It’s Heee-rrre: Hyper-Local Targeting

6 months ago I wrote that the next most important trend in digital and social media would be hyper-local targeting (or micro-geotargeting, if you will). At that time, the poster child was Yelp! With Yelp and a handy-dandy GPS-enabled smart phone, you could walk out of your office and ask the Yelp! application to tell you the closest place to get your keys copied or have a manicure or find out whether there are any dance clubs on the Upper West Side for your friend who wants you to throw her a bachelorette party. A neat concept in June 2009.

The concept did not, by any means, start in 2009. Back in early 2006, in a report I wrote about the mobile landscape, I included the practice of targeted SMS mailings in which a retailer such as Subway could send a text message to a consumer passing by the store at around noon offering a right-place, right-time promotional code for a lunch special. The concept was perfect. How much closer to recency could you get. The logistics were a little clumsy or perhaps hypothetical or vague – involving opt-in mailing lists and limited #s of messages per month from a community of 3rd party advertisers, but the idea was exciting.

I also read, at the time, about a practice in Vegas, whereby your hotel would ask you to sign in via your mobile device when you landed at the airport to expedite your check-in. The hotel was then able to track you as you moved about the strip and send you messages luring you back on-site with offers of free meals if you wondered off to another casino. A little creepy, but pretty cool.

Then, a few years ago, Google introduced the ability to keep track of your friends (or children, as my sister-in-law enthusiastically observed) via Google Maps and the GPS chips on their phones. Slightly creepy, again, but reminded me of the magic map in the first Harry Potter book, so, again, kind of neat – though I did not participate, in part because few, if any of my friends knew about this.

Fast forward to the new decade. I’ve been using UrbanSpoon since it first burst onto the scene via the iPhone commercial and have dabbled with Yelp! on occasion. In addition, I’ve become a big fan of the iPhone MobileMe functionality whereby you can locate your phone using its gps chip should it be stolen or lost. And I’ve been using the GPS function of Google Maps for ages to find myself, find my way out of Central Park, find my way to a restaurant a few blocks away in East Hampton, etc. It all started with my Blackberry, at which time, I found it to be a very neat feature. And, now, with the iPhone, the graphics make it even better as you watch your little blue dot get closer to the little red pin of your target destination.

And now, I have been introduced to “FourSquare” – an iPhone and also Droid application. With this application, you sign-in to a location when you arrive. This act then sends a notification to your friends as to where you are and also tells you which of your friends are at the same location – as well as telling you who is the “mayor” of that venue, meaning that he or she is there the most often. Well, the implications of this application for marketing – both local and behavioral are tremendous – as you can see from the discussion around Chris Brogan’s posting on American Express’ Open Forum entitled: “Get Ahead of the Location Game.” (The link to this article was sent to me by a friend WHILE I was writing this posting!)

The FourSquare application is not yet high profile as far as I can tell, though I am am sure it will come up many times during Social Media Week next week. I heard about it from a recent grad on the Program Committee at the Harvard Club and found that Matt Blank, CEO of Showtime was already aware of at, whereas a senior executive at a major ad agency was not. So I predict that it is something that will be become better known in the next few months. And, of course, it will be come more powerful with more participation.

Some people will scoff at the start, finding it to be odd that you would want to share that information with others – these are the same people who scoffed at Facebook when I joined in 2006 and now spend 6 hours a day with it. And, as with Facebook, I will be careful as to the people with whom I choose to share this info – likely friends and Frolleagues. (Frolleagues are colleagues with whom you are friendly enough to connect on Facebook).

As with Facebook, by the way, a not so ideal impact of the application is that I am regularly reminded that a Frolleague of mine goes to the gym once or twice a day while I… well I go less frequently.

In addition to signing in to locations and tracking your friends’ moves throughout the day, FourSquare invites you to comment on nearby venues – it gives you a list of options based on your GPS – and to read tips from others. It also gives you visibility into twitter feeds from people in your nearby location.

As I was writing this blog in my head, I logged onto Yelp! on my iPhone and, of course, they have the same functionality in terms of signing into a location, so there seems to be a coming together of Yelp! and FourSquare. I am not sure of the business models of these apps, but the potential is huge and, after all, Google didn’t have a business model for nearly six years!

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