Tag Archives: agile engagement

SXSW: Lessons on Mobile Engagement from FourSquare’s Dennis Crowley

SXSW mashable pete cashmore foursquare dennis crowley

Mashable CEO interviews FourSquare co-founder Dennis Crowley at SXSW.

Yesterday’s keynote interview at South by Southwest featured Mashable founder and CEO Pete Cashmore interviewing Dennis Crowley, the guy who made virtual checkins cool with FourSquare.  The discussion was wide ranging, and revealed some of the unconventional thinking that has powered FourSquare’s success.

For anyone interested in how communities act or  people act in social networks, Crowley’s comments are informative.

On the sleek new FourSquare 3.0 version, which offers a new recommendation engine, leaderboard and a host of new rewards businesses can offer customers checking in:

FourSquare 3.0 recycles data, and gives it back to you as recommendations.  Crowley noted,  “If we can use check in data to suggest interesting things you might like, and then the game mechanics to encourage you to get out and do things,  that’s a one two punch.”

The core piece of data – “I was here at this time with these people,” is interesting.

At its heart, FourSquare aggregates data to solve their users’ problems, and uses game mechanics to make using FourSquare fun.   One significant development was announced today – FourSquare’s plans to unify “place” databases, called the Venue Project.

From the marketing perspective,  understanding and staying abreast of how companies like FourSquare (and Facebook, Google and the plethora of other mobile-social app providers that trade on location and interaction) are mashing up public data with location information is important, because collectively, these organizations are changing how consumers see businesses.

On the competition:

“We’re trying to build things that are smart.  We’re starting to compete against the Faccebooks and the Googles – the bigger players.  They think checkins are now cool.”

Is Facebook Places integration coming to FourSquare? Crowley noted that he’s not opposed to doing it, and then turned to the audience, (the majority of who said they were FourSquare users, and asked who wanted integration with Places.  From my vantage point, it looked like about 3 people in the room raised there hands, so I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for FourSquare to integrate with Facebook’s Places.

On Google buying FourSquare: “That’s one way we could work together.  Our APIs are another.”

On what’s next – recommendations and reminders:

Crowley is interested in aggregating the data you and your friends share on FourSquare, and enabling you to save things you see others doing that look interesting – visiting a gallery, trying a restaurant, and then adding the ability to notifiy you when you’re getting close to that venue.

“The data is out there,” he said. “It’s a matter of making it all happen. We’re getting close.”

When asked about what he’d like to see at SXSW next year, Crowley said “I would like to suck in data from Tripit and suggest the 5 things you must do based on what you and your friends did last year.”

Advice for companies trying to break out at SXSW:

“We didn’t set out to launch this company at SXSW,{ Crowley note. “When Dodgeball (an early sociadodgeball went away in January, they thought they should put life into a game, on phones. Picked SXSW arbitrarily – the power of the deadline.

The feedback they got was affirming and they went back to home and got serious.

What is the breakout technology this year? GroupMe, says Crowley. It makes SXSW more manageable. Twitter did it in 2008 and FourSquare did it in 2009.

On the business model for FourSquare:

The things FourSquare is doing with merchants is interesting. No one has ever made tools that show merchants their best customers, new customers, former customers.  There’s more to it than a free coffee for the mayor.  FourSquare is giving merchants the ability to reach out and target specific types of people with FourSquare data that can suggest which people might love the business, and target them to get them in the door.

Ads? Direct monetization? Crowley isn’t excited about that.  He’s interested in running recommendations – based on friends and data – in the background and then actively alert nearby uses to venues they may be interested in visiting, not nearby specials.

There are real lessons for brands in Crowley’s approach.   He is not interested in building an app that will make your smartphone buzz in your pocket when you walk by a coffee shop that’s offering special deals.     He believes that would be intrusive and annoying.   He proposes to deliver recommendations that are customized and relevant for each user, based upon their experiences and those of their friends, and overlaying location data to alert users to experiences they are likely to value.   Those planning mobile engagement strategies should consider -and be informed by – the approach taken by FourSquare.

Author Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s VP-social media.

Photo credit: Sarah Skerik

Jenkins! Is it the year of mobile PR yet??

The Web is awash with statistics and predictions about the rise and rise of mobile usage, mobile operating systems, network operators, on-deck vs. off-deck, apps, app stores, open vs. closed, devices, demographics, technographics, smart phone penetration, data plan trends, carrier revenues, app store market share and many other data points.  Mary Meeker’s latest Web 2.0 Summit presentation is certain to be circulating the boardrooms of the world and as soon as her deck hit the web middle managers were girding their loins for the inevitable C-suite query, “How’s our mobile strategy going, Jenkins?”

