CKE Restaurants, which owns Carl’s Jr and Hardee’s, has an iPhone/Android app that allows people to check-in at their local fast food locations to be rewarded with a chance to win free stuff. The interface is very clean and at first glance the prizes appear to be pretty substantial, including anything from a dollar off your next soda to free burgers. The Wheel of Awesome, which is also available on both companies’ Facebook pages, is able to ramp up the rewards that an individual is eligible to win based on their frequency of application usage. Once a coupon has been awarded, the winner has 7 days to redeem it by showing their “winning ticket” at the point of sale. This is a great example of a way for restaurants/retailers/grocers to reward their customers through location based services, leverage the functionality of social media, and ultimately increase brand awareness and customer loyalty by applying a simple and fun ‘game-layer’ to what would otherwise be ordinary, everyday coupons.
Facebook has released a beta version of a new form of messaging to a select few of its 500 million users that has important implications for the digital communication methods of retailers. The new platform allows easy filtering of Facebook messages, SMS, MMS, and emails within a personalized “social inbox” tied directly to each user’s Facebook friends. This platform puts a new premium on the delivery of promotional messages that are relevant, timely, and valued, and those retailers who miss the boat will risk losing the communication channel with their users. The traditional methods of mass-messaging to any email address or phone number on record will no longer be effective; the time is now for retailers to start using point-of-sale software capable of collecting and synthesizing data about their customer preferences and segmentation.
Looking for ways to increase their penetration in Location Based Services (LBS), Facebook announced yesterday that they’ve added an application called Deals to their platform. Currently only 4% of online adult Americans use LBS applications to let their friends know where they are throughout the day. As an incentive, Facebook has teamed with 21 businesses (so far) to offer deals to users who check-in to certain locations around their cities; Gap is offering a free pair of blue jeans to the first 10,000 people who check-in at a Gap location on November 5, 2010; Macy’s is giving shoppers 20% off for checking in; REI, Starbucks and 24 Hour Fitness are all offering to donate money to various charities for every check-in at their locations. These rewards are clearly more pragmatic and meaningful than the badges and titles that users on Gowalla and Foursquare have competed for up to now, and should provide greater incentive for the general public to at least start considering the use of LBS. Ultimately, Facebook needs to remove as many barriers-to-use of this LBS functionality as possible; the most powerful delivery method of these rewards will be the user simply collecting and storing their credits in a digital wallet, as opposed to “proving” that they’ve checked in to a store clerk before they can claim their discount at the point of sale. The user could then simply check-in at various locations and the store would instantly recognize their account and provide discounts automatically. What do you think about Location Based Services? Do you use them currently? Would you check-in for a free pair of Gap blue jeans?
This past May, 7-Eleven launched a social media campaign called The 7-Eleven Road Trip Rally, which featured 2 teams racing across the United States for 3 weeks to the Indy 500. They were only allowed to make pit stops at 7-Elevens, and the webisodes all featured challenges that highlighted the brands and goods sold at their stores nationwide. 7-Eleven hired Blip.tv to essentially put together the entire project, and they in turn outsourced the creative content and production of the short films to Happy Little Guillotine Films. Viewers were able to watch up to 5 new webisodes per week, as well as track the teams in real-time on their trips across the country.
By combining reality TV content with social media, 7-Eleven and their partner brands were able to post entertaining videos with their products and services cleverly layered into the content. The next step in the process of engaging viewers with this creative new form of advertisement is making the reality-based webisodes more interactive for everyone watching at home; allow everyone to vote for their favorite team on Facebook and give the winning team extra money to spend during their pit stops; poll viewers on Twitter to decide what they want the next challenge to be; enable everyone watching to “recommend” products for the racers to try at their next stop and reward the people at home with free products/promotional offers from those brands. This hybrid platform of social media and reality TV has virtually limitless potential for brands and retailers interested in product placement – the only question is who will take the next step?
With social media now “fast becoming more popular than e-mail on mobile devices and more convenient for news consumption than the daily paper”, companies and organizations across all industries are competing for social media market share, whether they’re aware of it or not. Brands and Retailers are now able to post hi-resolution images on their pages, which can be very useful for a company looking to engage consumers; Travelocity has already taken advantage of the opportunity and appears to be getting very good feedback from its “Fans”.
Consumer Review/Event Groups and Live Chat Forums are also now possible on Facebook, thanks to the site’s “New Groups” feature. This functionality is practically begging to be leveraged by companies looking to survey, communicate and/or engage their fans. Facebook Questions also falls into this category as a way for companies to talk with consumers at a very base, one-to-one level.
The Golden State Warriors NBA team are a perfect case study in how to turn pedestrian email campaigns into powerful, social media events. Kyle Spencer, the team’s Marketing Director, sent out emails offering fans free tickets to preseason games if they’d log into their Facebook accounts and simply “Like” the team. In total, they sent out 2 emails and increased their visibility in social media by 20% (15k additional Facebook followers). These are some truly impressive results for a minimal capital outlay; with the enhancements being made to the site recently, the only thing standing between a company’s social media marketing efforts and success is its own creativity.
