I recently had the pleasure of attending eMarketer’s State of Mobile event here in New York.  It covered how marketers can leverage current mobile trends and was split into two parts:

  • Geoff Ramsey, eMarketer’s Chairman, presented data around mobile usage and offered tips on mobile success for marketers.
  • Eva Papoutsakis Smith of Pinterest discussed how the social media platform is used and how brands can leverage it.

eMarketer’s Geoffrey Ramsey 

We’ve all heard countless times over the years that this will be the year of mobile. While mobile devices now play a huge role in our lives, 2016 will be the year when mobile overtakes desktop in ad spending.

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People feel lost without their mobile device and marketers have reacted accordingly by increasingly investing in mobile ad spending.

With the emergence of location-enabled mobile devices, location has become the new computer tracking-cookie. This means that real-time marketing has become right-time marketing. As eMarketer’s Cathy Boyle said, “location is the cookie of the mobile world.”

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Marketers need to create relevant content that will serve consumers’ needs of a particular time and place.

The app store may have over a million apps available to download but 80% of our mobile time is spent with five apps: Facebook, YouTube, Maps, Pandora, and Gmail. Therefore, rather than try to change existing target behavior perhaps marketers can explore ways to participate in existing app behavior. For example, perhaps a marketer covers a Pandora commercial free day.

The eMarketer feature for US mobile ad spending can be found here

Pinterest’s Eva Papoutsakis Smith

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Pinterest’s Eva Papoutsakis Smith joined the conversation for the second part of the session. Pinterest can be accessed across a variety of devices including desktop, tablet, and smartphone. However, it’s chiefly accessed via mobile devices, with 75% of Pinterest activity happening on mobile.

While many view Pinterest primarily as a social media website, Smith conveyed their vision as being “an individual and personal tool for users to plan their future.” The platform enables people to dream where they want to go, what they want to achieve, and what they want to buy.

Also, while the platform is very visual, pins that include text often perform better than those without text.

Transactions may not take place on Pinterest but it plays a major role in eCommerce. A whopping two-thirds of all pins are for a brand or a business!

Product pins don’t just have to be product or service based, as it could also be collecting informative content. For example, a patient could utilize a Pinterest secret board to gather information and/or articles on a medical condition. (A secret board is only visible to you and people you invite to it).

If a brand is already on Pinterest perhaps show appreciation by mentioning people by name in the description of a pin, exclusive LTO offers, etc. How about giving those in your community some love? If a brand is not yet on Pinterest, they might be missing out on becoming an aspirational brand that people hope will become part of their lives. Why not join Pinterest to become more available so that people can include you in their future aspirations?


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Do you travel a lot? Or even a little? In either case, you are in luck because the tools available via mobile applications are making travel easier and easier. To that end, this past weekend, I had an opportunity to stay in San Francisco with my wife for our 17th wedding anniversary.

Because we booked the trip at the last minute based on some last minute business travel, we did a minimal amount of planning ahead of time. While leaving planning to the last minute can create some drama, my wife and I found that by using some of the right mobile tools, we were able to create a number of serendipitous moments that we will remember for a lifetime.

In the spirit of sharing, I’ve spelled out the five ways mobile apps enhanced our travel below. And because this is a business blog, I have also included recommendations on how businesses can benefit from these learnings:

