Mobile App Helps You Find the Vinyl

The Vinyl District mobile iPhone appI recently came across a mobile app called The Vinyl District, which is designed to help music lovers (specifically, those of us who are into vinyl) locate record stores, keep up with the latest music trends from their blog, and connect with others with similar interests.

I had a chance to give the app a quick test drive, and it seems to be a nice tool if you’re in a new city and find yourself wanting to go record shopping.  I’m not sure how much I’d want to use the app in my own town (San Diego), but I did discover a couple of stores I had not previously heard about.

The “All Stores” section automatically lists record stores near you (assuming you allow the app to use your location).  It also includes an option to display those stores on Google Maps.  When you tap the location, you are taken to a new screen which will allow you to get directions, view the business on Yelp, see recent nearby Tweets (most of which will have nothing to do with the record store), or check-in (similar to a Foursquare check-in).

Cow Records - Ocean Beach, San Diego, CA

The TVD Blog (link for the online version) looks nice in a mobile format and is updated several times each day from what I can tell.  News like Jack White’s latest release and a personal account from a recent Ryan Adams concert in DC (along with news for tons of other indie artists I haven’t heard of) fill the blog with a good mix of content.

In terms of social integration, the app has a nice social foundation – but it kind of feels like a ghost town.  No comments on the blog that I could find and not a ton of activity in the “Social” section.  Maybe there just aren’t that many people out there talking about record stores.   I get it.

Still, overall I like the idea of this app and how they’ve integrated more robust services like Yelp and Twitter.

What are your favorite music related apps?  Leave a comment and let me know.

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An Instagram Tour of Austin

I was recently in Austin, Texas for a conference on marketing and web development for higher education. I snapped lots of photos with my iPhone. Here are a few of my favorites.

Austin Bergstrom Airport

Austin Bergstrom Airport

Stevie Ray Vaughan Statue

Chicken Truck

Austin Shoe Store - Allen Boots

South Congress - Quirky stores, candy shops, and great food

Austin Architecture

Austin Motel

Great food at the Trailer Park & Eatery

Austin Grafitti

Jo's Coffee Shop - South Congress

SRV standing guard over Town Lake

Treasures from South Congress

Live Music on 6th Street

Downtown Austin View

Trails Around Town Lake

Trailer Food Festival

Stubb's

Leaving Austin

Is 2011 The Year of Mobile?

If you’re in marketing, you may have heard that this is the year of mobile… every year since 2006. While mobile phones have been around for quite some time, it seems we’re only now hitting critical mass with respect to smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices. ComScore recently reported that 50% of all mobile phones purchased in the US are smartphones (the other 50% are called feature phones).  Add to that the growing number of tablets being sold, and we just might be in the middle of the year of mobile.

I’ve had the unique opportunity to hear a couple of mobile marketing experts speak recently – one at an American Marketing Association lunch event (these are always great, by the way), and the other at Interactive Day San Diego.

First, Mike Schlegel from a company called Millennial Media provided some interesting insight from his work in the mobile space in recent years.  Here are the biggest takeaways I got from his presentation:

  1. Browsing behavior varies greatly by platform.  Mobile phone users search, browse and interact differently than tablet users, for example.  This means there is no one-size-fits-all solution for mobile marketers.
  2. Mobile activity spikes happen on weekends, holidays, and during special events (think Super Bowl) – and during the primetime hours on weekdays.  Mike was careful to point out that marketers shouldn’t ignore the ‘other’ times during the week, but instead embrace those as an opportunity to target specific user behaviors (i.e. restaurants offering coupons during weekday lunch hours).
  3. Don’t forget about the feature phone users.  Sure, it’s trendy for marketers to pay attention to the latest Android or iPhone users, but Mike reminded us of the feature phone users who also have needs (some of whom can be reached by simple SMS campaigns)

I also had a chance to hear Dan Flanegan speak at Interactive Day San Diego on June 1.  Dan’s company, Brand Anywhere, is a leading San Diego-based mobile marketing company.  Dan gave some great examples of targeted mobile campaigns that have resonated very well with consumers.  Working with major brands, Dan has helped some big names in advertising create and leverage successful mobile campaigns to foster brand loyalty from consumers who could possibly become life-long repeat users of that brand’s products.

