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Small Business Marketing & Management: Geolocation

Topic: Business Management,Growing Your Business,Marketing,Small Business Marketing,Solopreneur,Tech Tools | Comments (3)

Posted on July 22, 2010 by admin

Right now there is a lot of discussion around  social media and technological innovations that have the potential to provide uncharted opportunities for small businesses to reach new audiences. The most active users of these technologies exist in certain markets, like San Francisco, New York, LA, Boston, but with their rapid growth and popularity (and plans to expand into other areas) these trends could be coming your way soon.

The WorkingPoint offices are located in San Francisco, which means that we are lucky enough to be exposed to the newest trends, technology and innovations before they  reach everyone else. We want to help you to explore these technologies and how they might work for your business.

Geolocation and Small Business

In certain circles there’s a lot of buzz and excitement around Geolocation right now. Foursquares multimillion dollar valuation is being lauded as the latest indicator that influential people believe the trend is here to stay. However if you’re like most Americans, you’ve never even heard of it. According to Mashable, only 7% of Americans are even aware that Geolocation services exists.

What is Geolocation?

According to Wikipedia:

Geolocation is the identification of the real-world geographic location of an object, such as a cell phone or an Internet-connected computer terminal. Geolocation may refer to the practice of assessing the location, or to the actual assessed location.

The term Geolocation, as we’re using it here, has come to represent the technology that enables you to both pinpoint, and then broadcast, your physical location via the use of a smartphone.

Geolocation services owe their ascension to the increasing use of Smartphones which these days commonly include both GPS and internet capabilities. These capabilities are what enable the smartphone users to track and then broadcast their locations.

Meanwhile, the rampant popularity of sites like Twitter and Facebook revealed that people wanted to share everything with their friends. People where broadcasting with a mockable frequency what they are thinking, doing, wearing, eating, thinking about eating… Crowd sourced, location based review sites like Yelp created a online community of advocates (and detractors) who openly shared where they shopped and ate, and those opinions now dominate how a large and active community of users makes consumer decisions. The obvious next step in this world of absolute transparency was to let people know where you are in real time.

From this combination of factors, the “check in” was born. Now, Geolocation applications like FourSquare, Loopt, Twitter geolocation for tweets and even Yelp’s Iphone App let you broadcast your location, either through the app or by linking the updates to your Facebook or Twitter profile.

What does this have to do with my small business?

Foursquare and other Geolocation services are currently working with larger partners like Starbucks to provide coupons, frequent user discounts and other marketing incentives to their communities. Built into Foursquare is a frequent user contest, the “quest to become the mayor” and in certain locations mayors receive special discounts as well.

These Geolocation applications allow you to leverage your customers social networks to advertise your business. If know that my friends like to get their dresses altered at this location, or like this restaurant or go to this healthfood store, I am more likely to go to those places as well.

These Geolocation services also broadcast “trending” spots, or spots that are the most popular at any given time, which means that your location can have it’s own “viral” popularity among the user community.

Sounds great, what’s the catch?

Well, for one thing, Geolocation only works if you are a location based business. If you are not location based then this technology isn’t going to work for you!

Another caveat is that while it may seem that everybody has a smartphone, the actual statistics reveal that this is more perception than reality. According to Mashable, only about 30% of mobile users are using their browser, only 29% are using downloaded apps, and only about 19% are using their phones for social networking or blogs. As I mentioned earlier, only 7% of Americans even know that the technology exists. That’s a lot of room for growth!

Morever, proponents of the technology describe it as being free. Technically it is “free” since there is no actual cost associated, but if you’re running a solo or small business your time is quite possibly the most valuable asset you have, and spending your time on a tactic is an investment. Unfortunately, nothing is really free!

But here’s why you should still consider it…

If you are a location based business, and you are the first or one of the first in your area to adopt Geolocation strategies and technology, you will have access to the market before other businesses do. You know you are the best, so all you need is to get them in the door and then you can win them (and their loyalty, and their advocacy and their social network, and their social networks advocacy…) before other businesses do.

The first businesses to effectively use the Yelp community to win advocates are still reaping the benefits of their rankings and reviews over their slow to adapt competitors. And experts believe that the trend is inevitable and it will makes it way to your doorstep soon.

So if you’re ready to go for it and want to know how…

This great article from Mashable, “HOW TO: Make Your Small Business Geolocation-Ready” details how you can be the first in your community to adopt geolocation technology. She also advocates for the benefits of adopting the technology.  If you are a little bit familiar with the technology, or a quick learner and willing to dive into something new, this article will get your business Geolocation ready.

I suggest before spending too much time on the technology for your business, first giving it a try as a user, so you can experience and understand how and why people are using the technology.

What do you think? Will you be using Geolocation for your Small Business?