A blog by the Brick Factory The Brick Factory

King of the Location Based Mountain- Foursquare vs. Gowalla, Loopt, Yelp, RallyUp, Plyce…

Since their 2009 launches at the South by Southwest Festival (SXSW), two unique startups-Foursquare, and Gowalla have become the biggest players in the still emerging niche of location based services.  While it remains to be seen whether or not the market will support more than one location based service, judging by the number and growth of users, participation by large corporations (Starbucks ), celebrities (Ashton Kutcher ) small businesses (DC’s own Town Tavern ), politicians (Patrick Kennedy, D-AL) and usability across mobile platforms, Foursquare is the leader of the pack. Other competitors include Loopt , Yelp , the more privacy conscious  Rally Up , Europe’s Plyce and whatever Facebook decides to do.

For a quick primer on Foursquare in 118 seconds- Checkout this excellent video from HowCast:

As for the long term potential and adaptability of Foursquare as a useful tool for public relations campaigns in business or politics, with Morgan Stanley now predicting that mobile internet will be bigger than desktop internet in 5 years, any business, public relations professional or political candidate who fails to utilize location based services may soon find themselves at  a significant competitive disadvantage when it comes to building and maintaining relationships with the tech savvy linchpins among their clients, customers and constituents.

In terms of why Foursquare came to become the leader of the pack, three often overlooked factors have come together in their favor:


I.   Branding Matters. One of the most overlooked factors in Foursquare’s success is the name itself.

Considering the success and popularity of anything associated with the 80s and early 90s- Just about every “Millennial” has at least one story of Foursquare glory on the playground. In this regard, Foursquare’s awarding of badges, (think merit badges from Cub Scouts / Girl Scouts) points and mayor-ships were brilliant ideas. As a Millennial myself, I can attest to the fact that by activating these positive associations of childhood playground fun versus ones current ambitions, and desire for future success and recognition  among their peers , Foursquare starts off with a significant advantage over Gowalla for the simple reason that it is much easier to understand, explain and most importantly remember what Foursquare is.  “Have you tried/ are you on Gowalla?”  Is awkward to type, let alone explain in casual conversation.

II. Cross platform availability. Foursquare is available on Blackberry, Palm, Iphone and Android based devices, Gowalla is not.

As 42.1% of smartphone users have a Blackberry, it is astonishing and possibly fatal that Gowalla has not launched a Blackberry application of their own. Although Gowalla does have a Blackberry optimized mobile site, which does load on my Verizon Blackberry Storm2, the interface is choppy and less user friendly than Foursquare’s Blackberry app. Gowalla’s messages boards are also full of users complaining about compatibility with older Blackberry devices. (To their credit, Gowalla does provide an open forum for complains and responds too many of them.)

III.  On Creativity, Foursquare wins.

Wouldn’t you like to be the first, or maybe second to check in at the North Pole?

How about reading the Financial Times for Free?

Feeling shy or lost on your first day of school?

Enjoy a free cup of coffee?

If the answer to any or all of these questions is ‘yes’, well there is an app for that.

IV.    Loopt, Yelp, Rally Up, Plyce, etc…

In terms of the number of users and overall buzz, Foursquare is in the lead. Of the competition, particularly interesting is Rally Up- which seeks to overcome some of the issues raised by sites such as PleaseRobMe.com by eliminating Twitter integration in favor of connecting you to your ‘real’ friends on Facebook. While Loopt and Yelp are compatible with the Blackberry, Rally Up is not. Plyce has some taken some of the better aspects of Gowalla and added features such as a wall to post pictures and video as well as the ability to chat with your friends inside the app.  While these new services are certainly worth watching, in the meantime adding Foursquare to your social media portfolio is an easy and effective way to promote your business and improve public relations.

Book Review: The New Rules of Marketing & PR

TNROM&PR David Meerman Scott was one of the first names I came across when I started this whole social media adventure.

At the time I was writing white papers and press releases for the launch of a new web site. This was something I had never done before, and I found the whole experience rather boring. If I was bored, then what I was writing had to be even worse.

There had to be a better way of doing this.

So, doing a quick search on marketing and PR I came across something called The Gobbledygook Manifesto. Immediately the light bulb went on, and  I connected with what David was trying say  – that things had changed.

“The web has transformed the rules, and you must transform your marketing to make the most of the Web-enabled market place of ideas.”

Recently, I received a copy of David’s revised edition of, The New Rules of Marketing & PR. I don’t read a lot of books on marketing, but this is a must have.