  • Planning/tracking – Chances are, you have looked at a travel aggregator like Kayak or Travelocity on your desktop. If you’re on the go, the mobile apps for these sites give you a slimmed down interface with the ability to find the right flights, hotels, car rentals, etc. Once you’ve booked your flights, keep all your information in one place with Tripit (just e-mail your online itineraries to and voila, your trip is aggregated and organized in the same place).
    Business Opportunity – The biggest opportunity here is to get access to the data collected by these sites. Obviously Kayak and Tripit don’t just give this information away for free. But finding a travel site/aggregator that will partner or will sell you this information can provide insights into your customers… even if you don’t work in the travel industry.
  • Airline checkin/car rental – For anyone that travels more than a couple of times a year, downloading your airlines’ free mobile application is a no-brainer. Not only are they environmentally friendly (no paper for those that allow you to generate a mobile boarding pass) but they also save you time at the airport. Most of the major airlines (American, United, Delta, JetBlue, Southwest) also allow you to track your frequent flyer points, status and on the day you are traveling, your flight and gate information. If you are a frequent renter of cars, Hertz’s Gold app allows you to rent a car or track which space your car is located in via text or application-level alert.
    Business OpportunityParter with airlines/car rentals to provide local offers, education and services. The caveat here is that nobody wants to be spammed (and the airlines know this) so focus more on the value add versus the hard sell.  
  • Taxi/car service – A couple of years ago, a new service called Uber launched to much fanfare. At first, it was thought that the service was going to change the way people used cabs and car services. Unfortunately, cab companies were slower to adopt the service so it has evolved primarily into a way to order sedan service. Over the last several months, however a number of cab companies have developed their own apps. In San Francisco, the one I’ve used a few times now is the Yellow Cab Cooperative. Once you’ve downloaded the app and filled in your profile, you can immediately summon a cab with your app (no need to know your address since it uses your phone’s location). You can also track the progress of your cab as you wait for those of you on a tight timeline. In New York City, NBC and Vodaphone have partnered with Yellow Cab to offer up a service called Way2Ride. The cool thing about this app is that not only can you summon a cab but you can also pay with your phone as well (and then e-mail yourself the receipt).
    Business opportunity For any urban-based businesses, let your customers know about these car/cab services. If you want to surprise and delight your customers, consider offering free vouchers to be used with services like Uber or Yellow Cab Cooperative. 
  • Restaurant/business discovery – Given the fact that I wrote a book on location-based marketing, you won’t be surprised that I am still a fan of one of the original LBS services, foursquare. Lately, I’ve been using foursquare less to “check in” and more to discover local businesses and restaurants. The thing that is special about foursquare is it’s ability to filter results for local restaurants, cafes, wineries and other businesses by price, distance or the fact that you or a friend has checked in before. During our stay, my wife and I found all of the restaurants we ate at using foursquare. Note, cross-checking your foursquare selections with Yelp reviews can truly give you confidence that restaurant/business you select is the right one for you. Once you’ve found your ideal location, don’t forget to look at the “tips” on foursquare as you can often find hidden gems or off menu items. You can now also use your mobile Yelp app to write reviews on the spot!
    Business opportunity I’ve been harping on this one for a while but having your business set up/claimed on services like foursquare and Yelp is more important than ever. At a minimum, it will help with your search efforts. But more importantly, for those out looking to “discover” the most relevant business, why would you not want to be more visible?
  • Exercise – MapMyRun is just one example of mobile applications that make running/walking/biking in another city that much easier. I like MapMyRun because it helps me keep pace and lets me know when I’ve hit certain distances. However, the real win is that it will chart my run and let me know things like elevation, split times, etc. And if I come back to that city, I can see how I’m doing against previous times along that route.
    Business Opportunity: There are lots of sports/athletic companies that are already taking advantage of the opportunity to partner/advertise with services like MapMyRun. One clever move that I witnessed this pas weekend is that as I posted my workout from MapMyRun to Twitter, Dick’s Sporting Goods saw my tweet and engaged me… not to sell me put to pat me on the back and to ask if I was training for something. I already like Dick’s but now I am that much more inclined to shop there due to that brand connection.

There are obviously tons of other mobile apps out there that make travel easier. What’s your favorite?

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We no longer refer to analytics in the traditional way.  We call what we do “forensic analytics”, since we are looking for clues and patterns that will lead to insights that can solve problems or shape behavior for our clients.

Within the world of forensic analytics, we work in 3-D.  There are three critical views necessary to build a meaningful perspective on how a market is being shaped.

  • #1 – History – we want to know what the patterns of behavior have been over a 1-3 year period….or longer..
  • #2 – Present – what is happening today/this week in a key country or region?  What do people care about, overall?
  • #3 – Location – what is happening at the store/event level?  What is igniting passion at the point of sale/customer decision?

