Location-based networks help elevate consumer interaction

In January, frozen dessert brand Tasti D-Lite partnered with location-based social network Foursquare to not only connect with consumers online, but also interact with them on a more local level.

In January, frozen dessert brand Tasti D-Lite partnered with location-based social network Foursquare to not only connect with consumers online, but also interact with them on a more local level. Consumers can spot specials at Tasti D-Lite when checked in nearby. They can also sign up for the loyalty program, where customers are rewarded, on Foursquare and also with Tasti D-Lite loyalty points, for checking in at Tasti D-Lite locations.

Such partnerships are becoming more popular with the increase in smartphone use and subsequent adoption of location-based, or geo-location, social networks. But brands must be creative in how to use them as part of PR and marketing campaigns, offering engagement to consumers and not just coupon offers.

"We want to be a social-friendly brand," says BJ Emerson, director of information and social technologies for Tasti D-Lite. "Look at the progression of these social media applications. They are getting more granular and local."

PR pros expect brands to use these networks to connect with consumers at events, earn word-of-mouth buzz, and simply build up relationships.

In recent months, Bravo TV, The New York Times, Warner Bros., HBO, and Harvard University have partnered with Foursquare. Other location-based sites, like Brightkite, Plazes (recently acquired by Nokia), and Gowalla, have their own following.

Engagement redefined
Tristan Walker, head of business development for Foursquare, says the site hopes to "redefine what engagement means" and "take online engagement off-line." As an example, he cites its Gym Rat badge, which encourages consumers to go to the gym.

"PR is embracing its responsi-bility to speak directly to consumers, and mobile and geo-located services will spark the next dramatic increase in consumer participation in social media," says Attention founder Curtis Hougland. The firm worked with Jones Apparel to include Foursquare in its social media campaign focused around the "Woomobile," a traveling Mini-Cooper promoting Jones' concept store Shoe Woo. The driver updated Foursquare, linked to Twitter, about where the car would be in New York.

Restaurant review guide Zagat also recently teamed with Foursquare and is building on the site's popularity for its own site. For Zagat.com and its newsletter, the company is hosting a "Meet the Mayor" series, interviewing Foursquare mayors - a status achieved by consumers who visit a location the most - about the site and restaurants they visit.

Additionally, the company offers a "foodie badge" for consumers to earn by checking in at Zagat-rated restaurants and providing tips and suggestions though Foursquare.

"There is an undeniable synergy between what we do, which is provide information for consumers who want to make smart dining decisions, and Foursquare's platform of location-based information," says Tiffany Barbalato, director of communications for Zagat, which worked with Edelman on this outreach. "It really seems like a way for us to engage with consumers on a new level."

Milwaukee-based Marcus Ho-tels & Resorts uses Foursquare to connect with consumers who are in the vicinity of its properties.

"We want to be front-of-mind when they make a restaurant reservation," says Christine Beuchert, Marcus' director of e-commerce and performance marketing.

Social media AOR Comet Branding and PR helped Marcus with Foursquare outreach. Comet founder and partner Al Krueger says, "It all comes from a strategic communications standpoint."

These types of social networks are "all about how to communi-cate with very specific people who look for [specific things]. And there are different tools we can utilize for all of them."

Additional partnerships: Loopt and Tasting Table
Tasting Table, provider of food/drink recommendations, offers daily specials and reviews to Loopt users Gowalla and Incase
Incase, maker of iPhone cases and bags for elec-tronics, offers virtual products for Gowalla users to collect by checking into certain stores. Winners will also be randomly picked to get real-life Incase products MyTown and H&M
Retailer H&M teamed with MyTown to allow users to earn virtual clothing items and points for checking in at nearby H&M locations

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