Posts Tagged ‘mobile’

Monday Morning Reads: Mobile Apps; LoTR Revisited; Funky SEO

Lots of really interesting reads in the Monday morning reading hopper this week: a look at why dictatorships would be unwise to cut Internet access; several pieces on the latest in mobile applications; a new take on the Lord of the Rings and a couple of neat videos. Enjoy.


WSJ: Smart Dictators Don’t Quash the Internet

Amidst ongoing unrest in the Middle East, the Wall Street Journal takes a look at why some regimes are shying away from shutting down the Internet in their countries.

The Internet in dictatorships

Fast Company: Google Gives More Prominence to Social Search

Google has bumped-up the prominence of social results in its search results, making the convergence of social and search strategy all the more important.

Social rising in search

ReadWriteWeb: This is the Creepy, Super Cool Future of Smartphones & Social Networks

I’ve been fascinated by the potential of augmented reality apps integrating with social networks, in the same way that Yelp works with real-world locations. Here, ReadWriteWeb looks at the latest innovation and briefly considers some of the implications.

Augmented reality and social collide

Mashable: HOW TO: Grow Your Sales and Revenue Using 2D Codes

2D codes (of which QR codes are a common type) are in the early stages of their evolution and use by marketers, but here are a few thought-starters to get the creative thought juices flowing.

QR ideas for business

Mashable: Text a Nearby Group of Friends With GroupMe’s New Foursquare Feature

Another Mashable story – this one on an interesting use case for Foursquare – GroupMe, which lets you text groups of nearby friends. Rudimentary but another example of how location-based services can prove valuable.

Location-based texting with GroupMe

TechCrunch: Twitter Reinstates UberSocial And Twidroyd, UberMedia iPhone Apps Still Under Review

In the latest turn in the UberTwitter tale, Twitter has reinstated several UberMedia apps, saying that steps have been taken to address the ToU violations. Among them, UberTwitter is now named UberSocial. UberTwitter users worldwide, rejoice!

UberMedia apps reinstated

Salon: Middle-earth according to Mordor

Ever wonder what Lord of the Rings was like from the perspective of the other side? Now you can find out, with this free book, available as a PDF.

The other side of Lord of the Rings

Mashable: 10 Fascinating YouTube Facts That May Surprise You

It is what it says on the tin: 10 interesting nuggets about everyone’s favourite video site. Hard to believe it was only created six years ago.

Interesting YouTube facts

The 20: SEO Rapper Will Revolutionize Your Off-Site Meetings

SEO explained succinctly by a rapper in a garage. Enough said.

SEO Rapper

IGN: Dead Island – Announcement Trailer

Warning: Not for children or the faint-hearted. However, this is an incredible video for a video game trailer.

Dead Island trailer

Mobile Commerce On The Rise… Fast

Electronics marketplace Retrevo this week released a new study suggesting that mobile shoppers have doubled since February. According to the company, 20 per cent of US consumers have purchased something from a retailer using their cell phone.

While this isn’t a surprising trend, the fact that mobile commerce is growing so quickly is somewhat surprising. If nothing else, it would seem to indicate that the ever-increasing prevalence of smart phones is having a very noticeable impact.

I’m excited to see how this trend continues over the next few months. It’s hard to name an industry that isn’t affected at some level by the growth in smartphone technology, from fast food (Pizza Hut iPhone app, for example), to television content (Rogers On Demand Mobile). With the popular launch of the iPad, which has already drastically increased the amount of content I consume each day, I think there’s even further to go.

Interestingly, the company suggests that credit cards might be getting in the way of mobile commerce growing even faster than it already is, saying, “if you want more sales from mobile customers, make it easy for them to store their credit card info…” They link that to the question, “if retailers can’t get the credit card out of the way, how about the carriers?” In Canada, the cellphone carriers have put their weight behind Zoompass – a joint venture of the main telcos which is working on the evolution of the mobile wallet on a platform that works across the carriers .While this has also happened out in Japan, I’m not aware of any such move in the US.

Other statistics from the study:

Have you ever purchased something from a retailer using your cell phone?

  • 20% Said yes
  • 27% Said no, but that they would purchase something from their cell phone eventually
  • 53% Said no, and that they don’t ever plan to

What would make you more likely to purchase something from a retailer using your cell phone?

