What does location have to do with social media and your success as a connector? Absolutely everything. First of all location is everything because you are always somewhere and very soon you will be somewhere else. You will almost always be connected because you have your mobile with you. It is your ubiquitous device which keeps you in touch with your social network.
This is a chapter of The 7 Pillars Book written by Luigi Cappel. The Blues Bro.
Luigi is Managing Director of SoLoMo Consulting, helping companies with location based aspects of social media, marketing and communications and also CCO of Imersia, a specialist in marketing services in Auckland, New Zealand focussed on Location and Augmented Reality for a number of industries including travel and tourism, FMCG and entertainment.
More importantly he is an awesome guitarist and singer songwriter.
Luigi is a futurist with a particular expertise in location based marketing. He will be contributing to several areas of The 7 Pillars book.
It is a chapter that you will gain maximum benefit from reading if you have already read at least the introduction here and even better the first 7 chapters.
Many people are now using their mobile for social media. It knows who you are, where you are and in many cases also knows your context, e.g. are you in a restaurant, at the cinema, in a hotel? This means a possible two way street. You can find what you need, but it may also be that people with goods and services you might be interested in can be offered to you. The new technologies being developed are designed to offer personalisation. If you’re a guy, unless you regularly shop for women’s clothing, you won’t be offered any, but if you often go to a sports store, you might be offered the latest in their offerings.
These days not only do most if not all social media have a mobile app, a high percentage of them now allow you to check in and tell people where you are. This has become very easy in the mobile world because today’s Smartphones know where they are. They have GPS, gyros and other technologies that provide accuracy that averages around 10 meters in most parts of the world, at least when you are outside.
This can add significant beneficial aspects to your life and I am going to share with you some of the ways that key social media applications can enrich your relationships, your life experiences and your future. We are multidimensional as people. We have a variety of relationships, family, work, social, cultural, casual, sporting and all of these have locational aspects.
So let’s look a bit more at location first and then we can understand why it is such an important factor in our lives.
When we leave home, we have a choice of where to live. This may be determined by many factors, some of them economic and many of them social. We like to live in an area where we feel people are like us. We look for an environment where we will feel comfortable, perhaps close to our work, close to friends and family, close to amenities we want to enjoy like sports facilities, shopping and entertainment. If this is close to where we grew up, then that’s easy, you have local knowledge. If you don’t have local knowledge, you need information from people you feel you can trust. People who think similarly to yourself.
It is well researched that we tend to distrust advertising these days. It is always full of people saying they are the greatest, the best and ultimately we take all of the hyperbole with a massive grain of salt.
So who do we turn to when we want good information? Our social network of course. We go to people who we believe can provide us with unbiased information. They generally don’t have anything to gain by the information they share with us, other than the satisfaction of being of assistance and knowing that if they give us good advice they will get good advice back when they need it.
Today we are a highly mobile society, we have the ability to travel in our own environment, but also throughout the world. More and more we do this with less assistance from professional organizations because they tend to add layers of cost without necessarily adding value. So again, we can gain that value from our social networks, thus saving money and having a better more social experience.
Lets have a look at how some of our applications work from a locational perspective, looking at some of the key social media networks covered in The 7 Pillars Book, in no particular order.
Twitter is probably used today more as a mobile app than as a desktop app, particularly because your messages are limited to 140 characters. You therefore don’t need a QWERTY keyboard to leave your message. There are a number of ways that Twitter allows you to utilize location.
When you create a tweet you have the option of clicking a button which will use the mobile technology to identify where you are. Just tap on the map pin button and it will work out where you are and can share that information with other people and a myriad of applications that can use it for various purposes. The search function is one of the easiest ways to find information about a place. You can enter in the name of a town or city, the name of a particular establishment and then you can select from options such as top tweets, all tweets, or tweets from people you follow.
