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Has Foursquare Finally Hit the Big Time?

 Unlocking location-based deals on everything from coffee to running shoes has been part of the social media vernacular for a number of years. After all, offering up your location data to retailers and allow companies to pitch you discounts and specials was how many companies aimed to become profitable. Yet only 4% of Americans used any sort of check-in service in 2010

Today, American Express announced a partnership with Foursquare wherein users are able to sync their credit card with location-based app: allowing access to more 'exclusive' discounts and deals for cardholders. AmEx is betting the the consumer may be enticed by the seamless way discounts will be applied to the credit card statements.

What happens when the merchants who provide you deals already have your credit card information? The hope is that it creates less buyer hesitation and leads to an increase in sales. Companies such as LivingSocial make buying daily lunch deals incredibly easy because their mobile apps contain all of your payment information (from that time you bought yoga lessons for 75% off). Meanwhile, all you have to do to buy a Frappuchino is show the barista a barcode on your phone. 

The nationwide aspect of this campaign could be big things for the legitimization and mainstream acceptance of location-based apps. After all – if all you had to do to save $20 at Sports Authority was download an app, wouldn't you do it?

The AmEx deal, unlike an app such as LivingSocial or Starbucks means that while your credit card information is stored with foursquare, you still need to physically take out your card when you pay. From a financial security perspective – this makes more sense. Considering that if i lost my phone, someone could unlock it and spend the entire balance of my Starbucks card or change up hundreds of dollars in LivingSocial deals. 

Image from https://sync.americanexpress.com/foursquare 

So what say you: is the Foursquare-Amex deal going to bring location-based services into everyday shopping vernacular?

Web 2.0 Year-End Recap – Part 1

2010 has been a big year for tech innovation and the social media world. Facebook hit 500 million users, and the midterm elections meant that our elected officials were tweeting en masse. This is part one of a two-part Bivings Report end-of-the-year recap of the top 10 biggest trends in web 2.0 in the last year.

Have your own ideas or think we missed an important development? Please do leave your thoughts in the comments below!

1. Location, location and location

This year saw the explosion of Foursquare, Gowalla and the launch of Facebook Places. With a consistently growing number of web and GPS-enabled phones on the market, geolocation-based social networks really took off in 2010. A number of major retailers utilized ‘checking in’  to offer discounts and promotions to their customers (particularly on Black Friday).  The competition amongst rivals Foursquare and Gowalla has also been intensifying over the course of the last twelve months – with Gowalla enabling Fouraquare check-ins through it’s application, and Foursquare allowing users to upload pictures when they check in.  We firmly believe that this particular web 2.0 tend will continue to flourish as more and more of the world’s population gains access to the internet via web-enabled phones.

2. Trend toward mobile + Cloud continues

More and more of the world’s cell phone customers are gaining access to web-enabled phone. Subsequently, a greater number of people is able to access a larger amount of information while on the go and removed from their computers.

Cloud computing is anther technological force that isn’t going away any time soon. More and more corporations, government agencies, and small businesses are beginning to utilize the efficiencies inherent in cloud computing to help their employees be more flexible and efficient. With companies like IBM and Microsoft throwing major publicity campaigns for the cloud – we predict that this technological innovation will continue to gain ground.

3. Websites making increasing use of social networking

While one would assume that by this point, there would be few, if any major media, corporate, or university website nowadays that does not feature at least one link to an online social network; we were surprised to find that many Fortune 500 companies still have not adopted social media. According to a 2010 study "The Fortune 500 and Social Media" by the Center for Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth: 

23% or 116 of the 2010 F500 companies have a corporate blog. Of the top ten F500 companies, only Bank of America does not have a public facing blog.  Compared to 2009 in which 22% of F500 companies had a blog, this aspect of online engagement appears to have become stagnant.

60% or 298 of the 2010 F500 companies have corporate Twitter accounts.  While this is up dramatically from 35% in 2009, one would expect that with the recent economic recession and a tougher competitive environment, more corporations would have jumped on the social media bandwagon.  Of the top ten Fortune 500 companies, Wal-Mart, Exxon, Chevron, General  Electric, Bank of America, ConocoPhillips, AT&T, Ford and HP regularly update their Twitter accounts.