So how can mobile advertising be useful to the consumer?  Imagine standing in a store about to make a purchase.  If you didn’t do your research (or if things have changed since you left home), how do you know if you’re getting the best price on what your about to buy? Using a mobile app like Shopkick, you can now find coupons, incentives, and even be rewarded for your loyalty at a particular store.  As you scan a particular bar code, marketers can serve up ads that make sense for you – whether that’s a coupon, a competitor’s store, or a pitch to buy the same item online for less.

In a rapidly-evolving mobile world, the possibilities are endless – both for marketers and for stores and brands to provide real value to consumers.  To me, mobile marketing seems to be a very crowded space right now, but I’m anticipating some breakout mobile apps to take the lead within the next year.  With the amount of growth in the segment, there’s still room for lots of players to do well – at least for now.

What do you think?  Is 2011 the year of mobile?

What is a QR Code?

What is a QR code?  I saw this question recently from a self-proclaimed “marketing consultant” I follow on Twitter.  Got me thinking that this might be a good post topic, since Quick Response (QR) codes aren’t quite mainstream… yet.

What is it?

First, the required Wikipedia definition:  A QR code is a specific matrix barcode (or two-dimensional code), readable by dedicated QR barcode readers and camera phones. The code consists of black modules arranged in a square pattern on a white background. The information encoded can be text, URL or other data.

Scan the QR Code with your smart phone for a surprise... really, try it!

How do I use it?

Great, but what does this mean for your marketing plan?  Well, for starters – a lot.  I’m starting to see QR codes appear more often in airports, major retailers, and even places like the San Diego Zoo.  QR codes are popping up in advertisements, on store windows, and even large in-store displays.

QR codes can be used for almost anything:  directing consumers to your website, Facebook fan page, Twitter, Google Places page, a YouTube video, a coupon, a contest entry page, a photo, a lead capture form – the possibilities are endless.  Smart marketers are keeping things simple in the early days of QR codes, knowing that even though smart phones are taking over the US market, consumers are still learning about QR codes.

When you scan a QR code with your smart phone, you must use a special QR code reader app.  There are several of these available for the iPhone and Android.  I use QRReader, by TapMedia LTD.  Many consumers won’t automatically know this, so you may consider including something in the display about downloading an app.

Often times, I see directions on how to “use” the QR code accompanying the promotion, which helps educate the consumer on how to proceed.  Remember, keeping it simple is the key.  An example might be:

  1. Download a QR code reader app for your smart phone
  2. Scan the code
  3. Enter your email address for a chance to win a $1000 shopping spree!

A promotion like this would allow you to capture an email address for use in an email marketing campaign, plus add an interactive element of fun to your in-store displays.

Since you can put a QR code virtually anywhere, feel free to get creative.  I’ve seen QR codes on business cards, billboards, t-shirts, and even as temporary (or perhaps, permanent) tattoos.

What not to do

Here’s an example of a QR code I saw at a music venue recently that I thought could have been used a little more effectively.  I attempted to scan this code, but must have been too small because it wouldn’t register with my phone.  It’s buried in the bottom left corner on an already busy poster with no directions on how to use the code, or more importantly, why I should scan the code.  What’s in it for me?  Would have been nice to see some indication of what happens if I do scan the code.  Can I buy tickets there?  Is it the artist’s website?  Is it a discount or promo code?  Keep these points in mind if you plan on using QR codes for your own marketing.

Can you spot the QR code? Exactly my point.

Watch for more QR codes in 2011, as I think they will become more and more mainstream.  What are some good examples of QR codes you’ve seen?

Inside SCVNGR: My tour of one of the hottest mobile apps in higher ed

On a recent trip to Boston I had a unique opportunity to learn about one of the fastest growing mobile apps for the iPhone and Android:  SCVNGR.  In just under 9 months, SCVNGR has seen some pretty impressive growth, reaching 1,000,000 registered users in late February and partnering with too many companies and institutions to name.

My gracious host, Jeffrey Kirchick, invited me to come by the SCVNGR offices after I tweeted that I’d be visiting Boston within the next few days.  I gladly accepted the invitation, not really knowing a lot about the company. Boy was I in for a surprise.

I arrived at the SCVNGR offices in Cambridge around 5pm on a Thursday and saw a bustling, energetic group of folks – most of whom weren’t even close to packing up and heading home for the day.  This place was just how I imagined an internet startup would be:  modern workspaces, young faces, white boards galore filled with numbered lists, and of course, an espresso machine.  I even got a peek inside what they call the War Room, though I wonder if any of them have seen Dr. Strangelove and really know what that reference means.


