At ad:tech NY, location-based services have been a hot topic of discussion (possibly the hottest). Foursquare CEO Dennis Crowley spoke about his ambitions for making Foursquare an incredible tool for local businesses. A bit later, Greg Sterling led a panel with Murphy USA Internet Business Director Casey Petersen, Whrrl VP of products John Kim, MTV.com and VH1.com General Manager Kristin Frank, and Gowalla Director of Business Development Andy Ellwood.
Petersen and Kim discussed how Murphy USA (the Gas stations in front of Walmart) has been utilizing check-in app Whrrl to engage customers, build loyalty, and increase recommendations. Interestingly 44% of check-ins were new customers. More interesting yet, 85% of check-ins came because of the program, in cases when it would've been more convenient to go to a competitor.
According to Petersen, those using the app are three times more likely to visit more than once per week vs average customers, about 50% visit over six times a month, 72% are more likely to recommend a friend, and 56% are more likely to increase purchases due to the program.
In terms of influence, Petersen said Whrrl came in just behind email and Facebook, and over SMS and Twitter for Murphy USA's customers. The three lessons Murphy USA and Whrrl learned from the project, as presented by Kim, were:
1. Align goals of the business and LBS service
2. Building proof should be first goal. Scale second.
3. Use LBS to highlight real people at your physical business in your broader social media efforts.
Frank said of MTV, "We're always trying to set the standards and lead the way in social media. MTV and VH1 were the first media companies to partner with Foursquare on celebrity mode, she said, and MTV has the most followers on Foursquare of any brand.
"We've recently moved to more of an 'expand the brand' model," she said.
"Our audience expects us to embrace these different sites...different technologies that they're using," she added.
"At the end of the day, Facebook is already starting to go there [LBS]...when they open it up to application development....that's when this thing goes mainstream."
Let's not forget Gowalla. Ellwood said, "It's not just the check-ins. It's also the photos that you take and the comments that you make."
"Gowalla is a virtual passport for your phone that allows you to catalog places visited, photos taken, comments shared and pins collected."
A question he says businesses should be asking is, "What are the places that my brand should be associated with?"
The places, by the way, don't have to be predictable.