By Marian Schembari, Contributing Editor, Digital Book World
If 2009 was the year when “geo” became a buzzword and gathered momentum, then 2010 is going to be the year when location-based functionality is going to become commonplace — from mobile apps to consumer devices, even to web services are all going to be geo-enabled.
At the Women’s National Book Association‘s BOOK MARKETING ONLINE 2010: A Discussion, WNBA Publicity Chair Susannah Greenberg called location-based social networking (eg: Foursquare, Gowalla) the “next big thing” in publishing.
Kelly Leonard, Executive Director of Online Marketing for Hachette Book Group, tweeted: “@gowalla @foursquare still new enough that experimentation opportunities abound. Limited only to one’s imagination #wnba318″
On March 29th, Foursquare announced, via Twitter, that they were “closing in on 725k users & 22 million checkins.”
Just as businesses see a huge advantage to interacting with potential and existing customers (and naysayers) on Twitter, so too will they experience the same advantages on Foursquare, but with even more incentives and a plethora of data at their fingertips.
“Overall, I think it’s definitely the ‘new thing.’ It’s the new way to connect,” says Kate Rados, Director of Digital Initiatives for Chelsea Green Publishing. “Publishers are going to have to get very creative to find a way they can use LBS to connect with their readers. Libraries and bookstores are the ones with the most immediate opportunity here: create special tips, offers for people who check in, rally around events, etc.”
“I use FourSquare,” Rados continued. “I tried Gowalla for a week and, while it was very pretty, I didn’t love it. I do appreciate their ‘trips’ feature and I think (to Kelly Leonard’s point) Authors/Publishers can create some pretty great plot-themed trips via the service. But with every social media platform, the big rule applies: if you’re not at least trying it out, you’re already missing the boat.”
Stephanie Anderson, manager of the independent bookstore WORD Brooklyn, said they’ve given Foursquare a shot, but have so far only experienced mild success. “Personally,” she says, “I’ve noticed that most folks I know don’t use it. I feel like I am constantly explaining it. So it clearly hasn’t hit any sort of tipping point even here in Brooklyn.”
In Pasadena, CA, Vroman’s Bookstore has planned to give discounts to frequent visitors as well as the “Mayor” – the Foursquare honorific for the user who checks in at a particular location the most often. Patrick Brown, Vroman’s former webmaster, believes LBS is “one of the few social technologies to encourage visits to bricks-and-mortar businesses.”
At the moment, as Rados noted, it does look like bookstores have the most to gain from programs like Foursquare because it’s relatively easy to use and doesn’t require a ton of innovation to incorporate into a marketing program. Rewarding frequent customers is a proven way to encourage people to return, and encourages them to share their visits with their friends.
As for authors and publishers, Anderson offered a suggestion: “One of the ideas I’ve seen bounced around on Twitter that I find intriguing is one of these systems being used to check in to intangibles—for example, checking into THE GONE-AWAY WORLD. Almost a mash-up of Goodreads and Glue, but I don’t think it could happen at the moment.”
Think this idea has potential? Which books would be ideal for promoting this way?
And what other angles does this offer publishers to engage directly with their readers and/or to partner with bookstores and libraries?
Marian Schembari digs social media and books. Usually at the same time.