If you found a result from people you know, then obviously you go straight to them. Recently one of my daughters was gong into town and asked me if I knew where she could get a good Carbonara in the Auckland City. I went onto Twitter and asked my friend Gianpaulo of @Giapo because as well as making the best gelato in New Zealand, he is Italian and would know where to go. Within a few minutes I had the answer from someone I know and trust. It was easier than picking up the phone.
You can also just send out a random tweet question. But make sure you know what you are asking. I was in Amsterdam a few years ago and between meetings went on Twitter and asked where a good cafe was, close to the Centraal Station. The first response was, “Do you want coffee?” meaning was I looking for a cafe that sold coffee or something that some specialist cafes in the area are known for. The key was though, that total strangers saw that I was asking for information about a specific location that I found myself in and random people were happy to help.
You can also use hashtags, as explained in other parts of this book to refine your search. For example, I did a search for #PizzaBoston and found the ‘top’ pizza place in Boston. Then I did a search with 2 hashtags #pizza #Boston and got much better results.
Another thing you can do if you are searching generically is just search under a place name. For example if you enter Ithaca into the search bar, you get a pile of results including people, businesses, photos and videos all taken in the area. There are some stunning photos of the Fingerlakes and if you were thinking of going to Cornell University just this search would give you a good idea of what the area is like and also who some of the leading people are from Cornell U on Twitter that you might like to follow and hit on for advice.
Facebook of course also now allows you to check in, whether you are on your mobile or at your desktop. More and more people are checking in using Facebook and this means that we have a good idea of where our friends are and what they are up to, which goes without saying anything further.
The most significant recent development in Facebook is Facebook Graph. This is the powerful search tool that lets us find out virtually anything we want to know, especially from a location based perspective, by mining our social network.
For example, lets say you were thinking about going to Cornell University. I typed in ‘Friends of Friends who like Cornell University”. Now I only know a couple of people who studied there, but it turns out that through friends of friends I came up with hundreds of results. Instantly I have a resource I can communicate with that I can find out anything I need to know.
If I was wanting to get a job at a particular company, I cold do the same thing. I could search for people I know, or people they know who work at that company and find people that can give me advice or help me get connected.
Of course one of the things about Facebook is that there are pages for Africa. I can find pages for cities and towns, schools, businesses, attractions anywhere in the world. Last year I did a tour of 4 states in the USA, starting with Louisiana. I spent 3 days in the Doctor’s House at the beautiful Oak Alley Plantation. I found information about them in the Louisiana Tourist Guide book which was posted to me by the tourist board. But what convinced me to go to Oak Alley was social media and one of the reasons was their Facebook page. In it you will see loads of information about the plantation and as I write I see Randy Jackson is performing there soon. You can also see loads of photos and comments from people who have enjoyed their visit. It was the social media recommendations that gave me the confidence that it would be a good experience and I can tell you it wasn’t good, it was great!
I don’t think I need to say much about YouTube. I’m sure you have already been there. I would just say that from a location perspective YouTube can sometimes be too good. What I mean by that is that, if you were to use YouTube to plan a holiday, you risk spoiling some of the surprise elements of discovery. When I go on a trip, I want to experience things for the first time. If I have already experienced those things vicariously through the lens of someone else’s camera, it can take some of the joy of discovery away.
On the other hand if you were thinking of moving to a new city or town, YouTube would be a great way to get to know it a little before you get there, or before you make your decision.
Most people think about Empire Ave as being a game, more than being a social networking environment. The gamification in my opinion is an engagement tool and just the tip of the iceberg. If you harness the relationships you can build in Empire Ave, you will find that you have a network of people who will go out of their way to share advice and knowledge with you. Michael has lots of information about Empire Ave so I won’t go into it here, other than to mention that well as great people, Empire Ave also has communities. You will find communities related to all manner of interests from cities to sports, to pretty much anything you can think of from A Capella singing to Zombies.
You can also search for people in a location. For example, want to find people in Wellington New Zealand, search under Wellington and filter under New Zealand. There they are. Invest a little in them and I’m sure you will find some friendly people. If you are thinking of moving somewhere, say Tokyo, search Tokyo and you find 12 pages of people, hey I think I know some people there.
