MARIA OGNEVA'S BLOG
Hello, and welcome to my blog and the digital home for my thoughts. Most know me as @themaria, my handle across most social media sites and communities. My actual, given name is Maria Ogneva, and I love writing, traveling, eating, and spending time with my new husband.
I am passionate about how social media is changing the way we communicate, help and relate to each other, share news and make the world a smaller, more hospitable place. I work at Salesforce as Director of Product Marketing on the Communities product, where my job is to help customers (and the world at large) to be successful in building communities. I learn every day, and I share my thoughts and personal growth here.
Please note that the views expressed here are my own, and do not reflect those of my employer or any of our clients.
I just came back form the Geo-Loco conference, which is exactly what it sounds like: a conference focused on adoption of and issues around Geo-Location apps and devices, also known as Location-Based Services (LBS). LBS is the breed of apps and features that allow users to “check-in” to a place and earn badges (Foursquare) and stamps (Gowalla); some LBSs (like Whrrl and Pegshot) allow you to create content around each check-in, which is really cool in my opinion. You can check into a physical location, event, online location or a even a concept (when I’m particularly annoyed, I check into “Over It” for example). Some LBSs are standalone apps like Foursquare, Gowalla, Loopt, and some are features of larger products like Twitter.
Fred Wilson in his keynote referred to the action of checking in as a social gesture. Social gestures can be anything from opting into a friendship on Facebook, to posting an update via Twitter, to posting on someone’s Facebook wall, to commenting on and sharing a blogpost, to checking in on Foursquare, and so on. Foursquare is the market leader in this (still nascent) market segment of LBS, so I’ll focus my discussion on it in this post. However, all of this can and should be applied to the industry in general. Some of below issues were discussed at the conference, and some weren’t; either way, they’ve been on my mind for a while:
So far, LBS adoption has been driven by a small, albeit passionate, group of techies, geeks and social media people. First of all, these are early adopters, and a lot of this early adoption does happen in a Silicon Valley Echo-Chamber/Bubble, without translating to the mainstream. Secondly, techies and social media people took to LBSs as fish to water, because a key benefit of social media has been the ability to bring us closer together in person. All of a sudden, tweetups started to pop up, and we started to cultivate and strengthen our online relationships through offline relationships. The “planned serendipity” of tweetups is further enabled by apps like Foursquare where you can identify a critical mass of your friends and figure out where the hot party is that night. Given our higher-than average propensity to get together, and a strong sense of community that surrounds the space, LBSs are but an extension of the way we are. Thirdly, the early adopters of tech tend to be into the gaming aspect more than the average user. Even though the Foursquare community is small (800k active users, per Fred Wilson’s keynote), it’s very passionate and engaged. Fred said that Foursquare reached 1 million checkins in a single day — that’s >1 checkins per person, provided that every person checked in. This level of engagement is simply not sustainable in the mainstream. Moral of the story: because the enthusiastic minority using LBSs is excited now, I am still skeptical to this level of enthusiasm in the mainstream.
Personally, I used to be a very passionate user of Foursquare AND Gowalla. I cooled off to both, and exploring the reasons why illustrate the cautions I state above. This is what happened to me — I kept checking in primarily to be mayor (game mechanics), with a distant promise of a deal (business element), as well to connect with my friends on the fly (planned serendipity). However, the ease of gaming the system and lack of rewards from businesses dampened my enthusiasm. I explored rewards earlier, let’s take a closer look at gaming the system. Foursquare allows you to check in when you aren’t somewhere, which is how I’m convinced I lost the mayorship of my apartment building to someone who was gaming the system. Gowalla is better at preventing this, although when it’s wrong about your location, you can’t check in at all. With GPS precision, it’s damned if you do, and damned if you don’t. Because the thrill of becoming a mayor is gone, because anyone can game the system and take it from me, and because I get no rewards from businesses for checking in, I feel like I’m revealing a ton of personal info, with little return. And this is the key for any consumer app – the return has to outweigh the cost. However, one use case still remains for me: planned serendipity. I still check in when I go to large events and conferences, because I want to find my friends and I want them to find me too.
This is a business blog, read by business people, so who cares about these tools that are still on the bleeding edge and not part of the mainstream? Well, you should care, because there can be implications for business and even (ready for it?) Social CRM. What?!?! What does Foursquare have to do with SCRM? Well, it’s actually quite simple: SCRM is all about better processes to serve and collaborate with the social customer. Foursquare gives you an additional layer of rich information that can help you with this, but only if: 1) your business is right for it, and 2) you know how to use this data. First of all, LBSs aren’t right fore everyone — don’t feel tempted to adopt every shiny new object; you will run out of time and effort and dilute your focus. At Attensity, we will hardly use LBSs to connect with our customers, because it just doesn’t work for the segment we serve. But if they are right for you, you can achieve three major business goals:
If you start thinking through this stuff now, testing it and figuring out what works, you will be lightyears ahead of the competition when this stuff goes mainstream. I believe it will; we just have to work out the kinks first, and better align intentions and rewards from all sides – businesses, LBS platforms and users. After all, they said the Internet was a fad, and Twitter was stupid — and look where we are now!