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Michael Brito: Straight talk on location-based social marketing

4 min read

Brands & Campaigns

Michael Brito is vice president of social media at Edelman Digital. He has worked for such companies  as Hewlett-Packard, Yahoo! and Intel. SmartBrief on Social Media contributing editor Ben Whitford spoke with Brito about how location-based social networks are changing the social-marketing landscape.

Will Foursquare go mainstream, or is it doomed to remain a toy for geeks?

Foursquare won’t reach critical mass — just like Twitter won’t reach critical mass. I ask many people outside of the social-media sphere if they ever heard of Twitter or use it, and most of the answers are yes, they heard of it but do not use it. This is not necessarily a bad thing.

Now, with Foursquare, they rely on Twitter for mass communication and awareness. And there are a few other variables to consider. First, Facebook will soon be releasing their located-based status updates; and two, the privacy issue. More people are becoming aware that it’s dangerous to share too much about their daily activities. Sites like are making people aware of this.

So do you see Foursquare beating Facebook in the location war?

I think Facebook’s new location-based status updates are going to challenge Foursquare. Now, I am always a huge fan of the underdog, but Facebook is just too big.

If Foursquare’s appeal is limited to hard-core social-media fans, can it still be a useful mass-marketing tool?

You can substitute Foursquare with just about any other social-media tool that has arisen in the last three years. The point is that with these tools, marketers can influence the “influencer” and hope there is a trickle-down effect to their micro communities. And we all know, there is a greater sense of trust between two people than there is between a potential customer and a brand. Hopefully, marketers can learn to change that.

Many brands are focusing on using location to build short-term buzz. Can location also be used to build longer-lasting relationships?

Using location-based services is a great way to leverage the analog groundswell and building real-life customer relationships. But it’s merely a first step. Marketers and communications teams cannot rely only on short-term campaigns (like Foursquare promotions) and think their jobs are over. Location-based services need broad integration with other programs and consistent nurturing.

In short, yes, located-based marketing can achieve long-term value, as long as it doesn’t end with located-based marketing.

Foursquare isn’t wired for two-directional conversation in the same way as say, Twitter. How can marketers get around that?

I am sure Foursquare is already thinking about this and building in two-way conversational capabilities. Until then, brands will have to use other services to capture the conversation by possibly tapping into the Foursquare API and building custom tools.

Some people say Twitter is now so popular that brands can’t make themselves heard. Could location tools run into similar problems?

There is a lot of noise in Twitter. Marketers must start thinking of new ways to engage with their audience other than simply facilitating contests and giving away prizes. With tools like Foursquare, they can now add an “in person” angle to a promotion, hence the two case studies I cited in my original blog post. I think it’s important to re-emphasize that marketers cannot live and die with Twitter, Foursquare or even Facebook. They have to think long term about changes in the market, changes in consumer behavior and try to forecast what the next big thing is.

Additionally, marketers at big brands have a tremendous opportunity to use all of their marketing channels to amplify their social-media efforts; so, ensuring there is tight integration with paid media, search, channel and the becomes extremely important.

Finally, do you have any specific advice for would-be location marketers?

One tip: Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Use Foursquare or any other location-based service as one element of a campaign or program, and integrate it into something bigger and that has longevity in the market place.

Want more best practices for using location-based social networks? Sign up for SmartBrief on Social Media and receive our special report on the intersection of location and social on June 15.

Image credit: mattjeacock via iStockphoto