  • 24% Said, not having to provide their credit card info
  • 13% Said if their credit card was stored with the retailer
  • 16% Said they’re comfortable making purchase from their mobile phones now

What about you? Do you already make purchases via your mobile phone? If not, what would make you more likely to start?

(Disclosure: Rogers and Zoompass are both Thornley Fallis clients)

SocialScope Incorporates Foursquare, Twitter Lists

SocialScope, the BlackBerry app billing itself as “a mobile inbox for your social networks,” has released a new version (v0.9.5.81-0) of its beta application.

The primary changes in the new version:

If you aren’t aware, Foursquare is a location-based social network combining geographic context with gaming elements. I’m fascinated with it thanks to its myriad marketing opportunities, but unfortunately there’s no way to use it on a BlackBerry right now aside from a less-than-satisfying mobile site (there’s an app in closed beta testing right now, but I haven’t received an invite yet).

The new SocialScope app almost negates the need for a stand-alone Foursquare app entirely. Using the Foursquare API, the app accesses your BlackBerry’s GPS functionality to determine your location (no news on how it works on older models) and lets you check-in to places quickly and easily.

Foursquare location information on SocialScope Foursquare location list on SocialScope

Foursquare friend updates on SocialScope

(Note the built-in typo in the standard “off the grid” messages)

While SocialScope has supported creating groups of users in the app itself for a while, the latest update also supports Twitter lists, allowing you to display your pre-created lists, add to existing lists or create new lists from scratch.

Adding to a Twitter List in SocialScope

SocialScope has already won its place as my BlackBerry Twitter app of choice due to its user-friendly interface and easy integration of other social networks, but this easily cements its spot.

Foursquare’s Potential For Hyper-Local Marketing

In recent weeks, I’ve become fascinated with the location-based social network Foursquare. While I’ve been using location-based apps on my Blackberry and iPod Touch for a while (Google Maps is a good example), Foursquare is the first service that has made me stop and think about the potential of hyper-local marketing on mobile devices, not just down the line but right now.

I’ve had a couple of interesting conversations with April Dunford (wannabe Mayor of Thornley Fallis) recently, which have really spurred that thinking.

Foursquare?

If you haven’t tried Foursquare yet (and most people haven’t), here’s the deal.

Foursquare describes itself as “50% friend-finder, 30% social cityguide, 20% nightlife game.” If you live in a city that’s currently supported, whenever you arrive at a new place you can “check in” to tell the service you’re there.

Each time you “check in” you earn points, which go towards a “leaderboard” of you and the people to whom you’ve chosen to connect. If you’ve visited a place more than anyone else in the last 60 days, you become the “mayor.” It’s largely meaningless, but cute.

So far, nice and simple. And right now, that’s where the service ends. That’s a problem, because the people signing-up for the service can get bored – quickly – if there’s nothing more.

Potential

Right now Foursquare seems to be focused on growing the number of cities it supports. I’m not sure that’s the right approach. If I were them, I would work to build a critical mass of people in a few cities by building-out the product to the meet its full potential.

The team announced a campaign yesterday to allow a company to sponsor its homepage by donating to a charity, so they’re clearly open to ideas. So, let’s stop and think for a minute about Foursquare’s room for enhancements.

Friends

At present, when you check Foursquare, you can see where your friends have checked-in in the last three hours. That’s lovely, but if someone was somewhere three hours ago (unless it’s work or home) they’re probably not there any more.

However, if you were to check into a hotel downtown, it would be great to know if your buddy Steve had recently checked-in somewhere nearby – you could give him a call and see what he’s up to. Maybe the app could pop up an SMS window or offer to dial his number.

Simple, but effective – enabling real-world meetups.

Offers

As a fairly heavy Foursquare user, the company knows where I hang out. I spend my days at the Thornley Fallis offices; I go to the same places for dinner a fair bit – that sort of thing. That kind of real-world behaviour offers an opportunity for them to present me with offers. If I were to be offered $10 off a meal in an area in which I already hang out, I’d be highly likely to take advantage of the offer.

