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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?