Liz Brock

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Estimating the value in Personal Location Data

Location-based services have popped up everywhere over the past few years. Most of us can look back to the first views of Earth from above with Google Earth (grainy, patchy images that our dial up connection struggled with) and laugh a little. Now, LBS is everywhere.

We think LBS is interesting, obviously. But I was flicking through the McKinsey ‘big data’ report and saw this.

What the…?  How did McKinsey get to this number?

Turns out, McKinsey used their super brains and super computers to ‘look at the value chain of location-based applications‘. They looked at the amount of data generation and the potential value created.

  • amount of data generated across regions, user behaviour, and frequency of use.
  • the value chain of LBS. How do individual consumers use and benefit from LBS? How do enterprises or governments benefit?

McKinsey themselves say that their estimation is conservative, and it could well be more. But if you think about the process of using a personal navigation device, you’ll immediately see the value of time saving, fuel consumption reduction.

Other types of LBS like check-in services (Facebook Places, Foursquare etc), local information sourcing tools (LocalMind, Neer), and community noticeboards and news sites (EveryBlock etc) also add value and decrease costs in many ways. One of those is increased marketing relevancy. We can (and have) discuss the balance of personal data privacy vs openness, but the fact remains that as people become more permissive about what they will share openly, we marketers have more opportunities to communicate more effectively, meaning more ££ spent in the right place, less wastage, and better results.  And that’s something we can all get behind.


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RockMelt. The ultimate browser goes local (but not hyper-local)

RockMelt is a browser based on Google Chrome that’s pretty revolutionary. There are lots of reasons why several of the Digital team use it – mainly because it’s simpler and easier than Safari, IE, and even Firefox. The main feature is that it’s integrated with social media, which means that you can add RSS feeds and updates from Twitter or Facebook in a nice little organised side bar.

Although it sounds like RockMelt’s ‘always on’ features will distract you fundamentally by pushing all the distractions further into your view, it doesn’t. It shows you a count, so that you don’t get stuck in that process of going back to check what’s going on all the time (Fear Of Missing Out). If your FOMO gets too bad, now there’s a feature that let’s you go into ‘quiet mode’ – so you can ‘pause’ the distraction temporarily and get on with the task at hand.

Then there is the ‘View Later’ button. On all of your feeds, and all of the pages you’re browsing, you can use the ‘View Later’ function to collate all the bits and pieces you’d like to save until you have the head space. So useful.

But most importantly, now you can search in browser and select which country’s search results you want to see. So for example, if I want to see how high in the results Tesco is when people in Russia search for ‘Tesco’, I can do that easily, without having to use a masking site or other weird and wonderful tools.

So this browser (like all browsers) is not giving me hyper-local search results unless I tell it to in my search terms, but it’s helping me see things from another country’s view. And if RockMelt can build it for country level search results, maybe default regional or hyper-local search results filters are around the corner.

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Local Marketing Round-up #1

Marissa Meyer explained more about Google Business Photos at Social Loco early last week – an extension to Google Maps that allows business owners to have photos taken by Google of the interior of their business. She also explained that Google’s two pillars of Local are Maps and Places. Only available in selected cities so far but includes London.

Facebook Deals launched in Alpha in 5 US markets. Most interesting about this is the way that Deals are promoted to users living in those markets. Deals has been given a high priority space on the left-hand navigation as well as a pop up when the user logs in. The pop up asks the user for even more granular location information (ie Zip code) rather than the city that the users have already entered. Clearly, Facebook is planning to hit the location relevancy hard. No news yet on whether the Zip codes captured at this stage will be usable for Facebook advertising.

Great news for Local Mobile Marketers with a new Smartphone user study released by Google in late April. News for Local Marketers is that 9 out of 10 Smartphone searches result in an action (purchasing, visiting a business, etc.), and 88% of these searches result in action being taken within a day – Mobile = Fast conversion!

A sad day for Local blogging with the ending of the Guardian Local experiment. Three local blogs in Cardiff, Edinburgh and Leeds were highly valued in the community, but deemed unsustainable in the current format. Will Perrin from Talk About Local makes some incredibly wonderful points – mainly around the balance between community vs commercial sustainability, and Ed Oldfield gives us a bit more info about the commercial and advertising side of the experiment.

