Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A sense of where you are: Making the most of place

Just as a sense of place matters when you're on the basketball court, it matters to online users.  We all want eyes in the back of our heads, a bird's-eye view of the action and innate navigational powers, right? That's why the local and mobile options in social media and online apps continue as a strong trend.  Following are six categories of apps and sites that will give you (or your audience) a better sense of where you are.  These go way beyond directions, if you use them strategically:
  1. Travel and events: TripJournal app turns your smartphone into a scrapbook -- and makes it easy to post from your phone, but share the same journal, complete with old-timey graphics, on Facebook and YouTube, among other social sites. (If your users travel--think college students and study abroad-- you can take advantage of this app.) Diditz lets Facebook users turn their photo albums into web pages that share their travels, causes and other activities; Facebook page managers can use the app to engage users. Not just for travel, you can "call a diditz" for anything you've accomplished (get it? did its?) that's been on your list.
  2. Map-mucking: Google Maps' public transit options -- in lieu of driving directions -- are increasing to include biking directions and even next arrival times for public transit. The new feature's a boon for groups that wish to promote greener travel options. If you're trying to reach audiences with sustainability messages, you should have these options on your directions page, at a minimum. And you can style your Google Map now, with tools that let you choose colors as well as which map features are included. If you want to make a much more simplified map with less text, it's a great service; just be sure you're not omitting a key directional point. Use UMapper to create your own embeddable maps or geo-games, perhaps to guide users around your location.
  3. Augmented reality: When you overlay computer-generated imaging on a real-time or indirect view of the world, you've got augmented reality, a new but growing trend in place-based social media. Check an historic view via Street Museum, the Museum of London's iPhone app that overlays images of 19th century London on current street views, serving as a walking-tour resource. You also can get 3D images when you stop in front of one of the locations on the app's tour, and even create your own tour.  And you can help test an emerging augmented reality service, Wikitude Drive, which shows you a GPS turn-by-turn route right over images of the roads you're driving on, in real time.
  4. Campuses: 7 examples of what colleges and universities are doing on the mobile web--from apps to sites--are compiled in this meaty post that also includes tips on what to consider when creating a mobile site, as well as case studies.
  5. Meetings:  Start thinking of meetings as a location-based activity. BoothTag gets social at conferences, helping attendees to interact with exhibitors with scavenger hunts and more. They call this micro-local, a term that might make you think through opportunities you have to create a site-within-a-site experience. Chris Brogan's post explains more. 
  6. Ads:  PlaceLocal creates online ads for local small businesses and entrepreneurs by gathering what's already on the web, from reviews to graphics, and can even place the ad for you with its partners.  It's an easy, turnkey service that takes the mystery out of designing and placing simple local ads (and news organizations are partnering with it to reap the ad revenue benefits).
  7. Blogs:  Placeblogger helps you find blogs based on location, share where you are or where you're visiting, and lets users gather feeds from particular locations in one place.  Use it to gather intelligence about local bloggers, promote your blog, or track what users in your area are looking for.
Got a place-based app or site you're using and like? Share it in the comments. Are you taking full advantage of place in your social media strategy?

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