After a brief tour of the spaces, Jeff and I sat down to discuss the exciting things that SCVNGR is doing in higher education.  Partnering with universities and colleges, SCVNGR is able to help schools create an unforgettable mobile experience for new students, which, in turn helps forge a more positive initial impression for a lasting relationship between the student and the institution.

What I liked most about SCVNGR is that they are carefully positioning themselves, not as a foursquare competitor (as you might expect), but instead working to carve out their own niche in mobile gaming.  In a couple of my previous posts (here and here), I’ve been pretty up front about my disappointment with foursquare.  It was great to see SCVNGR taking a new approach, and I think they’re seeing the results of making their app less about the check-in and more about the shared experience.  They’re also aggressively seeking corporate and education partners to help them get to the next level.

All in all, I think SCVNGR is a company poised for more exponential growth in 2011.  Backed by Google Ventures, they secured an additional $15M in funding early this year and they’re getting lots of attention in the mobile app world.

Thanks again to Jeff for showing me around and introducing me to a great new mobile platform.  I’ll be watching in the coming months to see how things progress.

What are your thoughts on mobile gaming and the future of SCVNGR?

Do you have Klout?

There’s a lot of buzz lately about Klout – the website that measures your level of influence on the web using a number of factors taken from your social media activities.  Increasingly, people are realizing that engagement and influence are more important that fan/follower counts, and Klout offers a standard of measurement for people to demonstrate their own level of influence (or check on someone else’s influence).  Today, Klout announced in a blog post that scores will be automatically refreshed and updated daily (previously, scores could only be calculated weekly and had to be initiated by the user).

Here’s how it works.  You start by signing up for Klout using your Twitter login and password, which automatically connects your Twitter account.  You can also add your Facebook and LinkedIn accounts to give a little more depth to your score (great for people who are more active on those networks and use Twitter primarily as a listening tool).

Klout has developed their own influence matrix that includes 16 categories like “syndicator” or “networker.” Each category comes with a small description of positive traits. I’m listed as a “conversationalist”, so mine reads, “You love to connect and always have the inside scoop. Good conversation is not just a skill, it’s an art. You might not know it, but when you are witty, your followers hang on every word.” Ok, sure.

Klout measures your influence on the social web

Klout scores are based not only on the number of followers/friends/fans you have, but also on their influence and reach. When I got a personal reply from Guy Kawasaki (Klout score = 85), I’m guessing that influenced my Klout score a lot more than a reply from others with less influence. Klout also takes into account the likelihood that your content will generate some sort of a response (clicks, retweet, reply, mention, etc).  I didn’t find much on how Facebook and LinkedIn can influence your Klout score, but my guess is that it’s similar.

A couple more cool things about Klout:  1.  you can enter someone else’s username in the search tool to quickly find out their true influence (at least in Klout terms), and 2. Klout gives you suggestions on influential people who follow you so you may return the favor and follow them back.

Klout also allows users to create a badge for their own website (which I haven’t been able to embed here, so I’ll use a screen shot instead), a hover card (java based), and they have a plug-in for WordPress.org users.

As for me, I’m listed at a surprisingly high 52.  My alter-ego (@rockoutkaraoke) is listed at 51.

Some of this Klout talk reminds me of Cialdini and his book, “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion.”  There are interesting parallels between Dr. Cialdini’s time-tested theories and online influence.

While it’s interesting at the moment, I’m not sure people will be putting Klout scores on their resume anytime soon.  What do you think?  Do you have Klout?

Lessons and Links: 3 Takeaways from 3 Days at a Marketing Conference

After spending 2.5 days at the Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education organized by the American Marketing Association, I’ve definitely come away with a ton of new ideas, energy, and renewed focus.  Below is a quick summary and my top 3 takeaways from the great event.

Attendees included folks from higher education from around the country (and a few I met from other countries).   From what I could gather, most of the participants were from the east coast (as shown by the big map displayed at the readMedia booth.  Note: the map continued to fill up and most of the biz cards were pinned to the wrong coast).