Tim @ The Daily Infographic published an excellent summary of the Deals space – Facebook Deals vs Google Deals vs Groupon vs Living Social. Not really news but a nod to a helpful resource!

Finally, eBay continues on a shopping spree for businesses that give them local capabilities with their acquisition of local media and advertising company Where. Here’s TechCrunch’s announcement and summary of eBay’s Local aspirations.

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New Cars are like Local Marketing

When you buy a car, suddenly you start noticing all the other cars that are the same as yours, so much so that you’re convinced that there are more than there were before.

The transition between marketing ‘generally’ and then marketing ‘locally’ is similar. When you’re working in an agency that specialises in Local Marketing, suddenly you wonder how you missed all the stuff going on in the Local Marketing space. It’s so fundamentally obvious that in the battle for relevancy, proximity matters.  Everywhere you look, people are talking about local – and not just as an intangible theory, but as an actual ‘thing’.

An actual ‘thing’, you say?

A highlight of the series of Maroon Peugeot 307s is the launch of a new US hyper-local industry trade publication StreetFight a few days ago. They’ve positioned the service as a collection of everything that’s happening in the hyper-local space, including vouchering, check in services, and local news sites. Then there’s the super-massive hyper-local news service based in the US run by Arianna Huffington. EveryBlock (US) and StickyBoard (UK) community noticeboards have redesigned and launched respectively. Talk about Local‘s community efforts are ongoing and the Big Society ideas continue to generate meaningful conversation. These are just a few of the bigger things that are going on, but community activities and new ways to use technology to help communities engage are popping up every day. So too are hyper-local, hyper-relevant marketing opportunities.

People continue to have debates about the definition of the words hyper-local, localisation, local marketing… whatever we end up calling it in the history books, we’re part of a shift.  The UK’s take on local is a little different to the US’s as pointed out wonderfully by Joni Ayn Alexander, but the main point is the same. It’s a thing.

A thing with big agencies predicting daft numbers like 42.5 billion dollars by 2015.

You can’t even escape it in the pub! This poster for Venue Magazine (the local Bristol/Bath magazine that’s recently been under fire but lives to fight another day) was up in the Portcullis.

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Happy Easter!

The EMO Social Committee put on a lovely Easter spread this morning at our Highworth and Bristol offices! Here are the remains.

The Easter Egg Hunt also kicked off pre-dawn, and while everyone got their own personally labelled egg, the special Golden Egg was found by this smiley chap.

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Frank Rose: The Art of Immersion 12/04/11

Frank Rose is the author of soon-to-be-released bookThe Art of Immersion: How the Digital Generation Is Remaking Hollywood, Madison Avenue, and the Way We Tell Stories‘. He attended the Festival of Ideas at the Bristol Watershed to introduce the concepts in the book.

Frank led with a throw-away comment ‘Stories are to humans like algorithms are to machines‘. We use stories to make sense of our world and share that understanding with others. Our human instinct to find the story means that we’ll find the story even when there isn’t one – he showed us an experiment performed by Fritz Heifer and Marianne Simmel in 1944 where subjects were shown a video involving triangles and a circle, and asked to interpret them. Inevitably, the subjects humanised the shapes and created a narrative for them.

He took us through various examples of immersion – when the original media used isn’t the only place that people can interact with the story. He says that ‘digital’ gives everyone the opportunity to tell stories in many different ways, because the internet can be all types of media – video, text, audio, or all.  For example, Lost fans created Lostpedia to help them understand the story, Star Wars merchandising gave fans ways to create new sub-stories including comic books, Nintendo games and even fan movies.

He touched on co-creation too, and gave the example of Apple/Nike’s chipped running shoe where the brands don’t create the story – they give the users the tools to create and share their own.