Said another way, we look deep, daily and door-to-door.

Our clients already know the first two well.  The third capability is now available via unique lens technology provided by our partner, SnapTrends.

We can place a lens over any location anywhere in the world.  More importantly, we can place lenses, proactively, over locations where we know we’ll want to turn them on someday.

You can build a global location-based network for your company or organization that can be turned on when you want it.

We’ve spent the better part of a year ensuring we can build the right ways to catch this data, so that it can be useful to our clients and it matches up with historical and present data.  After all, if you just get a lot of info, who cares.  It has to be filtered so we tease out what insights are relevant and actionable and it needs to relate to our algorithms and models.

Now it does and our first four products are ready to go.   The first is Retail Radar, the second is Political Radar, the third is Event Radar and the fourth is Workforce Radar.

All four have these traits in common.

You identify “where” you want to measure.  For example, place a lens over all retail stores in a country or region or at your event sites or voting districts.  There is no limit.  You decide what you want, we create the lenses and then we only turn them on when you need them.

You measure “what matters” at the store or event or facility level.  You’ll learn what content and topics are catalyzing passion and driving behavior.

Our model will then help you determine “how” to follow-up.  Do you want to follow-up via social media, e.g. follow key people on twitter?  Or do you want to share important content in near real-time to fuel conversation further?  Where should the insights go, since different insights go to different people in your organization.

Finally, you can analyze “why” a trend is developing.  What message or content is accelerating or decelerating in importance at the store or event or district level.

There is a lot more to share, but…..

  • Imagine if you outlined all locations and events that matter to you for the year, so you could learn what was happening and have it sent to your laptop or tablet or phone.
  • Imagine if you could tell what was actually happening at the store level to see if passion and action is happening and figure out what is happening in Store #1 in Atlanta vs. Atlanta vs. Georgia vs. Southeast vs. U.S.
  • Imagine if you could track all of your company’s physical locations to ensure that no sensitive information was being shared publicly.
  • Imagine if you knew of an issue occurring at one of your facilities as soon as people start talking online or you could drop a lens over any issue in real-time to learn faster than those gathering news of the issue.

There are many scenarios to imagine.  We’ve thought of most of them and you will think of others.  We’ll save that information for our next conversation.

All the best, Aaron Strout, Michael Westgate & Bob Pearson

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Every year, the Entertainment Merchants Association, including our client, Warner Brothers hosts an entertainment summit and fundraising event to raise money for Cystic Fibrosis. This year, WCG had the honor of being one of the sponsors. Stephan Merkens and Stephanie Nordstrom represented WCG during the three day event.

Apart from being a fundraiser for Cystic Fibrosis, the event also gives industry representatives from television, film and gaming the chance to come together and meet vendors and service providers. In preparation for the event, WCG created 2 large infographics which drew a lot of attention and acted as a good conversation starters for a number of our visitors at our booth. The first infographic was adapted form content from Natalie DeNikes “Game of thrones” infographic, while the other showcased some of the social analytics that WCG has captured around Cystic Fibrosis over the last year.

 Fox Casino Night


On Wednesday night, Stephan snuck off to represent WCG on a panel on the future of location based marketing with some of the folks at the Los Angeles Social Media Club. While  Stephanie networked with our WB partners at  the event’s casino night.

Potential Partners/Cool Apps:

Tongal – A video/content creation platform that creates challenges for branded content ideas and then sources filmmakers through a bidding system. Tongal is also interested in potentially partnering to use our analyitcs to identify influencers for their clients.


TrailerPop – Trivia game & movie discovery platform delivering trailers & trivia for thousands of films. Works on multiple operating systems


Skit – A storytelling app that allows fans to move animated objects, insert their own images/photos, record voice etc. The storyline changes as people re-skit each other’s work (UGC). Only on iOS right now.