It’s a powerful concept, which can branch off in various directions:

  • A straight customer acquisition play, pushed to any user in the area;
  • A limited-scope acquisition play – offered the first time a user checks in to a place (OrderIt.ca does this when you order from new restaurants through their service – this is a similar concept);
  • A loyalty play by tying the offers to a certain number of visits to the location in question – a bit like a rewards card.

Similarly, we’ve already heard about “Mayor Specials” (for example at Coffee Groundz in Houston, Texas) where the mayor of a certain location gets special treatment. There’s room for a concerted push in this area, beyond their own website, to the owners of businesses that have proven popular with users.

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Google has made its billions from providing contextually relevant ads to its users. Google Maps goes one further, providing slightly more targeting based on your search. Foursquare can go even deeper, targeting the areas that you frequent.

This is gold. Online retailers have a relatively easy solution to generating traffic – online ads drive people to your website. Real-world businesses have a different problem. It’s harder to drive people through your door through the current web channels.

Imagine, though, that I received ads targeted to the place where I am now, whenever I checked in. As a small business owner, why on earth wouldn’t you want to invest in ads targeted people who you know are right outside your door? The conversions are a little harder to measure than through an e-commerce site, but it’s a powerful concept.

Focus

All of these things require one foundational step: focus,

Foursquare needs to focus on developing a critical mass in its core markets. Only with a significant number of users in a market does Foursquare become a viable investment for businesses. Right now, just one Toronto business is running a Foursquare promotion, and only one person has checked-in there.

New York, Boston, Toronto – wherever these markets are, the Foursquare team should think about how they can drive deeper adoption of the tool in those communities, first from a consumer perspective and then from a business perspective – where the clear business model lies.

What do you think? Have you tried Foursquare? Where do you think the potential lies?

The Huge Potential Of Location-Based Apps

Screenshot from Google Maps application on BlackberryThe growth of smart phones – from a consumer perspective, the iPhone in particular but also Blackberries – has really driven mobile apps into the limelight at a faster rate than almost any technology out there recently.

Over the last couple of years, and especially the last few months, we’ve seen mobile applications vault more and more into the mainstream. We’re at the point now where many people don’t think twice about downloading the latest Facebook, Google Maps or gaming application to use on their mobile device – any more than they would about downloading something to their desktop.

Mobile apps even appearing for business functions now (beyond regular email) – email campaign service Constant Contact launched an iPhone app yesterday to let people check in on their email campaigns, for example.

(Caveat: Of course, many people aren’t there yet. I know plenty of people whose phones don’t even have bluetooth, let alone data plans)

So, if mobile apps are becoming a current “big thing,” what’s next?

My take: local.

Keeping it local

While as sites like Yelp have leveraged user reviews at a local level, the best mobile apps over the next couple of years will pair GPS, cell tower or manually-set location information with contextual content.

Consider FourSquare. I started playing around with FourSquare fairly recently. Essentially, it’s a social network that lets you tell your contacts where you are right now. There are a bunch of other game-playing features wrapped around it, but it’s basically a location-based social network.

Think for a minute about the potential simple extensions to a network like this:

  • Know when your friends are in the same neighbourhood as you
  • Receive special offers from businesses in the area (check in at a subway station and get a $10-off coupon for a nearby restaurant, for example)
  • Ensure ads are targeted to only come from businesses in the neighbourhoods you frequent, or even the kinds of places you visit

Take that kind of thinking and consider the optional extensions to your favourite apps. I might like to know which nearby restaurants my Facebook friends have eaten at. I might want to be notified about breaking news from near my location, whereas I might have to proactively check a news app to get other news.

Of course, this doesn’t apply to every application. I won’t go as far as Kate Imbach and suggest that you care what your neighbours are eating, but there are plenty of extremely interesting applications even for recipe-based sites (perhaps showing you which stores in your area stock the ingredients you need).

Stop and think for a moment – could your company or your clients be working location-based applications into their marketing mix?

What do you think?

(Additional: I’m on the look-out for good books on mobile marketing, especially those considering topics like this. If you know of any, let me know in the comments!)

Face-Off: Twitter Apps For BlackBerry

If you’re anything like me, you probably find it easy to burn a lot of time on Twitter. It’s addictive – you get into a conversation and before you know it, it’s 10 or 15 minutes later.

One of the ways I get around Twitter overload is by doing a lot of my tweeting from my BlackBerry – heading to and from meetings; when I’m grabbing lunch; on the way to clients and so on.

