Facebook in Argentina

I recently returned from a 2-week trip to Buenos Aires with the most interesting professor in the world and several students from the University of San Diego’s MS in Global Leadership program.  They were studying business strategy in the global environment and I had the chance to tag along.

As a digital marketer, I like to pay attention to how businesses are using technology in their marketing mix.  In Buenos Aires I wasn’t surprised to find that traditional billboard advertising was very prevalent.  I also wasn’t surprised to see that most (if not all) contained some sort of URL.  It was extremely rare, however, to see a Facebook URL or icon – or any other mention of social media – in traditional advertising.  I also don’t recall seeing a single QR code.  Not much of this came as a surprise, since the country is still considered to have a ‘developing’ economy.

What did surprise me was the extensive use of Facebook pages by the local government (of all people!).  In fact, “el Gobierno de la Ciudad” does a great job with Facebook pages.  In nearly all of the public spaces, plazas, monuments, and parks, I saw signs like this one that directed visitors to a Facebook page that included a map of the area, photos, and lots of information.

As a first time visitor to the Facebook page, I was directed to a “Welcome” tab, which had a prominent call to action – “like us!”

Since returning home, I’ve done some digging and found at least 55 different pages created by the city of Buenos Aires.  Many of these pages have quite a bit of activity from different visitors – well wishes, comments, and questions.  What’s great is that the community administrator does a nice job of responding and really being part of the conversation.  They’ve actually created 55 different online communities for these public spaces.  It’s interesting to note that these aren’t all huge parks and major attractions, but rather small neighborhood public spaces.  Additionally, many of the Facebook pages include links to SlideShare presentations, YouTube videos, and other rich content.

So the city government in Buenos Aires has Facebook pages dialed in.  Maybe private industry will follow.  What overseas ‘best practices’ in social media have you noticed?

Three Creative Uses of Location Based Services

Over the past several months, I’ve gotten more interested in location-based apps (sometimes called location-based services, or LBS) and the incredible potential this idea has for businesses.  In my previous blog posts on the subject (regarding Foursquare’s downtime and the announcement of Facebook Places), I’ve maintained that these mobile apps have brought no real value to my life thus far – not because of the services themselves, but because of the lack of creativity in creating meaningful, valuable marketing campaigns that engage customers.  Lately, I’ve seen more progress and I’m happy to share a couple of the good ones.

Facebook Places – Southwest Airlines and Make-A-Wish Foundation team up for charity

I like this one because I volunteer with Make-A-Wish as an airport greeter, meeting “wish kids” and their families coming to San Diego from out of town.  When you check in with Facebook Places at a Southwest Airlines airport, they’ll donate a $1 to MAW Foundation.  Better yet, they walk you through the process in case you haven’t done much checking in.  The result is an easy, effective and charitable way to use location-based apps.  Make-A-Wish Foundation raises money, SWA gets more check-ins and earns some social capital.  Pat on the back to everyone who worked on this campaign.

Me with Wish Kid Arieus

Foursquare and the History Channel

You’ve got to hand it to the History Channel on this one.  They’ve actually added factual, historical content as a ‘tip’ at what appears to be hundreds of location pages on Foursquare.  Sure they cover the typical monuments, parks, & museums you’d expect, but I found tons of businesses and other attractions on their list.  Because the folks at the History Channel have their facts straight and include a little more information in their tips, many more people are inclined to check the “I’ve done this!” box, keeping their tips at the top.  Check out an example with the Bellagio Hotel in Vegas.  The History Channel adds more than just, “go see the water show,” and in return gets much more action on their tips.  I’m curious to know if this has affected their viewer ratings on cable, increased web traffic, or raised any other performance metrics.  Anyone got any inside info?

Gowalla Giveaways

Gowalla has spent most of the month of December giving away stuff for people who check in – things like watches, backpacks, Southwest Airlines travel vouchers.  I haven’t signed up for Gowalla yet, but judging by some of these incentives, I might have to give it another look.

What examples have you seen of creative and valuable new uses of location based services like Foursquare, Gowalla, and Facebook Places?

More on Facebook Places vs Foursquare

Facebook made another big announcement yesterday regarding its Facebook Places application. They’re now giving businesses the chance to offer several different types of deals for people who check in using their smartphone. As usual, Mashable did the best job of summarizing the announcement and what it means for consumers and businesses.  Read the Facebook blog post to see some interesting comments.

A Fast Company article this morning asked the obvious questions: does this mean the end for Groupon and Foursquare?  I asked the same question about Foursquare in my blog post from about a month ago when the popular location-based application went down for several hours over a couple of different days.  I argued that no one really cared, despite the amount of press and endless discussion created by the outage.

Photo credit: Tony Avelar/AP

As a consumer, I think there is a great opportunity for businesses to use location-based deals.  For some reason, though, I still don’t see many businesses taking advantage of Foursquare deals.  Perhaps it’s a lack of familiarity with Foursquare and its capabilities?  Maybe they don’t recognize the potential for offering deals?  In an effort to educate businesses, Facebook has created a video to help them their own deals.

Regarding the question on Foursquare’s future… I typed “foursquare” into my Google search bar today and the first suggestion was “foursquare down.”  Is Google trying to tell us something?  Is Foursquare going down?

Foursquare’s Downtime: Does Anyone *Really* Care?

I’ve seen a lot of talk over the past couple of days about Foursquare being down and somehow that’s a big problem worthy of several news stories and blog posts.  Sure it’s a hot topic, so everyone is jumping onboard – but I propose that if Foursquare went away tomorrow, most people wouldn’t even notice (except the VC’s who funded the $21.4M for the startup).

If you haven’t heard, Foursquare is a location-based application you download to your smartphone that allows you to check in at restaurants, bars, stores and other businesses, sharing that information with your “friends.”  Straight from the Foursquare home page: “We’re all about helping you find new ways to explore the city.  We’ll help you meet up with your friends and let you earn points and unlock badges for discovering new places, doing new things and meeting new people.”

Just to see what it was all about, I downloaded Foursquare several months ago.  Since that time, I’ve checked in a modest 62 times to earn a total of 5 “badges”.  Foursquare has brought absolutely no value to my life, yet I continue to open the app when I’ve got some downtime at a new restaurant.  Perhaps the best function I’ve found on Foursquare is the “see nearby tweets,” where I might find someone talking about something interesting.

My mix of “friends” on Foursquare is pretty diverse – a friend from my hometown back in Texas, a web designer I’ve worked with but never met in person, a local on-air radio personality, and a handful of folks from Twitter I may have met once or twice.  I’m not sure they’re too interested in knowing where I’m having lunch.

With the rise in popularity of location-based check in services from Yelp, and more recently, Facebook Places, people have many different options to share their location and activities with their friends.  I think Facebook Places actually has the best chance of survival of these types of services, since the personal connections are much deeper and the user base is so much broader.

With approximately 3 million Foursquare users, I wonder how many of those people really noticed a few hours of downtime over the past couple of days?  I don’t know anyone in my inner circle who uses the service on a regular basis, and further, I don’t know of any businesses who put much time and effort into Foursquare promotions.

What about you?  Did the Foursquare downtime ruin your day or did you even notice?