Overall, the event was a success with a great chance for us to show off our capabilities and set up a number of potential meetings with both new vendors and potential partners.

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We are excited to be partnering with the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to present a five part webinar series on social media and some of the key topics that support it (blogging, mobile, content creation, influencer outreach). A recap, recording and slides from the first webinar on Getting Started with Social Media can be found here. You can also access the recording and slides from the second, Blogging 101 — Helping You Get Started, third, Creating Content and Engagement for Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter, and fourth, Managing and Connecting with Your Influencers webinars via the links to those posts.

During the webinar, Getting Started with Mobile and Location-Based Marketing, Stephan Merkens of the W2O Group spent time addressing key trends and best practices on mobile and location-based tools and marketing techniques . Because Stephan had some technical difficulties with the questions module, he took some time to answer a number of the submitted questions below.

As promised, the full recording of the webinar is embedded below. You can also find the transcription here. You can also click through to see the video on Youtube

In addition, the slides from the webinar are below on Slideshare.

As promised, here are the answers to the questions Stephan wasn’t able to get to during the webinar:

  • I have more than one business. Would you suggest trying multiple platforms for testing?
    I would suggest treating each business individually. Each brand will probably have its particular audience that will probably gravitate towards a particular platform. If each business has a separate location, I would set them up in Foursquare and look at how people engage with them.
  • I have a mobile business; I actually have a trailer I take to an event. Any different thoughts from what you’ve already presented?
    Mobile businesses like food trucks have paved the way for other mobile businesses with the innovative ways that they use mobile marketing. Consider these options:

    • Allow users to follow you on your twitter handle along with a link to google maps to update your location while on the road.
    • Use SMS with an autoreply to share your next location
    • Use a mobile payment system with WIFI to handle your transactions and send email receipts to your customers.
    • Also, if you’re looking to invest in something more permanent, take a look at they provide mobile tools for vendors like you who make their living in more than one place.
  • If you are a mainly web based business don’t you think most of this would apply?
    Depending on the business model and product, it might make sense to offer your products in a mobile optimized form if your audience thinks about your product while away from their computers.
  • Are QR codes still a viable mobile marketing tool?
    While QR codes still account for the majority of print to mobile conversions, the desire to use them in marketing campaigns is slowing.

    • Brands are realizing that QR codes take up a lot of valuable retail space
    • Technology has advanced enough where barcode scanning and image recognition that can take the place of a traditional QR code.
    • Content tends to be non mobile optimized and unimaginative, which has led to consumers ignoring them
  • Do I think they will ever go away?
    No, but we will see many more ways for consumers to connect with a brand in more meaningful ways.
  • Can you detail more local mobile search?
    Mobile search is not that different from a typical local search. People do however use mobile search at different times and for slightly different things. Mobile search typically happens when people aren’t at their computers, so evenings and weekends see the biggest numbers for searches. Also, search on mobile typically comes from people that are looking to take action immediately (Google reported that on Mother’s Day, 33% of searches for “flowers” were from mobile devices).
  • What’s your timeline expectation to see that 56% go to 75%?
    1 year ago, the industry projected that smartphone adoption would hit 50% in the U.S by around 2014. I would expect smartphone adoption to hit 75% early 2015.
  • How would you tell a small business to start, from square one?
    • Make sure that your address information is up to date so that people can find you
    • Engage with Foursquare and Yelp to set up small local marketing efforts around your location.
    • If your audience is suited to it, set up a twitter account to communicate with your clients on the go.
    • Buy local search.
  • Can you further explain Nerdwallet? is a site that provides reviews of mobile payment processing as well as credit cards and personal finance options.
  • Why we need an extra apps or devices on the smartphone for payments if we can directly pay from the vendor’s webpage?
    Mobile payment systems like square are for retail locations that don’t want to go through traditional methods of setting up a merchant account to sell their products. While people can still go online and purchase a product, these tools make it easy to take a physical credit card as payment in a retail location.
  • Any pros and cons to using Paypal mobile
    Paypal mobile uses a phone dongle to allow users to scan cards similar to Square and NCR. Nerdwallet profiled the service along with others in the space and had this to say: “PayPal Here is best for merchants who:

    • Do less than five figures or more than six figures in monthly sales AND
    • Have an average transaction amount under $26 and take American Express OR
    • Have an average transaction amount under $17”
    • They also provided this chart listing service fees. As you can see Paypal here falls near the higher end of the spectrum.
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As someone that has taken more than a passing interest in location-based marketing over the last five years, I am continually listening to and learning from customers and thoughtleaders in the space to find out where the market is heading to stay ahead.