This is of course a location based application and all about checking in. I use it extensively when I’m traveling. It helps me find places to visit and of course provides the value of crowd sourced information about places. The gamification keeps many people involved because they have the ability to win badges, compete against their friends, get special deals and if they frequent a place they can become the Mayor. Of course you have to keep gong back to maintain your mayoralty.
What is valuable here is that people leave ‘Tips’ about the businesses that you might want to know about before you go there. For example the tip at one international fast food brand store was ‘The bathrooms are clean here:(’
I went to a cafe in Jackson, Tennessee, which will remain nameless. Unfortunately I didn’t check it on Foursquare before I went in. We waited about 15 minutes to be served, then another 45 minutes before we got our lunch. During this time, less patient people than us came and left in frustration. We complained about the wait and this eventually resulted in a stand up argument between the manager and the waitress who told us we didn’t have to pay for our meal because they had kept us waiting so long, but that’s another story. I checked in on Foursquare after we left and there was a tip and some comments: “Avoid. Slow service.” “You could walk to New York and get a three course meal in the time it takes for a simple burger here.” Suffice it to say lesson learned.
I had another interesting experience with Foursquare on this trip. I was driving to an alligator hatchery in the middle of nowhere, Louisiana. I was driving on a narrow country road with a farm every few miles and then my navigation system told me that we had arrived. There was no sign of anything other than the narrow road with a ditch on each side and after another couple of miles the scenery had not changed.
For some reason I thought to check Foursquare and entered the name of the place I was looking for. It found it straight away. It was still about 5 miles away, but now I knew where to go. The management of the attraction had never even heard of Foursquare and the only people there besides us was a bus load of school children on a day trip. Maybe the others were still driving in circles with their car nav, or gave up.
The world is full of wonderful experiences waiting to be experienced off the beaten track. I found many of them using Foursquare.
Another feature of Foursquare is that you can upload a photo to the location. The photo with the check in is time stamped. This allows other people to see the photo, but what I subsequently found out was brilliant. I had taken a lot of photos during the trip. The photos were date and time stamped, but I had been to so many places I couldn’t remember which photos were taken where. When I went to the Foursquare website and logged on, I found that I could track back the entire history of my check ins, complete with photos.
I had planned to keep a travel diary and had even bought a travel diary application (which was a very nice application) for my iPad), but I found that the discipline of writing in it each day was too much for me. Subsequently I found that I in fact had one. It was all there on the Foursquare website in my history. I had a full chronology of my trip.
A lot of people mock check in applications like Foursquare because of the focus of the game mechanics. The game mechanics does encourage people to use it and smart retailers and business owners can generate a lot of business by offering deals for people who check in. The key to the game mechanics is that it encourages people to contribute information which then allows you and I to find what we are looking for.
Another element in Foursquare is that it allows you to see which of your friends are in the neighborhood. If its Friday night and you are looking to have a few drinks with some friendly faces, you can see who is in the neighborhood. I was once in a cafe in Mission Bay in Auckland and had someone tap me on the shoulder and ask if I was Luigi. We had been following each other on Twitter and he saw that I had checked into the same cafe.
But wait there’s more! Not all of the features in Foursquare are obvious. Explore Nearby is a really cool feature that a lot of people haven’t realised was there. It is in the search box, where you would normally enter the name of a location. Try tapping on the box without entering any information and a whole new menu list will appear including Best Nearby, Specials, categories and the one I really liked was Recently Opened.
I discovered a number of cool places that I’d like to try out and they are full of tips about what to order, or not to order, as well as telling me which of my friends have already been there, so if I really want an opinion from someone I trust, I know who to ask.
Location is Everywhere
Most people don’t think about location at first when they think about social media. They think more about numbers of people and topics they might want to discuss. In doing so, they miss much of the richness of the world and the people in it. Often the value isn’t immediately apparent, such as my travel diary from my American Road Trip.
