Thursday, March 25, 2010

Boarding the local: 7 social media trends to use

You knew that all politics is local, and real estate's all about location, location, location. Now local's taken strong hold in social media, and your options for making your location part of your communications strategy are growing like weeds.  Check out these seven options to board the local trend:

  1. Foursquare, the online game in which you "check in" with your location, leave tips for friends, and earn badges, has already been customized by many organizations. Now Foursquare has launched special dashboards and analytics tools for businesses that expand your options for finding out where your customers are coming from, what they're looking for and more.  Search engine Bing has started adding Foursquare data to its maps. Harvard encourages students to explore its campus and earn special badges. Starbucks fans can get rewards for frequent check-ins at the coffee shop. (You can find me here on Foursquare.)  Foursquare's setting the bar for local interactions, so keep an eye on it.  
  2. Local journalism's getting a shot in the arm today with the announcement of Corporation for Public Broadcasting funding for seven "local journalism centers" in the southwest, the plains states, upstate New York, the upper midwest, and central Florida.  The effort's one of many recent nonprofit and corporate initiatives to partner with, fund or create new focus on local coverage.  If your media relations strategy isn't looking at rebooting your offerings with geotags, local emphasis and local news resources, you're missing out on a rare growth industry within journalism.
  3. Major media are refocusing on the local, as the Wall Street Journal gets ready to launch a New York metro section in late April, and the New York Times announced a partnership with local journalism students to author a blog about Brooklyn matters.  It's worth checking on locally focused efforts at your favorite national outlets to find out whether you have options to promote your programs in new ways.
  4. But local TV news ratings are sharply declining, says this analysis of the Project for Excellence in Journalism's annual media report, noting that "local TV news has become a commodity. It looks the same, sounds the same, is produced the same… sooner or later, as with any product in just about any business, a lack of innovation and differentiation will result in a decline in consumption. Now, more than ever, is the time to invest in innovation and re-engineer how content is created and distributed on a local level."  Focusing your efforts on innovations in your local TV media relations might be a more difficult path right now. Consider whether local television news needs to shift before you put your emphasis there.
  5. Facebook will launch new location features next month, so if you have a Facebook presence, watch for features native to the site as well as API that others can use to provide location check-ins on Facebook (such as Foursqure and Gowalla).   Since Facebook pages already offer you location-based data about your organization's fans, and the ability to target messages to fans in specific cities, use that strength in combination with the new features to emphasize the local on Facebook.
  6. Do you know where 30 percent of your social media audience is?  On the go with a mobile device, that's where.  And mobile users are the prime audience for localized information.  This analysis shares recent data about smartphone users and the rapid growth of mobile services, which means your websites need to be configured for mobile use, so they display well on smartphones.  (On Facebook, 100 million of its 400 million users are accessing the site from mobile devices, for example.)
  7. Google Maps now offers new editing tools for business locations, which work in tandem with its "Place Pages."  Checking to make sure your company, business or organization's location is correct--and editing out errors--is an important option, since Google Maps form the basis for so many local data offerings, from directions and "search nearby" functions on Google Maps directly to GPS and other services based on Google Maps.

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