Bing and Facebook have announced a partnership to augment normal search engine results with social media data; the intention is to make search results more personalized and relevant by by combining individual preferences with information pulled from Facebook “friends”. From the consumer side, this technology should be very useful in deciding which movie to see or where to go for dinner.
However, the risks of the Bing/Facebook search and recommendation engine run straight to the heart of growing privacy concerns. Facebook has a record of sharing user information without permission: the Wall Street Journal recently reported that of the top 10 Facebook apps, all 10 had moved user data over to ad companies, and some were even capturing and monetizing information about the friends of those users. This means that combining Bing’s search capability with friend activity could potentially make the social media site even more invasive than ever.
The Facebook experience may be instructive for retailers; as retailers acquire and use customer data with greater frequency, the pressure from third parties to help monetize that data in new ways will increase as well. What’s your take on all of this? Does the addition of friend activity to search via Bing add incremental value to the user experience, or have Facebook and Bing really gone too far? Give us your thoughts!
Dunkin Donuts has run marketing campaigns on Facebook in the past by asking their “fans” to design the perfect donut for a chance to win $12,000. This time the Quincy, Massachusetts-based company is seeking the “Ultimate DD Coffee Fan” by offering prizes to Facebook users who put together the best videos explaining why they love Dunkin Donuts coffee more than anyone else. The Grand Prize includes a trip for two to Costa Rica and 60 months of free donuts, with 10 First Prizes of 12 months of free donuts also on the table. The categories they’ve chosen to evaluate the submitted videos by are “Passion for the Dunkin Donuts Brand”, “Overall Video Appeal” and “Originality/Creativity”. This contest is just one piece of the overall efforts that Dunkin Donuts has put into their Facebook marketing campaign as they attempt to catch up to their “Ultimate Coffee-Grinding Rival” in social media; there are currently just over 2 million people who have “liked” Dunkin Donuts, compared to over 14 million for Starbucks. The fact that these promotions are becoming more widespread and a larger part of marketing for major companies is further confirmation that social media has evolved into one of the most powerful tools in a customer relationship management strategy.
Target, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and Walmart have all officially entered the arena of Social Networks in an attempt to boost their market share, and there’s still plenty of room for growth. With Walmart over 1.6 million Facebook followers, and Target with almost 1.8 million, the race is on to see who will be the Retail-King of social media. These large chains are fully underway in social media to gain exposure and build customer relationships, but mid-size and smaller grocers are strangely proving much slower to implement the technology.
Clearly there are some market-leaders when it comes to technology adoption outside of the major chains – Newport Avenue Market in Bend, Oregon and Granite Falls IGA Market in Washington state are two great examples – but the segment as a whole appears to be lagging behind their larger competitors. In an industry where smaller retailers are unable to compete with the big-boys on price or product selection, building and maintaining customer relationships should be priority number one; the vast majority of small and mid-size grocers are missing a great opportunity to connect with their customers through social media.
Apple recently released their first attempt at a social media application, Ping, and so far the results have not been pretty. In essence, Ping is an internet driven messaging app that was built with the hopes of marrying iTunes and Facebook. Many users are frustrated with the lack of connectivity between the two platforms, and by the fact that simply listening to a song on your iTunes isn’t enough to inform your Facebook friends that you “like” a particular artist. Another major issue has been the fact that users cannot listen to their entire library through Ping, as they had been able to do with Lala. The major question now seems to be why hasn’t Apple been able to produce a social media tool with the usual “this is so cool, I have to have it!” Apple-functionality built into it? A number of analysts are suggesting that the music industry and its conglomerate of recording labels has been extremely resistant to Apple launching iTunes with Facebook connectivity because of the risks it would pose for music sharing among iTunes “friends”. What remains to be seen now is whether Apple will be able to negotiate better terms with the music labels to enhance its Ping platform, or whether they’ll simply have to choose another tact for the service and figure out a new play into social media.
The unprecedented success of Facebook in the social media space has seen plenty of would-be competitors fall by the wayside, most notable Myspace. It now appears that the California-based “nerdopolis” known as Google is preparing to challenge the social media icon for market share, and many analysts are expecting them to continue acquiring bite sized tech companies leading up to the launch of their platform, “Google Me”. The most recent of these buyouts occurred last week with Ångströ, which Google purchased largely for their social media integration capabilities and super-focused search engine functionality. If Google expects to compete with Facebook, one major area for them to potentially make headway is with privacy issues/policies – unfortunately this is something that Google has already struggled with in their Buzz and Latitude offerings.
With privacy advocates now more and more concerned over the recent release of Facebook’s “Places”, a location based service meant to connect users with friends and brands, Google appears to have an opening and may be able to attract users with the right mix of functionality and confidentiality. Some major strikes against Facebook in the privacy arena have been the complexity of its privacy agreement and settings, sharing data with 3rd parties (most notably advertisers) without explicit user consent, the difficulty of deleting a user profile and several high-profile hacking instances, Turkish and otherwise. Clearly Google has the scale necessary to compete and make substantial gains in the social media space, even against an established giant like Facebook; whether or not they’re able to actually pull it off with “Google Me” will hinge on their ability to execute where the incumbent has shown signs of weakness and leverage their own substantial, existing user base.