of my local Apple store in 10 min it was on to the setup. I found updating to iTunes 9 to be an issue as I continued to run into service issues. Once those were resolved I decided to go with a fresh install vs. importing settings from my iPhone. The iPhone app experience on the iPad is not ideal. The apps work but are optimized for a certain size. I actually removed any iPhone apps that made it through the setup and was on the iPad app store to see what was available.

So far I have been impressed with the device. I have enjoyed the smooth web browsing and e-mail interface. I was really surprised by how seamless the Netflix integration was upon execution of the app. After logging in I was able to instantly stream within seconds. I was also surprised by the number of apps that were available at launch. With 400+ games (I stopped counting after page 34) there is plenty to review.

Also, being a current Kindle owner I was very curious to see how iBooks compares. And at this point there really is no comparison. With the additional functionality mentioned above as well as a color/touch interface the iPad will officially become my default e-reader. With that said the Kindle App for iPad/iPhone is usable and the experience is adequate. I still have access to all of my Kindle purchases and the app has been updated from the iPhone version to be optimized for the iPad. So for now it will be a combination of Kindle App/iBooks but either way from a hardware perspective I will be quickly auctioning off my Kindle.

Is the iPad an essential device? Not yet. It is an amazing casual browsing and entertainment device and I see the value in it even beyond a netbook which surprised me. The real appeal for me is being able to pick it up like my phone, check my e-mail, status updates and browse relevant articles quickly and with optimal portability.

I see the potential moving forward as the iPad evolves and hope to see Flash enabled as well as the ability to manage multiple apps at the same time and a solution for an integrated webcam but for now I am happy with the device for what it is. Also, the battery life has been holding up as well.

Today I also did a guest blog post for Playground Dad. If you are not familiar Playground Dad is targeted to the thirty something dads that are interested in staying connected with their kids and ideas to maintain work life balance. The post provides recommendations on how the iPad can bring you and your kiddos together in a variety of ways.

iPad Kids

Here is Grant watching Veggietales via Netflix instant stream. The iPad Case serves as a great way to position the iPad for optimal viewing.

grantipad

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

BlackFin360