56% or 280 of the 2010 F500 companies are now on Facebook.  While Facebook was not studied in the 2009 report, this number is again much lower than one would expect given Facebook’s growth and earned media attention.

4. Nonprofit and Charitable Giving: Be Strong and Innovate

While the economic recession took a major tool on fundraising for  nonprofits and charities in 2009 and the first half of 2010, two recent studies by Guidestar and the Network for Good indicate that not only is the worst over, but that also by adopting a strategic approach to online giving, it is possible for non-profits to succeed even in hard economic times.

In GuideStar’s 2010 Fundraising Survey which polled 2,356 public charities and 163 private foundations:

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"Politics Get Social" – A Social Media Club DC Event

blog_smcdc_event1This past Wednesday, we attended another excellent event organized by the Social Media Club DC (SMCDC), about the state of social media use in elections. As a topic that The Bivings Report has touched upon many times in the past several months, we were excited to hear the perspectives of political operatives, academics and non-profit consultants as to the best practices and tactics of the 2010 midterm elections. Lobbyists, PR professionals, and social media entrepreneurs were all eager to analyze the impact and results that Twitter, Facebook, and Foursquare had on voter turnout and results.

Professor Lauren Feldman of American University shared her analysis of  the polling data her team obtained during the Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert’s Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear. The rally offered special badges on Foursquare just for checking in, and Feldman shared statistics about what parentages of people used social media to learn about the event and its details. For instance, of the 232,122 people who RSVP’d on Facebook, it appears that nearly everyone showed up. Also worth noting- while 31% of survey respondents at the rally reported directly volunteering for a political cause at some point in the past year, twice as many- 64% used social media as a form of political participation.

As for the role of location based tools and during the election,  while 12 million Facebook users clicked the “I Voted” button, only 56,000 Foursquare users got the voting badge.  Also for those of you wondering why custom Foursquare badges are few and far between, one attendee with insider knowledge claimed that Foursquare asks for $100,000 and 6-month timeframe to get a custom badge created. 

The event speakers included:Katie Harbath, Chief Digital Strategist at the National Republican Senatorial CommitteeLauren Feldman, a faculty member at American University in political science and Michael Mayernick, founder of social giving startup giv.to. A few interesting highlights from the panelists included:

  • For the 2010 election cycle- Only 5% of all expenditures went towards social media. However it is worth remembering that  in 2004 when most incumbent Senators last ran for re-election, social media barley existed.
  • Social Media as a platform for brining partisans together: Both Democrats and Republican agree that candidates should do their own tweeting and that campaigns need to devote more resources to online engagement. Both staffers and supporters prefer candidates who engage in conversation over staff managed accounts that do nothing but push press releases. Many of those we talked to in attendance mentioned they would not contribute to a candidate who does not do their own tweeting.
  • National campaign committees are seeing an increasing amount of mobile traffic, with the NRSC receiving an impressive 7% of website traffic from mobile phones. They also found that iPhone push notifications were more valuable then SMS text messages.

Moving forward, the Q&A session also brought up some interesting social media policy questions, such as whether or not it is appropriate for elected officials who leave office to keep their official titles in their Twitter handles and if official accounts such as @PressSec created by Robert Gibbs belong to him or the government. The consensus was that for accounts like @GovMikeHuckabee, keeping the “Gov” title is acceptable as a matter of protocol, but that @PressSec belongs to the office of the @WhiteHouse Press Secretary, not an individual person.

Get-Out-The-Visualizations! Social Media & Election Day

Besides Slurp140, here are a few of our favorite tools for following the election via social media that have recently come to our attention. Is there a website or tool you recommend?  Let us know!

 New York Times: The Election Will Be Tweeted (and Retweeted)

nyt_twitter_joemillerAlthough it is difficult to follow or discern the content of the incoming tweets, the side by side comparison feature is worth exploring. For instance, in the case of Joe Miller and Lisa Murkowski in Alaska, the NYT graph indicates that at least in terms of volume, the buzz around Joe Miller is significantly higher. Also worth exploring is the NYT’s use of customized Google News searches to displays recent headlines about the candidates from the NYT, Washington Post, CNN, the AP, Politico, Fox News, NPR, ANC and CBS. (If your interested in more comprehensive social and traditional media monitoring, our Impact Watch service combines media monitoring with sentiment analysis that can be branded to your organization.)