Credit: Amy Mengel, readMedia

First, my top 3 takeaways from the week:

  1. Measuring your efforts is key. At the symposium I attended in Chigago in 2008, measuring social media efforts was still a bit of a mystery to most people. Some argued it could be done, but few believed it could be done with any accuracy. Obviously, many things have changed and there are more ways to measure than ever. I heard it said best this week: you can’t manage what you don’t measure.
  2. Mobile is one of the highest potential segments for higher ed. Read below for some impressive examples of mobile apps on campus.
  3. You’re not alone. I heard lots of people all expressing similar frustrations regarding centralized control of marketing functions, getting faculty buy-in, branding, logo policing, and more. Incremental progress is the way to go. Many of the presenters talked about 2007/2008 as the year they started some of these initiatives – they’re just now presenting results at a conference. Be patient, be realistic.

Ok, so on to my summary of the experiences I had at the conference.  Day 1 started with an “interesting” keynote from Marita Wesley, director of creative strategy development for Hallmark Cards.  Many people didn’t get her presentation style, as she blew through about 200 slides in a 45 minute talk, often spending no more than 2-3 seconds on a particular slide.  Still, I grabbed a few nuggets from her presentation on trends in 2010 and beyond – including a few interesting books to check out.

The breakout sessions that followed were great for me (we had 4 great choices for breakouts, so it was sometimes difficult to prioritized and decide which to visit).  First up was a session on mobile apps on campus with Lisa Lapin and Tim Flood from Standford University.  The school embraced mobile technology early on, and as a result, they’re pretty far out ahead with their iStanford application (12,000 registered users).  Follow the link for a great look at the features of the app.

Rounding out the morning, I sat in on the presentation by Michigan State and their branding company, 160over90.  I had a chance to talk with the folks from 160over90 and was really impressed with their work (not to mention the college-themed party they threw on Monday night, complete with foosball tables and a movie reel of college movies like Revenge of the Nerds and Rudy)!

The lunch keynote was Spencer Frasher from Google, who mainly talked about the importance of search in all types of marketing (surprise).

Day 2 of the conference was again very valuable, starting with a presentation by Teri Thompson, VP marketing for Purdue University.  Since Teri came from industry, her stories and examples were a bit different from the others we had heard throughout the week – and they were all great.

Tuesday’s lunchtime keynote, Macalester College President Brian Rosenburg, was also very engaging, and quite possibly created the most buzz from those on Twitter.  Just take a look at the video and you’ll see what I mean.  Over 60,000 hits on a low-budget masterpiece that has inspired some great conversations and press for a college of only 2,000 students.  Definitely a social media win!

Tuesday afternoon, Joe Hice from NC State stole the show, again talking about location-based services on campus.  Everyone was floored by this one, since they’re light years ahead of most for-profit businesses (at least from what I’ve seen) regarding their adoption of mobile apps and the full integration of mobile in their entire strategy.  Well done, NC State!

Tuesday ended with more networking and all those drawings that I never seem to win.  You know, drop your business card for a chance at a $100 iTunes gift card – that kind of stuff.  This time,  I actually won something… big… like a 32G iPad from PlattForm Advertising!  I mean, I never even win the $25 bag raffle at Trader Joe’s, so this was a complete surprise.  Thanks again, PlattForm!

So, yeah, I actually won two grand prizes.  Did I mention the $200 Apple Store gift card I picked up from Zone 5?  I actually won by scanning a business card with a QR code – pretty neat idea and had people talking.  Now I can actually go buy a few accessories for the new iPad!

Day 3 started with a great presentation by Dave Kissel from Zocalo Group, a “sustainable word of mouth marketing” company.  Dave focused on the use of social media and provided stories from outside higher ed to show how the fundamentals are still the same.  Finally, we wrapped up the conference with what was more of a conversation between everyone in the room about their best practices, burning questions, and predictions led by Rachel Reuben, Michael Stoner (great blog, by the way, which he used to help create the content of his presentation), and Fritz McDonald.

Some conference attendees wishing they could stay in SD a little longer!

Shout outs are in order to tons of other people I met this week, but the list is pretty long (and so is this blog post).  Amy Mengel created a killer Twitter list of AMA attendees who tweeted using the #amahighered hashtag.  Some of my favorite tweets came from Michael Perrone, Ray Witkowski, Amy Mengel, Rachel Reuben, Michael Stoner, and so many others!  Thanks again to everyone for sharing great ideas and stories.  I hope you all enjoyed our fair city and had some time to get out and see the sights.  See you in Chicago in 2011!

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?