When asked how immersion is affecting marketing and advertising, he said that the 30 second TV spot is dying and cited ‘rising costs, falling viewership, ever-proliferating ad clutter, and viewers’ TiVo-fueled power to zip through commercials‘ as reasons. But he also said that history shows us that cultures take 20 – 30 years to figure out how to use technology, and that we’re only part-way there. Examples like the Old Spice commercials, where co-creation was embraced to great viral success, and failures such as the Harry Potter Wars (where the studios failed to recognise and utilise/facilitate or allow co-creation attempts on a massive scale) show that we’re still learning, but also that the opportunities are endless.

Frank believes that advertising is another kind of story, and to be effective it should be non-linear, participatory and above all, immersive.

Personally, I found the talk quite hard going but definitely thought-provoking – Frank Rose is clearly a brilliant thinker and writer but the ideas presented were bigger than a 40 minute slot. I’ll be getting the book and adding it to the library once done!


Digital Local Community boards – US vs UK

I’m sure I’m not the only one who hasn’t looked at a local community noticeboard for years, but I do remember a time when the notice board at my local Spar was the best place to find second hand furniture, recommendations for cleaners, and local events. And community noticeboards are the next thing to fall under an entrepreneur’s gaze and go digital.

EveryBlock caught our eye last year as an innovative way to chat to people in your neighbourhood digitally, and now StickyBoard has popped up UK side, much to our interest.

EveryBlock – @everyblock

In his blog post about the relaunch, founder Adrian Holovaty says ‘The current crop of Web social media tools is focused on people you already know‘. Instead of focusing on existing relationships, EveryBlock connects people with a common interest – a location.

You can look up a postcode down to extreme granularity, or look for suburbs or cities, and ‘follow’ them almost like you’d follow a person on Twitter.

Users in the neighbourhoods can message each other and hold conversations almost like a discussion board or forum. EveryBlock also takes ‘stuff’ from the net and aggregates that ‘stuff’ by location. Yelp reviews, new local photos on Flickr, lost-and-found ads on Craigslist,  real estate listings, local Meetups – all based on a location you’ve defined.

In short, EveryBlock amplifies the stuff already out there, just by making it hyper-local and hyper-relevant.

Mashable covered the relaunch as a community site and LostRemote also did a piece on them. It’s not available in the UK yet, and no doubt still has a lot of traction to gain in the US before it hops over to us, but you might as well head over to the homepage and vote via Twitter for London to be their next city.

StickyBoard – @stickyboard

StickyBoard ‘is based on the belief that strong communities make for a better, more fulfilling quality of life’. Users can read news, find local services, check out a calendar of events and post business reviews. Local businesses can advertise in one of several verticals, with Community groups advertising for free.

StickyBoard’s community beliefs are strong, but the website needs to get critical mass from advertisers in order to give the users a reason to be there. Given that it’s launched only a few months ago it’s hardly surprising to see empty news feeds and available advertising spaces. The first burrough was Ealing and you can see a lot more activity in that suburb than let’s say Camden.

StickyBoard has been mentioned in the Guardian, and you can get more insight into their business on their teamsticky blog.

So while EveryBlock connects local people and let’s them share community news while aggregating existing local content, StickyBoard connects local people to local businesses and events and is a platform for advertising.  Both interesting, both local, both innovative.

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A music video, the LOCAL way

An oldie (gosh, was this really only 9 months ago?) but a goodie. The Wilderness Downtown is a collaboration between Google Chrome and Arcade Fire that personalises (read: localises) the music video to the place you grew up.

Here’s TechCrunch’s explanation for the technical bits. What I love most is the connection – online to offline. The Wilderness Machine was created to physically reproduce the postcards users wrote to themselves online in The Wilderness Experience. If you plant the postcard, it will compost and liberate birch tree seeds from which a tree could grow.

You were encouraged to install Google Chrome for it to work. 24.1% of users now use Chrome, as opposed to 15.9% at launch of this experiment. There doesn’t appear to have been a significant spike in browser usage though!

I’d love to know if Google have mapped the addresses entered and gotten a heat map of fans’ hometowns. Not altogether useful as it’s inevitably at least 20 year old data with a lot of non-fans playing with it due to the viral effect, but come on Google, let’s review!

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