Politics + Foursquare = GeoPollster

Location-Based Polling - GeoPollsterIn response to my 10/28 post on Foursquare’s I Voted badge, Adam Kraft of GeoPollster wrote in and informed me of GeoPollster, which allows you to cast your vote whenever you check in on Foursquare! After logging onto the GeoPollster site, you are asked to select your political party (Constitution, Democratic, Green, Libertarian or Republican) and add the GeoPollster account as a Foursquare friend.  Although so far, only 272 Fouraquare users have done so, I predict this app will soon be incredibly popular in Washington D.C. as a new front in ongoing completion between Democratic and Republican Hill staffers for domination of our local watering holes.

Facebook Ratings: Election2010

While we will soon know whether in-state Facebook fans are more valuable than out-of-state fans,  the blog All Facebook has created a nifty page that gives a quick overview of how the two primary national parties stack up on Facebook. Although it would be nice to see how all of the races stack up, we understand and appreciate how much a programming would be involved in tracking 435 House and 37 Senate campaigns.
Facebook Ratings - Election 2010Facebook Ratings - Election 2010- house and govs

Foursquare’s “I Voted” Badge- How Will Campaigns Use It?

WebWhile most of the news surrounding Foursquare’s announcement on Mashable that users will now get a custom badge for voting on election day, so far not much has been written about the most interesting, and potentially explosive aspect- the Foursquare election data visualization site.

Although Gowalla was first to announce an election badge and actively seek to partner with individual campaigns, Foursquare along with partner organizations have taken it to the next level with their integration of OpenStreetMap and official polling locations provided by the Voting Information Project.

Traditionally campaigns have monitored turnout on election day by recording the cumulative total of votes cast per polling place on an hourly basis. This data is then put into a spreadsheet / giant whiteboard and if turnout is lower than expected, you redirect all of your phone banks and canvassers to ‘flush’ your voters out of their homes and to the polls.

In 2008 the Obama campaign realized that rather than wait an hour, they could get real time results that would not only tell them how many people voted, but also who voted. Thanks to smart phones, a simple web application and local election laws allowing campaign volunteers to be inside polling places, the Obama campaign now had real time results of how well they were doing. (Disclosure: I volunteered for the Obama campaign as a legal poll monitor and observed this first hand. I do not know if McCain campaign had a similar program.)

If voters do embrace Foursquare to check into polling places for the 2010 midterms,  not only could this boost turnout for key demographics and identify issues at polling places, it could also make exit polling obsolete.

ivotedbadgeWith this new data on hand, a savvy campaign or organization could create another app to search for the #ivoted hashtag and report back a list of users who checked into certain precincts. Next, an algorithm performs a quick sentiment analysis of past tweets to determine political affiliation, and BINGO- up to the minute election results. While no automated sentiment analysis is perfect, I would imagine that counting & comparing  the number of politicians  someone follows would get you close. Cross checking with the candidates followers would get you closer still.  Count the # of  @BarackObama vs. @SarahPalinUSA re-tweets and you’re there.  

So What Should Campaigns Do?
Besides email address and cell phone numbers- Ask for Twitter handles. Encourage your supporters to sign up for Twitter and Foursquare to support your candidate and let you know when they have voted. If you have a Foursquare account for your candidate, you would also have the benefit of a customized stream of your supporters checking in and voting.

What Will Campaigns Do?
As my former colleague Philip de Vellis of Murphy Putnam pointed out at the Politico / Facebook panel on politics and social media Monday evening, in times of uncertainty campaigns tend to fall back on what they know- namely TV ads. Others mentioned that campaigns have shifted to spending less than 5% of their budgets online. Given that devoting resources to something new and unproven is a little bit scary, I predict that widespead adoption of social media advertising (and spending that follows) will not be broadly adopted until 2012.

For some background on how this all came about, check out the 9/28 RWW blog posting “Could Location Base Services Increase Civic Engagement in Millennials.”