Posted At: November 21, 2011 1:08 PM
by Meghan Rodriguez
It seems that many small businesses and large corporations have caught on and realized the advantages and opportunities that social media can provide. It’s not unusual for your favorite clothing brand or restaurant to have its own Facebook page. But are businesses really using Facebook and the world of social media to its full potential?
Updating a Facebook status or sending out a tweet isn’t likely to cut it when trying to build your business. Consumers today want to be part of an engaging conversation and community. Facebook apps are the best way for companies to engage with their consumers and increase business productivity.
One company at the forefront of this social media trend is Brand Networks. Headquartered in Boston, Mass., Brand Networks was founded by Jamie Tedford as a marketing company aiming to “socialize” brands. It goes beyond creating marketing and promotional items for clients. It takes a brand and creates a network through the use of social media and one of the most successful ways it does this is through the development of Facebook apps.
Matt Handy of Brand Networks is one of the leaders in this shift in the industry. As the director of location-based social media, Handy is responsible for developing a compelling strategy and plan to ignite revenue growth in location-based social media programs and platforms.
Facebook Places is an application that allows users to check into places such as coffee shops and restaurants, allowing their friends to keep track of their activity. To the average Facebook user, this may seem like an unnecessary application with no benefit. Many people do not care if you are out to eat or going to the gym. But for businesses and marketers, it has great potential to be used as a form of engagement with consumers.
An example of one such company is airliner JetBlue. It partnered with Brand Networks and Facebook to develop a mobile application, Go Places.
Handy, who worked closely on the project, explained the program: “There’s another side of this local business that we do that is all about promotions and the best example of that is JetBlue,” Handy said. “We enable you to sync its loyalty program, True Blue, with your Facebook account and when you check into a JetBlue terminal we reward your account instantly with 25 True Blue points. A post appears on your profile notifying your friends that you just checked in on Facebook at a JetBlue terminal and received 25 points for doing so. A link is also provided so another user can sign up for the program.”
So what used to be considered a pointless status update that did not really concern others now gives consumers the opportunity to earn rewards.
For example, the first 100 travelers who checked in at Logan International Airport in Boston, Long Beach Airport in California, JFK In New York and Ft. Lauderdale and Orlando International airports received 100 points. Travelers who accumulate 5,000 or more points can trade them in for free flights.
According to Sean Williams of JetBlue promotions, around 10,000 users have checked in with this location-based application.
“Go Places averages about 3,000-4,000 check ins per month,” Williams said. “One of the hardest hurdles we had to clear when creating this was to create a location for all the JetBlue terminals. Since then, we have had around 84,000 check ins. We currently have a reach of 21 million people through this app.”
The app is not only utilized as a reward program for loyal JetBlue customers, but also as a way to reach out and gain new customers.
by Meghan Rodriguez
“We’ve noticed that the app can also help people better understand our map route,” Williams said. “You might see on a friend’s Facebook update that they are flying into Orlando and never knew that JetBlue had an Orlando terminal. So in addition to increasing our fan loyalty, we’re also raising visibility for the brand.”
The restaurant industry has also seen the benefits of location-based apps. At the start of the NFL season, Applebee’s began a new promotion called “Check In and Win.”
“We do a program with Applebee’s that every week during Monday Night Football, if you walk into any Applebee’s there a chance you’re going to see signage around the bar that reads ‘Check in and win,’” Handy said. “So when you scan that QR code or enter the short URL into your phone, you’ll be brought to a mobile site that allows you to register for the program, check into that Applebee’s and enter to win a $5, $10 or $20 gift card instantly. We’ve already had some really cool success stories with this promotion.”
JetBlue and Applebee’s are just two examples of how going above and beyond can increase a company’s consumer base and brand visibility. Will other businesses catch on and take advantage of this social media trend in the future?