Last Night on FourSquare NYC

Yesterday I took some of my thinking on the road (down the Metro-North tracks to NYC) to visit a rising star in the beverage world and an established star in the field of online publishing.  I had one talk after another on the value of mobile/social applications, the challenges of “doing it right” and then there was the whole, subjective discussion of the importance of having a sense of humor in the mobile world.

Doing it right should be of utmost importance to brands considering an entry into the world of mobile apps.  There are many considerations to address, here are a few:

  • Does your application just showcase your brand, or is there a useful function?  Useful might only mean that it makes the end user smile, but the more utility you imbed in the app, the more your target end-user is likely to use it.   (Too much functionality could be a bad thing.  Consider more than one app if necessary.)
  • Speaking of end-users, do you know what mobile platform they are using?  Do you know which one they perceive as cool?  As an example, there is a growing segment of teenagers who shun the iPhone and love the Blackberry, not for e-mail, but for RIM’s slick BBM (Blackberry Messenger) .  BBM is a superior SMS platform for Blackberry to Blackberry communications.  In my town, I see the BBM fanatics as a hub and spoke phenomenon.  They are an exclusive bunch, but the early BBM users are pushing their friends to get Blackberrys so they can all leverage BBM.  An iPhone-only app for teens might miss this segment of power users.
  • Is your application built in such a way that you can improve on it in the future?  Truth is, mobile app development is reasonably inexpensive.  Even if you maintain your old code, you may choose to build your V2 on a completely different code base due to emerging technologies, new competitive apps, etc.
  • Are you going to leverage location-based information via GPS and other GPS enabled services from Google and others?
  • What are your plans with regards to updating your data within your app?   How often do you want new data to appear?  Who will be responsible for gathering data for updates?  Who will be responsible for making the updates?  How will you QA and implement the updates?

This is a quick list and I’m sure I could add to it.  Please send me your thoughts.

Back to my night.  As I was walking back to Grand Central for my return train, I got an e-mail from my friend James.  He asked me to join him and another friend, Nigel at the the Digital Somethings meet-up at the famous Roger Smith.  I called both of James’ phone numbers, no answer.  Then I looked up his address – it was just two blocks up from where I was walking.  And here’s the crazy part – without talking to him in advance, I just went to his office.  Once upon a time it would have been normal to just stop by at someone’s office. Last night I felt like I was going to get caught!  Funny.

So here’s the finale.  Nigel, James and I sitting at the Digital Somethings meeting, and of course we start comparing iPhone apps.  Nigel and James and I become friends on FourSquare.  We “check-in” at the Roger Smith and guess what – 55 folk in total at the meeting had all checked in and we were all awarded the “Swarm” award.   But guess what?  There was no effort made to have the members of the swarm recognize each other, either by standing up, raising their hands, meeting in a corner – nothing.  What a wasted opportunity!  We didn’t talk to one other person in our swarm. I haven’t yet processed all of the things that happened in that short period of time from a human network and technology enhanced network point of view, but I think these are the big themes:

1)      Technology can enhance your ability to achieve your networking and business goals.  But you must make an effort to leverage the information you gain from technology to create real human connections.

2)      FourSquare is cool for the “collect  all the badges”, “become the Mayor,” competition and the opportunity to offer and receive localized offerings (I may even  try a tasti-D-light cone one of these days).  Smart marketers will figure out a way to leverage FourSquare in ways that enhance their business objectives.

3)      Connecting is great, but doing it for a reason is even better.  Build a personal or philanthropic incentive into your mobile/social media efforts.  Appeal to our hearts and our wallets and our need for companionship and our desire to associate with an activity or brand we perceive as “cool.”

We’ve gone beyond “whole product” marketing.  We need to figure out how we execute “whole person” marketing – and mobile/social media is the most powerful way yet to make that happen.

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