One of the requests we’ve heard consistently from clients is for more local insights based on analytics.  Unfortunately up until about four or five months ago, this was more of a pipe dream than a reality because as much as we searched, we couldn’t find a technology partner that could help us deliver on this promise.  And then along came SnapTrends.

Based in Austin, SnapTrends delivers an innovative location-first listening solution backed by an intellectual property portfolio, which enables organizations to listen over specified areas of any shape or size to better understand and effectively engage with customers based on what can often be unique, heterogeneous local conditions and context.

As SnapTrends CEO Eric Klasson likes to say: “Social data enhanced by the context of location has been a missing link for many businesses. Our Software-as-a-Service solutions are a big step forward as companies work to formulate and execute effective social media strategies” at the local level.

We agree and strongly believe that the combination of SnapTrends’ location-based listening technology and our analytics expertise allow us to create a partnership that can improve how companies more precisely engage with and target particular customers and stakeholders via social media.

My colleague and W2O Group President Bob Pearson believes that location-based analytics will be one of the most important paradigm shifts for companies over the next three to five years and will be centered on their ability to identify insights in real-time that can shape behavior and transactions anywhere in the world.

This new overlay we call “forensic analytics” gives us the ability to sift through mountains of data for the right clues that, when combined with our models, provide a unique advantage for our clients to accomplish their business goals by tailoring more effective approaches based on unique local market conditions.

If you want to learn more about how SnapTrends and W2O will be partnering, they will be speaking and demoing it at our suite of events during SXSW in early March.

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This morning, I had the pleasure of moderating a panel titled “On the Location-Based Services Horizon” at the second annual Foodservice Social Media Universe (FSMU for short). Joining me on the panel were three of the smartest folks not only in the restaurant industry but also in the world of location-based services. This group included Rick Wion, director of social media at McDonalds, BJ Emerson, VP of Technology at Tasti D-lite and Lauren Barash, director of corporate communications at Moe’s Southwest Grill.

  • During the hour long conversation, I kicked us off with a few relevant mobile/location-based facts including:
  • Smart phone penetration has reached 50% in the U.S. (
  • As of May 2012, 74% of smart phone users claimed having used a location-based service. This includes things like Google Maps. (Pew Internet Study)
  • According that same report, 18% of smart phone users claimed to have checked into a venue like a movie theater using a service like foursquare. That number is up from 12% year over year. (Pew Internet Study)
  • The leading location-based service, foursquare, has approximately 24 million users (LBMA September, 2012)
  • Photo sharing service, Instagram (now part of Facebook), has grown to 80 million users in just 18 months (C|Net)

Following the industry stats, each panelist took some time to talk about what their companies were doing on the location-based marketing front. Here are a few of the key take aways from each:

McDonalds: 1) during key pilots, they have gotten good traction with foursquare in driving increased checkins. 1) After analyzing their mobile web traffic, they realized that a) store locations with details about drive thrus and playscapes b) nutritional information and c) job applications are the top three most visited areas of their site. Their mobile app features those three items. 3) In order to train franchise owners, they have used location-based scavenger hunts (check into a bar/get a tip/complete an action). This has worked well in helping their franchisees understand foursquare and how it works better).

Moes: 1) They have a check-in club that allows customers to connect their foursquare accounts to Moe’s loyalty program. Customers earn points through check-ins and can achieve “rock star” status on Moe’s leaderboard. 2) Changing offers requires a lot of training for staff which sometimes slows the pace of innovation at many retail locations. 3) Moe’s is also working together with their cheese vendor to sponsor a free queso day tomorrow.