David’s book does a great job describing the old school marketing mentality, and why it was forced to change.  He stresses that companies, organizations, and people need to become creators of content. More importantly, that the content must have value to  the audience who now have significant influence on the success of a marketing campaign.

Having read many of David’s publications, I was pleased to discover new information in this revised edition. The big value is the case studies. David provides real life examples that cover just about any facet of business and niche. Including:

  • Why Zemoga gives flip cams to all their employees and customers.
  • The importance of a company blog, and why companies need to interact within the blogging community.
  • How CollectSPACE leveraged the importance of participating in community forums. (Notice I said participating, not promoting)
  • Why Wikis shouldn’t be overlooked.
  • What Conrete5 learned by providing their software for free.
  • How Mignon Fogarty’s podcasts helped sell her book.
  • Why groundbreaking, industry standard, and cutting-edge are words you should avoid in your press release.
  • That Search Engine Optimization isn’t just about keywords.
  • How the National Community Church has embraced the social web to reach thousands of people.
  • The new rules for finding a job.

“You can trigger a World Wide Rave, too – just create something valuable that people want to share, and make it easy for them to do so.”

A big thank you to David Meerman Scott for sending me a copy of his book, and for including the story on how I found my job here with The Bivings Group.

The New Rules of Marketing & PR provides a solid foundation for people who are having difficulty getting their heads around the social web. From CEOs to the entrepreneurs, anyone reading this book will come away with something they didn’t know before. It’s a great read and I highly recommend snagging a copy.

Demystifying the Social Medianess – Forget About Technology

1174900_circuits When last we left, we talked about how the social web thrives on unselfish communication. I touched a bit on the role of technology, and today I’d like to expand upon some thoughts.

When you hear the words social media what’s the 1st thing that comes to your mind? Twitter or Facebook? How about Blogs? These are tools. They are not social media.

But to many the social web means technology.

I don’t blame anyone for thinking this way. The Internet is a technological advancement that has provided this playground we are now part of. And being constantly bombarded with news about the latest tool, widget, etc., it’s not surprising that people tag technology with social media.

Perhaps this is why many fear the social web. Technology is a scary word. It means new and expensive. These words can spell death for a business or organization who is thinking of trying new things .

Social Media is not new and it doesn’t need to be expensive (though, it can take time when done right). The point is, forget about technology.

Don’t immediately focus your social media efforts on how Twitter can do X

First, take some time to understand the ethics and methodologies behind the social web. Learn how and why people are communicating the way they are online. Listen.

Build this solid foundation and you will begin to see how the social medianess and technology compliment each other. Then you’ll be in a stronger position to fully leverage the available tools that are available.

Tactics

Thumbing through the October 2008 issue of PRSA's publication Tactics was a lot like opening up my RSS folders and taking a look around. Featuring an internet/web 2.0 multiple page spread, the issue covered topics ranging from maximizing the benefits of Twitter to the convenience of using FriendFeed. Most of this seemed familiar — maybe a little too familiar, as I had seen all of this content in one form or another on various blogs over the last year or so. Even their articles (the Twitter article in particular, which made use of a numbered list) read more like blog posts than articles. Well, so what?

If the editors of Tactics thought it was worth covering this on such a grandiose scale (the web 2.0 features run eight pages), it simply means that the PR industry as a whole is still learning about these new technologies and how to use them to advance their clients' desires. I mean, these articles are quite basic, and nothing I wouldn't expect most of our readers to at least be aware of — like an entire persuasive piece on why your company needs to Twitter (sound familiar?)

Seeing this spread caused me to stop and re-examine perspectives for a moment. While people 'round these parts may take these basic elements of digital PR for granted, this area of the industry is still relatively very new. Sometimes it is good to go over the fundamentals, to relearn your basics. If you have access to PRSA's trade publications, I'd check out the issue — a good introductory summary of some elementary online PR tactics — maybe show it to your boss and convince them to start a company Twitter account.

6th Summit on Measurement Overview

Chuck and I recently attended the 6th Summit on Measurement, sponsored by the Institute for Public Relations (IPR).  This year the location was Portsmouth, New Hampshire, where the festivities began with a meet-and-greet in Strawberry Banke.  Tours of local restored houses and mansions were provided while conversation began among PR, measurement, and education professionals.

Don Wright, Director for the IPR Forums, greeted us the next day as we settled in for a marathon of speeches and information.  The first speaker was the Senior Manager for Corporate Communications of McDonald's:  Leslie Tiongco.  She spoke about the challenges that her team faced as they attempted to apply qualitative research to strategic execution.  McDonald's has many locations worldwide, and their new approach was to make them better, not bigger.

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