Thursday, 23 December 2010

Facebook Places and Geo-Location Networks

How Hoteliers Should Use Geo-Location Networks to Market Their Services!

For many months online buzz has surrounded Foursquare and Gowalla. Major retailers including Starbucks, Burger King, Pizza Hut and Gap are offering discount vouchers on Foursquare to generate business to their outlets.

In mid-September, Facebook launched Facebook Places in the UK, a feature that lets users share their location via their mobile phones. This launch puts Facebook in competition with other location-based social networking sites like Foursquare and Gowalla. Facebook Places is now available in the US, Canada and the United Kingdom and is expected to spread across the world soon.

While Foursquare and Gowalla have relatively fewer users than Facebook, they have more established geo-locality expertise and their user-base is increasing every day. Facebook with over 500M users will have a major impact on geo-location marketing and is expected to take it to the next level; if it gets it right. From a consumer’s point of view however, there are privacy concerns and Facebook is reasonably thorough in explaining how the Facebook Places feature will work and how to ensure your privacy is maintained.

From a brands perspective the geo-location feature offers countless opportunities. Like retailers, hotels can benefit immensely by using such features to promote their services and connect with fans/followers who are close by. The question is how can a hotel develop a geo-location strategy.

Geo-location like any other form of marketing requires proper planning. To use Facebook Places, you must firstly have a Facebook page. Facebook Places, like Gowalla and Foursquare, allow smart-phone users using the geo-location applications to check-in to Facebook Places and let others (friends, colleagues and people in their network) see where they are. In Gowalla and Foursquare it is possible to see comments and reviews posted by people who have visited listed restaurants, pubs, etc. This provides invaluable and timely marketing for your business which is much more effective than traditional review sites.

Based on users’ locations, a hotel can implement a timely and well executed strategy to target them and create interest for their different facilities. This provides a unique opportunity to reach and interact with your followers in real-time. Some of the benefits in using Facebook Places and other geo-location sites like Foursquare and Gowalla are the ability to:

- Promote last minute offers;

- Create demand for additional services such as restaurants, bars, spa etc.;

- Identify yourself and give close-by users a reason to experience your services;

- Create real-time communication/marketing;

- Share the guest’s location with other friends creates buzz and give them reasons to visit your hotel;

- Offer discounts and vouchers to make your products and/or services more appealing; and

- Create a daily campaign/s to drive interest to your specific products and services in a specific location – especially if you have more than one property.

Location has always been one of the most important components of a hotel marketing strategy. New tools and geo-location based social networks like Foursquare, Gowalla and now Facebook Places, have made it easier to integrate all marketing and communication efforts to create attractive campaigns to reach your target audience in real-time.

It is time to formulate an effective geo-location marketing approach that will benefit you the most. You must be aware of where your guests are and how to make your services more appealing to them on the go. Experience is everything and as a hotelier you must be ready to provide consistency across all channels. It is still in early days however retail industry explored the potential of this type of marketing with promotions and related messages and managed to increase the footfall to their specific branches. Hoteliers can follow the suit however need to spend more time in the planning and offering more relevancy and personalised offers.

Not sure where to start, get in touch ith us. We will help you plan and develop your location based marketing tailored to your needs.

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