Trouble is, there are plenty of these applications around. This is a quick whip-through the best three Twitter applications I’ve used:

TwitterBerry

TwitterBerry screenshotTwitterBerry was the first Twitter application I tried for the BlackBerry. It had been a little while since I tried it before writing this post, and I was pleasantly surprised by some of the changes I observed.

Pros

  • Single purpose app – does what it says on the tin
  • Easy to set up and configure
  • New user interface lets you reply to Tweets without leaving the timeline view
  • TwitPic integration

Cons

  • According to reports from other people, TwitterBerry can suck the life out of your BlackBerry’s battery
  • Slow to refresh updates
  • TwitPic is only available when viewing pictures – can only push to TwitterBerry, rather than pull photos in

ÜberTwitter

UberTwitter screenshotFrom the moment I installed ÜberTwitter, I enjoyed its streamlined interface and more advanced options. Note: ÜberTwitter made a controversial (in some peoples’ eyes) move to introduce ads into its application a little while back, and has now released a paid ad-free version on top of the free product.

Pros

  • Scrolling auto-refresh is a nice touch
  • Support for multiple Twitter accounts (just one at a time)
  • Allows you to take/post photos and to post videos from within the app
  • Comprehensive menu options, although it can be a bit overwhelming for beginners
  • Search function is very handy
  • Ad-free version available for those wanting to avoid pesky ads
  • Plenty of configuration options (though see cons for the flip side…)

Cons

  • Auto-refresh can get irritating when first loading the application
  • Keeps flipping back to the default Twitter account; irritating if you’re trying to stick with one for a bit
  • ÜberTwitter can be a big memory suck on the BlackBerry – I found my device crashed or hang frequently, requiring a hard reset. Only avoided by setting the app to not run in the background (nullifying the option to have notifications of new Tweets)
  • GPS enabled on posts by default; unaware users may not like this
  • Configuration options seem to go on for ever – overwhelming for new users

SocialScope

SocialScope screenshotSocialScope is the new kid on the block. Still in closed beta testing (and tightly controlled – they wouldn’t give me any invites to hand out along with this post), access is limited right now but will hopefully open up soon. SocialScope currently integrates with Twitter and Facebook, but bills itself as “a mobile inbox for your social networks” so I wouldn’t be surprised to see more tools added.

Pros

  • Tabbed interface keeps you organized and allows access to screens without needing to use the menu
  • Facebook and Twitter integrated in one interface
  • Support for multiple Twitter accounts
  • Less of a memory hog than ÜberTwitter – my BlackBerry has rarely crashed since switching
  • Lets you easily associate a Twitter account with a BlackBerry contact – adds the username to that person’s address book entry
  • Replying to messages takes you to a threaded view which lets you easily track conversations
  • Search option is useful
  • Notification of new Tweets means it’s easy to know if you should check in to view conversations involving you
  • Intuitive, context-sensitive menu makes navigation through the app a breeze

Cons

  • Facebook integration can be irritating – re-authentication bug means you need to log out then back in rather than just re-entering password
  • Only supports a single Twitter account
  • Has a habit of hanging while uploading photos, requiring a full (i.e. remove the battery) reset of the device to access the app again
  • Access is limited right now during the closed beta testing, but that won’t be the case forever

Conclusion

Each of the applications has their pluses:

  • TwitterBerry’s simplicity makes it a reasonable option for beginners;
  • ÜberTwitter’s multiple accounts and comprehensive options make it a good choice for power users;
  • SocialScope integrates Twitter and Facebook in an easy-to-use application.

For me, though, SocialScope wins the battle hands down. The intuitive interface, the user-friendly layout, the integration of Facebook and the easy access to photos makes it an easy winner.

ÜberTwitter certainly puts up a good fight, as evidenced by the response to my quick Twitter query (below). However, for me the additional functionality provided by SocialScope is overwhelming.

There are lots of other mobile interfaces for Twitter out there – Slandr and Dabr (hat tip: Mathew Ingram) – both web-based interfaces – are two examples. Do you use a different way of accessing Twitter on the go?

What do you think?

Twitter friends' favourite BlackBerry Apps for Twitter

Response to question: "What's your favourite Twitter application for the BlackBerry?"