Tasti Dlite: 1) BJ and this CEO just wrote/published a book called The Tasti D-lite Way that document’s the companies location-based and social media journey. 2) An early innovator in the location-based space, Tasti D has created a way to connect foursquare, Facebook and Twitter to their loyalty card. When the card is swiped, it auto posts across the customer’s social networks and gives the customer points for each purchase/check-in. 3) BJ thinks that one way retail stores/restaurants can create higher engagement/check-in activity with their customers is to put a customer-facing camera at each register that would capture any willing customers as they checked in.

There were a lot of great tweets from our session as well as from the conference. You can see them here.

  • I said that I believed that Google would ultimately win the race given the recent UI change it made by allowing users from the mobile page to “use your current location” and then suggest nearby bars, restaurants and coffee shops.
  • BJ thought that a great focus on value exchange from brands and more “celebrating” of mayorships should take place
  • Lauren disagreed with me that Google would win (while agreeing that having one’s place page(s) correct was critical. For her, it’s about more check-ins and better offers/value.
  • Rick suggested that based on activity they are seeing from Radian6 whether or not photos are the new check-ins (McDonalds sees far more customer photo uploads than checkins — to the tune of thousands/day)

Last but not least, here is a list of some resources that I’ve pulled together for the last few LBM sessions I’ve done. Included on that list are links to BJ’s book and a few of the reports referenced in the report. Enjoy!


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This week, after a year of check-ins, badges and mayorships, I’m walking away from Foursquare. I’m not abandoning the network out of anger, and I won’t even be removing the app or closing my account. I’m just going to stop the endless checking in. I held out on foursquare for longer than I probably should have, as a communications professional, but my colleague Aaron Strout convinced me to give it a whirl.

Aaron is the guy who (literally) wrote the book on location-based marketing, and you can see the initial discussion we had after I took the plunge here.

My year of use has not been without lessons. Here are the five most important:

Via Flickr user dpstyles
  1. “Gamification” is hugely powerful, and foursquare is hugely good at it. While there have been a lot of people trying to capture foursquare’s gaming mojo, it’s hard to replicate the levels of rewards that they built it. Because Facebook wasn’t just about playing a social game against your friends. There was a society-level game you played against strangers (mayorships) and — for the quieter among us — the individual quest for badges, which didn’t require any social element at all.
  2. As a city guide, foursquare is awfully impressive. Because it’s built for mobile, and because the base of engaged users is substantial, the app is a great way to find cool eats and sights in a new place. Of course, you don’t need to be an active foursquare user to treat the app like a guidebook. In this case, it’s the active users that are doing the hard work for the rest of us.
  3. Privacy remains an issue. Griping about privacy is generally a losing proposition for a blogger. What seems to be a massive violation today is likely to be standard practice tomorrow (does anyone remember the months-long carping about how Gmail ads were  going to destroy society? I didn’t think so). But foursquare still gives more information than I’d like, even to people I trust. It’s not because the service in any way evil. It’s just that telling lots of people precisely when you get coffee is baked into the whole idea of the check-in.
  4. Businesses are crippling adoption. If your run a local consumer business, doing a foursquare promotion should be a no-brainer. There are a thousand ways to design specials to dial in a specific commitment/reward level. Yet the number of businesses who are taking advantage of that is minimal. In my year on foursquare, I used exactly one special: on my first day on the service, I received luggage tags for checking into a small, regional airport. That’s not a huge return on the data I’ve invested in the service. I would argue that foursquare’s user base would be larger and more engaged even with a modest increase in the number of promotions. Instead, Foursquare specials remain a wasteland, with notable exceptions. (It doesn’t have to be this way. Have I mentioned Aaron and Location-Based Marketing for Dummies?)
  5. The promise remains unfulfilled. I gave foursquare a ton of my data, and it gives very little back: some recommended places to explore, some badges, and that’s about it. But there is a tremendous amount that could be done. Imagine if Foursquare could take all of my checkins from a week of vacation and plot them on a map, along with the associated status updates and photos. What if I could publish that map to a blog? What if I could order that map as a poster-size souvenir? In short, I’d like to get something more out of my checkins than gamification.