How’s your mobile strategy going?  Because, after years of hearing that this year is the year of mobile, this coming year probably will be.  Using Meeker’s mobile slides as a guide (full deck on Scribd here, the YouTube video is here ), here’s why:

  1. Slide 8: Apple iPhone + iTouch + iPad Ramp
    We have known for a while that take up of the mobile web is out pacing other adoption curves; there was a similar slide in her 2009 presentation, so there’s no excuse for not knowing that the light at the end of the tunnel is fast moving train and we’d better get on or get out of the way.
  2. Slide 9: Mobile Operating Systems
    The statistics on the growth of Android vs. iOS have been repeated ad nauseum, but their competition will accelerate the market for mobile apps and that is creating exciting opportunities for engaging customers and audiences in very focused and personal ways.
  3. Slide 10: Smartphone > PC Shipments Within 2 Years
    This is starting to get interesting… The number of smartphone shipments are projected to surpass PCs in 2012.  And it’s a sure thing that smartphones are going to get smarter. But will the networks be able to keep up with the demand for data?  U.S. carriers are shifting away from flat-rate data plans as they need consistency in their margins to invest in the infrastructure to keep up with our data usage.  In Japan, however, flat-rate data plans have been a key driver for mobile internet take-up, so…
  4. Slide 11: Japan Social Networking Trends Show How Quickly Mobile Can Overtake Desktop Internet Access
    Mobithinking.com have some interesting analysis on Japan and other mobile markets and it’s clear that not all the elements that contributed to such a huge take-up of the mobile internet in Japan are present elsewhere.   Taken in combination with other trends on mobile usage, however, it is abundantly clear that consumer usage  of the mobile Web via apps or mobile sites is growing, will be enormous, and has a strong social component.

All of which is nice, but what does it mean for PR?

In terms of media relations, unless you’re working in technology, it seems there is a limited take up among journalists in use of mobile to consume PR-related content.  A PR Week / CC Group survey bears out our own research among users of PR Newswire for Journalists (PRNJ) that they tend to prefer desktop tools to mobile ones when it comes to reviewing PR material.  But this is changing.  The surge in social network usage via mobile is impacting how everyone interacts with phones, and over half the media (both new and ‘old’) who access PRNJ or PRNewswire.com own a smart phone and over a third would consider accessing these sites via mobile phone.

There is also a growing body of research that journalists  look for story ideas and research using blogs and social media sites.  So ensuring your content is posted to the social Web gets your content where they’ll find it (and helps build links back to your site).

For direct-to-consumer/customer/shareholder/stakeholder communications the take-up varies by demographic and industry, but the trend is the same across the world: mobile usage up and it’s driven by social use cases.  The key for us here is understanding our audience and how they want to engage.  What is exciting for PR and marketing professionals is the nature of the engagement if we get it right.

At least one of my mobile devices (I’m afraid I have four) is within my reach 24 hours a day.  Mobile alerts I have set up reach me immediately.  Apps that I love I return to again and again and again.  I have freely handed over my contact details and personal details in return for offers and promotions (‘spam’ in any other context) that match my preferences.  Now I’m not conceited enough to believe I’m in any way unique.  Slightly more nerdy than most maybe, but not unique, and there is evidence that if you are able to give your audience something of value and create a relationship in such a personal space, you will create high degrees of engagement and ROI.  Here are two examples, one B2B and one B2C,  of what I mean:

  • If you were at PRSA in Washington D.C. this year you can’t have missed PR Newswire’s PRNGame, where delegates could scan QR codes with their phones to earn points, learn about PR Newswire and have some fun.  The game generated a huge amount of buzz at the conference and sparked hundreds of conversations between delegates and PR Newswire people manning our booth.
  • InsightExpress presented a Powermat case study at the IAB Mobile Marketplacein New York this summer.  The campaign used Booyah’s geo-based game MyTown to allow users to interact with Powermat products and enter a sweepstake when they checked in to stores selling Powermat wireless chargers.  According to Joy Liuzzo of InsightExpress the campaign  produced results three times greater than traditional ad campaigns and outperformed all norms for aided awareness, ad awareness and intent to purchase.

I acknowledge that on the face of it both my examples have more to do with marketing than PR, but all the people who engaged with PR Newswire and Powermat are influencers whose opinions are valued to varying degrees by their peers, and  mobile is very, very social.  Creating personal, positive experiences with these individuals will have an affect that lasts beyond the measurement of short term ROI.

So do you have a mobile strategy?  And should it really be categorized as ‘mobile?’  Personally I’m looking forward to the day when ‘mobile’ is as ubiquitous and noteworthy as wallpaper.  And that the mobile strategy of my fictional, middle-management ‘Jenkins’ is not mobile, not strategy, but a regular part of his day job that earns him happy customers and the warm glow of appreciation from the C-suite.  Well, one can dream…

Authored by Rod Nicolson, VP User Experience Design & Workflow, PR Newswire

Image created by djme via Flickr Creative Commons