Fence Me In: How To Use Geofencing To Improve Your Social Strategy.

77% of people in the US own a smartphone and now over half of all people in the world use a smartphone. One of valuable features of a smartphone to marketers is the location or GPS capabilities. Yet according to a Search Engine Watch survey only 22% of marketers are using hyperlocal strategies (like geofencing) to its full potential.

A geo-fence is a virtual perimeter set up for a real-world geographic area. Geo-fences can be created as a radius around a store and event or set to predefined boundaries such as a neighborhood or city district. Geofencing must be used via a mobile app with location services turned on or triggered by an event like a geotagged post on social platforms such as Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. Geofences can also be used to trigger mobile adds on popular apps that sell them.

The Salesforce.com blog tells us that the benefits of geofencing include increasing local sales by pushing notifications to customers in the area, improving analytics by measuring location based sales, time and frequency metrics, and adding personalization to highlight offers and messages to local preferences.

Best practices for geofencing include not making the fence too large. Keep it to within a 4 or 5 minute travel time. Have a call to action that is concise, locally relevant and requires prompt response. Also be transparent about privacy by letting customers know what and how their location information is being used. And target messaging by context (relief from downtown crowds), day-part (lunch time specials), and retargeting (customers who haven’t visited in a while).

Yet sometimes the best strategies come from thinking outside of the box. Mobile Marketing expert Rip Gerber suggest fishing where the fish are, which may not be around your store. Thus other strategies may include building geofences around competitor locations to attract new customers with a special offer or using a geofence around an airport to attract tourists. Also think about using geofences near arenas and events to attract attendees.

More advanced geofilter strategies include adding additional data to make geo messages more relevant. A retailer could use browsing data from an app or website. For example, when a woman who was looking at formal dresses on her phone enters a store she could receive formal dress messages instead of general sales or promotion messages. In addition, consider more helpful messages, such as a hotel, shuttle or rental car app reminding a person before leaving an airport to check in online, book their shuttle or rent a car via the app. Helpful location based reminders could increase brand loyalty.

When offers or promotions are used be sure they are significant and important. Getting interrupted by a mobile notification to save 25 cents may be more annoying than motivating. Also keep track of frequency so that you don’t bug people. Both of these actions could lead to the customer turning off location services on an app, which prevents further location based notifications in the future.

A version of geofencing is Snapchat’s sponsored geofilters. This adds a branded illustration to users selfies based on location, which are then shared with friends or followers. These are paid, but small businesses can purchase custom branded geofilters for as little as $5. One strategy could be a promotion where customers must post an image with the brand geofilter to win – ensuring they have visited the location.

Sponsored geofilter ads can now be bought through Snapchat’s advertising API, which enables marketers to pair a sponsored geofilter with a Snap Ad. This enables strategies such as buying a geofilter and then retargeting Snap Ads to people who used it. There is also integration with Snap Ad analytics dashboards to measure performance and geofilter brand templates can be created that then are easily customized for specific locations.

Other location based social strategies include leveraging geotagging in social media platforms to improve social strategies. For example create of geotag location names for local businesses, events or attractions. This can be done for Facebook and Instragram though Facebook Places. Instagram expert Jenn Hermman explains that customers who click on a geotag location see all other posts to the geotag, which can showcase brand products and services and help reach new customers through location search. 

Geotagged posts also allow brands to source user generated content (UGC). Reposting these publicly shared brand experiences shows customers the brand is listening, appreciations their contributions, and presents an often more believable perspective of the brand. Just ensure you get permission first before sharing.

What brands have used this strategy and practices well? American Eagle used location-relevant messages sent at the ideal time of the day to improve purchase behavior by 65%. Domino’s used geofencing around hotel locations to trigger local mobile ads offering ordering for the nearest locations. And a national fast food pizza chain used geofences around store locations to trigger a two-for-one take out deals. Notifications were delivered during rush hour, limited to users who had previously made online orders, and frequency was capped at a max of one message every three days. The result was an increase of 21% in the daily takeout orders.

How can you use geofencing and geotagging to improve your social media strategies? For more insights into the big picture in social media strategy consider Social Media Strategy: Marketing and Advertising in the Consumer Revolution.

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