All this doesn’t mean I won’t completely walk away. foursquare is a nice database of the cool places I’ve been (so I can look up that place in North Carolina with the can’t-miss hushpuppies). I’ll use it, quietly and privately, as a note-taking system. And as I mentioned in #2, seeing the comments and check-ins of others is hugely useful and requires no sharing of my own data. But I won’t be mindlessly checking in at the grocery store any more. I’ll still use my grocery rewards card, though. Because — unlike foursquare — I know what I’m getting back each time that bar code gets read.

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This post originally appeared on the MITX blog on 5/1/12.

Historical Perspective

Fifty years ago, life was relatively simple for marketers. They had to worry about billboards, newspapers and magazines, direct mail, radio spots, brochures, and maybe TV ads. The late nineties introduced new marketing vehicles like websites, online banners, e-mail, search engine marketing, and instant messaging. Fast forward 15 years to 2012 and now CMOs not only have to worry about everything the last five generations of marketers had to worry about but throw in twenty plus new channels including podcasts, blogs, online video, location-based applications, and new social networks, the latter of which easily account for north of a billion users.

With so many new marketing outlets to worry about, how can one possibly keep up? For starters, it’s helpful to steer clear of shiny object syndrome or the desire to chase the new app/network that all the cool kids in the blogosphere are ranting about. That doesn’t mean that marketers shouldn’t pay attention to what’s new and test and learn to ensure they are ready when the next Google, Facebook or Twitter comes along (hint: Pinterest had 104.4 million visits in March). However, it does mean that some discipline should be applied and in particular, observing these five rules when it comes to determining where time, effort, and dollars should be spent.

Five Rules for evaluating new online opportunities:

  1. Does new channel X align with your companies goals? Does it align with your key performance indicators? Will it help you and your team come bonus time? If the answer to these is no, you might want to think long and hard about whether you allocate resources to it.
  2. Are your customers using it? Will they be? If so, does it replace another activity? E.g. reading blogs versus reading magazines?
  3. Is there critical mass? Will there be? If the answer is, “maybe,” it might be a good idea to look at how they integrate with bigger social networks like Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, and Facebook. Photo sharing sites like Instagram and Pinterest have benefited greatly from their wide and deep integration into bigger social networks; especially with Facebook, which boasts more than 900 million members.
  4. Never EVER fall into the “my CEO wants it so I’m going to do it” trap. While the CEO’s opinion is arguably one of the most important (if not THE most important) in the company, that doesn’t mean that it’s always right. In fact, when it comes to new social and digital channels, there is a good chance that the CEO’s interest in a new social network may have come from a Wall Street Journal article she or he just read or maybe a trend she has noticed with her kid’s friends. There may be some “there” there but if her latest interest doesn’t align with that of the company’s, find a way to walk away.
  5. Can you measure it? Don’t minimize the importance of this and how it ties back to rule number one. This doesn’t mean that everything you measure has to have hard ROI attached to it but it should mean that you can tell if you’re moving the needle and ultimately, if the time and effort you are investing is paying off.

Everything in moderation, including moderation

Now that you know the five rules, be prepared to ignore the five rules. Well, not really. But it is key to remember that sometimes it does pay to follow a hunch. The way I’ve learned to look at opportunity is as part of a risk portfolio. With everything you do from a marketing standpoint, there should be a balance. That means taking bigger risks with bigger payoffs but mitigating those with smaller risks likely to deliver equally big payoffs. While, as the saying goes, “nobody gets fired for hiring IBM,” the owners of Instagram never would have made $1 billion by selling to Facebook had they not taken some early risks (like launching on iPhone only).

So what are your rules? Please share them in the comments for others to benefit.

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