Online social media connections often lead to real face to face connections. There are Tweetups and Meetups and simply situations where you have grown to know and trust people online, or you know and trust people they know, who will vouch for them. Now you can have access to expertise about any location on the planet, but also the opportunity to meet with them, if and when you mutually want to.
There are more and more social media applications being developed all the time, with specialist intent. For example the opportunity to car pool, to share accommodations, to tour an art district with a local artist. Some of these are amazing, but you can’t be on every social media application. This book will give you information about the ones that have the largest followings and by crowd sourced vote, are generically most useful to you.
Print media is in decay and whilst it has some good information, these days it is pretty much out of date by the time the ink is dry and tends to feature the opinions of a small number of people who may be somewhat biased in their content. Social media is as current as your connection and you can get real time responses to your interests.
Whether you are looking for a coffee, a job, a holiday or just someone to share information with, social media is today’s place to do that. It’s a pay it forward medium as well as a way to get information back. This is our world, lets go share it.
In Japan Yelp is yet to arrive. In New Zealand it is very new. Where does it fit in to all of this?
On The Street Where You Live
One of the things that seems to have changed since I was little is that people don’t seem to have a close relationship with their neighbours any more. I mentioned earlier that you can use demographic tools to help you decide where a good place to live might be. I’ll go into that some more soon, but you are already living somewhere and its a good idea to have a relationship of some sort with your neighbours. At the very least you can keep an eye out for possible intruders, or even just make sure that everyone is OK.
In the USA a new private network recently started up with an app called Nextdoor. They have web and mobile apps that let you stay in touch with your neighbours. Check out this example. I hope this spreads beyond the USA! What a great way to stay in touch, share information about good babysitters or help find your dog that ran away this morning!
Another app that I have used quite often when I’m out on my walks is SeeClickFix. This is an app that allows you to report things that need attention in your neighbourhood. It might be a pothole on the road, a blocked drain or graffiti that needs to be removed. You can take a photo, upload a description of the issue and the application grabs the coordinates of the location.
This application is not officially supported where I live, however, because I have a lot of Twitter followers and the app allows you to share the situation using social media, the issues I have logged, like this one have been taken care of very quickly by our local council. They don’t much like people using this app because they have no control over it, but of course that would be easily fixed if they created their own.
Another nice feature of this app is that it sends you a notification after a week or so to check if the issue has in fact been resolved.
There are many apps around that try to be focussed on ‘Local’ but many of them tend are really about selling advertising and are nowhere near as local or community minded as they may seem. Do you have any favourites that you use? Feel free to share a comment below.
Tourism is one of the industries that is still coming to grips with social media and it is struggling. It is an old industry and whilst some players are doing wonderful things with applications, others are really struggling and they need leaders like you, dear reader, to help them. I will share some information about locations that are really using social media well in the mobile space and perhaps some examples of how not to do it.
In June 2013 I attended a presentation by the CEO of New Zealand Tourism about their plans for the next 3 years with a significantly improved marketing budget. They had just sent a team of people to Los Angeles to attend a conference on social media. They came back with a number of interesting conclusions, the biggest one was that no one really understands it. This is pretty scary for a Government Department which is tasked with promoting a country as a tourist destination.
One of the issues they presented was that they don’t know how to map business value and as a consequence they will be putting most of their focus into just one element of media, being Facebook. Perhaps they would have been better off investing in this book, but of course it wasn’t available then:)
When I’m traveling and looking for somewhere to stay, one of my first ports of call online is TripAdvisor. The number one reason for this is the reviews, but location is of course the next most important.
TripAdvisor allows you to search for a variety of destinations including hotels and other forms of accommodation, restaurants, things to do and more. There is a map view which allows you to look for your destination in relation to your needs. For example last year I started a road trip in New Orleans. We were arriving at the airport at about 1AM, so we wanted a room that was relatively inexpensive and very close to the airport, very important after traveling for around 24 hours.
