Blogging Out Loud

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Conan Cashes In On Checking In.

Location-based social networking can help extend smart brands.

Location-based social networking is the latest "tangled web" in social media, and it's taking off. More than 4 million people use Foursquare -- one of the most popular social networking sites -- and smart brands are taking notice.

Thanks to cable network TBS, everybody’s favorite comedian, Conan O’Brien, is slated at long last to return to television screens next week on Nov. 8. While O’Brien’s departure last year from NBC had both fans and media junkies talking (“The drama! The intrigue! The politics!”), we’ve all but forgotten that debacle, thanks to Team Coco’s aggressive campaign to promote the new show — titled simply Conan — and engage fans online. When O’Brien joined Twitter in February 2010, the Huffington Post reported he had 15,000 followers within 30 minutes. Today, he has 1.7 million followers (Jay Leno, incidentally, has 93,496). O’Brien and Team Coco are also active on the other usual suspects, namely Facebook and YouTube, where fans can get their funny fix with webisodes like this. More interestingly to marketers should be the YouTube spots promoting The Conan Blimp, which launched from Philadelphia in early October and has been touring the East Coast since. Fans can track the blimp’s location via O’Brien’s always hilarious Twitter feed; but more impressively and dare I say genius, they can also use location-based social networking site Foursquare to earn The Conan Blimp Spotter Badge. Now, that’s taking marketing to a whole new level!

Maybe I’m just blogging out loud here, but it seems like smart brands need to cash in on the power of “checking in.” Location-based social networking is taking off, and as we’ve seen with The Conan Blimp, for smart brands the sky is the limit.

There are at least a dozen (if not more) location-based social networking sites, but Foursquare, Gowalla and the recently launched Facebook Places are the frontrunners, and while they vary slightly in appearance and execution, their concepts are essentially the same: users can “check-in” using their mobile devices and then connect with businesses, friends and even celebrities, in some cases earning “badges,” points and other rewards, both real and virtual. It’s equal parts chat room, game and popularity contest, and consumers love it. Politicos love it, too, as witnessed by Foursquare’s “I Voted” feature. An estimated 4 million people use Foursquare, a number that pales in comparison to Facebook’s 500 million users, but suggests the scope of the concept’s influence and power over consumers. Gowalla, while smaller in user size, still managed to nab the Mobile Award at the 2010 SXSW’s Interactive Awards, considered by entrepreneurs and techies alike to be indicative of the Next Big Thing (case in point: Twitter launched at SXSW in 2007). To boot, Facebook jumped on the location-based concept as recently as August, a move to not only compete with sites such as Foursquare and Gowalla, but to partner with them. As Vertical Marketing Network mentioned last month, “It’s a brilliant move on Facebook’s part, essentially making itself the ‘one-stop-shopping’ site of social networking and online interaction.” But it’s not just consumers, Facebook, Foursquare and Gowalla that win big, it’s also businesses, who can use these networks to — in the words of Facebook — “generate powerful, organic impressions…[while] extending your brand’s reach to new customers.”

Conan O’Brien’s in on the joke. But more importantly, are you?

Brought to you by Vertical Marketing Network, a Leading Integrated Marketing Agency.
Photo credit: jurvetson

About JJ Nelson

Freelance blogger for Vertical Marketing Network; food writer; bartender.

12 comments on “Conan Cashes In On Checking In.

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  5. Myla Conroy
    November 4, 2010

    I like the idea of reaching the consumer in real time- and as anyone at the Burbank office can tell you- I’m a sucker for a good deal- but you lose me with the lack of privacy. If everyone knows where everyone else is at all times, what’s next? The appeal of a great offer isn’t enough for me to disclose where I am at all times.


  6. Danielle Conte
    November 4, 2010

    GAP and Facebook Places are doing something cool this Friday with location-based social networking. GAP is giving away 10,000 pairs of jeans! Check-in at any Men’s & Women’s Gap using Facebook Places and you could win by showing any Gap employee your check-in and you could score a free pair. Limited qtys of course.


  7. Joanne
    November 3, 2010

    Yikes … more applications to learn … I just barely learned Facebook! Don’t know that I’ll go much beyond Facebook at this point, but it sure is interesting to learn about all of the new apps out there and how they catapult us into new social mediums.


  8. Kate
    November 3, 2010

    I think the facebook places app is a great idea since it reaches both those with the mobile app and those that only use the site on a computer. It does create interest in a place. However, I agree with Alice that for deeper information on a venue – restaurant, store, or otherwise Yelp is a great source!


  9. Alice
    November 3, 2010

    Foursquare? Really? I’m surprised so many people have hopped on the foursquare wagon considering how often the application crashes. Personally, I’m a Yelper. The app never crashes and i’ve met a lot of good “yelp” friends on there as well. I like that we can leave reviews aside from checking in. Plus it allows me to look up businesses prior to checking it out. And, it also allows me to see what their known for or their specialty if its a restaurant. I’ve “checked in” with Yelp mostly, compared to other sites like Foursquare and Facebook, because I think it’d be fun to be a Yelp Elite. But, in regards to the deals that Foursquare can offer, I’m just not that interested. The application just seems so boring and doesnt quite offer me as much as Yelp. Sorry guys, I’m a Foursquare hater and Yelp lover.


  10. Ryan
    November 3, 2010

    1.7 million? I’d say that is quite a message to not only people but also every brand out there to jump on the location-based networking bandwagon. Marketers would be smart to capitalize on all the social networking sites out there to promote their brands. This type of marketing is only going to get larger and larger as the years go by, I am with Phil on anticipating black Friday on all the social networking sites, very interesting.


  11. Diane
    November 3, 2010

    I have to admit that I am a bit of a dinosaur on this – I don’t like or use location media. I find that I am not spending quality time with whoever I am with if I am on my PDA writing about where I am. Sometimes for me – I just need to be away from electronics!


  12. Philip
    November 3, 2010

    While some marketers are resisting location-based social networking sites, those that are jumping in are getting a tremendous head start on the competition. This is especially true for retailers and I can’t wait to see how social networking embraces Black Friday shopping later this month. I’ll bet we will see innovative messaging with Foursquare and Gowalla that alert people of exclusive deals just around the corner.


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