We were only going to be sleeping there and just wanted something that was clean and tidy. We didn’t need any other amenities. We found we had a choice of about 3 properties. First we looked at prices, then we looked at reviews. This is where social media comes in and whilst you might not think of it in that way, TripAdvisor is very much a social media platform. Properties can list themselves and pay to advertise, however, research says that less than 50% of people (rightly so in my opinion) believe the information contained in advertisements. Sure, there is fact in the features, such as they may have a gym and a swimming pool, but wait there is more.
A property may advertise that they have WiFi, but in several of the properties I’ve stayed in, it either didn’t work, was very slow, or only worked on part of the property. These things come to light from reading the reviews. It’s the reviews that make the difference, but you have to read them carefully because they are not all fair and reasonable.
There are people who review properties or attractions and feel they need to criticise. There are people who believe they are entitled to free upgrades and are annoyed when their excessive demands are not met. There are even fake reviews written by competitors. Once you’ve had a look through reviews from a few locations you start to get pretty good and spotting the trend and its the trend of the overall number of recent reviews that matters. If I see two average or poor reviews and 20 good ones, I have a pretty good idea of what the property is about.
On my last US trip I stayed at around 15 different properties and the experience I had in almost every single one of them was what I expected. This was totally because of crowd sourced reviews.
One other thing I will mention is that where there are good Hotel Managers who understand the value and importance of these reviews, they will respond on TripAdvisor to most of them, good or bad. Often when you read their ‘side of the story’ you realise that sometimes the ‘problem’ was a storm in a teacup.
I’ll leave you for now with one tip that will save you a lot of money. Sites like TripAdvisor have links to many reservation engines, web sites where you can book your room online. These engines of course get a cut on the accommodation booking and often if you are buying a ‘hot deal’ you will find yourself in the cheap room above the bar or by the elevator that no one wants. This is when people get upset and ask for a room change, often to be met with an apologetic ‘sorry but this is the room we made available for the deal you bought’.
What I found was that if you ring the hotel direct, tell them you found them through TripAdvisor and talk to the front desk, you will not only get a better price, but you will often get a better room. Use what you have learned from the reviews and ask for a room on the quiet side of the hotel that has a nice view. I have also learned that in order to get the best deal, ring at night, around 8PM. Most of the guests have checked in, the rush is over, the staff have had something to eat and are in a pretty good mood and often keen for a little conversation. From a social perspective and of course you do this already, ask for their name, note it down and use it in the conversation, showing that you care about them as they will care for you.
As a footnote (and let me know if you would like to know more tips about these tools) pay it forward and leave reviews of your own. Social media is a two-way street. Even if your stay was unremarkable and you couldn’t fault anything, leave a note and say so. It’s worth saying something nice if you can especially about particular staff members. It does get back to them. I used to stay regularly at the Park Royal Hotel in Christchurch, New Zealand. (Unfortunately the building no longer exists after the earthquakes). I made a note of telling the hotel manager that I was impressed that one of the staff members always remembered me by name. She was recognised and rewarded in a staff meeting and she was so grateful. Obviously it doesn’t happen very often, we take it for granted that people will treat us well, we pay for it, right? I don’t think so. Sincere good service demands recognition just as much as poor service does, even more so because the recognition raises the bar for everyone.
Mobile Apps for Destinations
There are many developers offering applications to destination properties such as hotels, concert halls and other tourist attractions. Most of them are brochureware and don’t offer much to the property or the user. They are built on a Content Management System and mostly serve the company that created the CMS. Most properties don’t understand the value of location based mobile pps and don’t tend to engage.
There are exceptions and there are a few I would like to share with you, because they understand the power of engaging. One of those is the Grand Ole Opry. The Opry is THE Country Music concert hall. If you are a country music fan and find yourself in Tennessee, this is a must go to place.
You will find everything you could possibly want in the application. You can listen to a live stream of music that is being played there. You can view the calendar, the app will take you to their Twitter account, their Facebook account, their Instagram account, their YouTube Live Channel, allow you to book tickets and shop for tours, ticket and merchandise, all from your mobile. You can comment on their fan wall, upload photos, tweet, view a map showing photos submitted by fans, find fans near your current location (it asks for your permission to know where you are and much more. Of course you can register for the mailing list (one of Michael’s must have’s for you) and more.
I put them to the test when I was there last year. During the concert I took a photo from my seat up in the gods and tweeted from inside their application, during a song. Up to the left hand side of the stage was a tweet reel showing tweets that had been sent to the Opry and there was a reply on there from them during the show, welcoming the Kiwis to the theatre and hoping that we were enjoying the show. The theatre was packed to the rafters and I was very impressed with the engagement. These are smart operators. They know that if they give you a quality experience, you will, like me become a Word of Mouth (WOM) ambassador for their business and you’all come back now ya hear? That’s how to do location based social media engagement for a venue.
The sad thing, or the opportunity, to look at it from a glass half full perspective is that there are so few concert halls that do anything like this, that they become renowned for it. So if you are into country music, get yourself the mobile app and even if you don’t get there, you can still hear and watch the concerts from your mobile and get to know other country music fans right there on your mobile.
Location and your Business
They say (and I agree) that buying and selling your home is one of the most stressful things you do in your life. It is also one of the most important things you do for many reasons. It is the most expensive asset most people own and where most of your money will go.
Let’s start by looking at it from the buyer’s perspective. What are some of the considerations for you? Obviously budget, finance approval and so on, but let’s assume you are open to buy and have the ability to look for a property at a certain value. You might want to look for properties based on proximity to your job, public transport, school zones, close to where your friends live, perhaps the suburb you already live in (which would be easy because you already have local knowledge). But what if you really don’t know?
It’s really hard. You can look at properties on various web sites, you can search by price, open homes, auctions, features such as number of bedrooms and bathrooms, but there seem to be very few places where you can view multiple properties that you are interested in on a map. I’ll come back to that.
Another real problem I’ve found is that most real estate sales people are very unprofessional in many ways. That is why the Pareto Principle doesn’t really work in the real estate industry where 95% of the sales are made by only 5% of the sales people. There is a corollary to this in my opinion. If you are selling, you want a really good sales person, but if you are buying, you might get a better deal from one that isn’t so good.
The 7 Pillars is really about your on-line presence so lets So how do you leverage your social media to find out where you might want to live? Let’s say I was going to look at moving to Nashville TN. Let’s have a look at how I cold use my social networks.
Facebook Graph Search allows me to look for ‘My friends who live in Nashville, Tennessee’. Ok, so that came up with one result. That’s a start but I want more. In the menu select the drop-down option for ‘Friends of Friends’. WOW, now the result is over 1,000 people!
Now we’re starting to get somewhere. I can’t show you details because of confidentiality, but try this for yourself. First you will see a list of people on the left hand side with photos, how many mutual friends you have, who they are and more. You can message these people directly, you don’t even need an introduction. If you click on ‘More’ information on the right, you can dig right down to very specific detail, it is scary how much you can find. You can look for all sorts of things that might help you find an opinion on the right place to live from people that think like you. These include religion, political views, education attained, who they work for, age range, what they ‘like’ and more.
Another thing I can do is just enter the name of the city into Graph Search (what the new search functionality is called). Here are the categories that resulted from my search:
- A page about the City
- Friends who Like Nashville Tennessee and related pages, including those who ‘were here, have lived here, and have worked here’
- Photos of my friends in Nashville
- Places in Nashville that have Facebook pages
- About Nashville, which includes famous people who were born there, sports teams.
- Related Pages on Facebook
- People you may know who have lived there
- People you may know who have worked there
All of this without even doing the obvious of asking my Facebook friends what and who they know.
When I come back, let’s have a look at how you might use: