Category Archives: mobile communication

Using Foursquare to Reward Customers

With 1 million users and counting, Foursquare is touted as the next hot social media tool.  But is there a business application?  Should marketers care, or is it just another passing fad?

Foursquare is a location-based social networking service for the web and mobile devices, as well as a game.

The mobile app, calculates your location, and provides you with a list of restaurants and stores in the area.  You find your restaurant in the list, select it, and touch “Check-In Here.”  If you are hoping to locate people, you can include a brief “shout-out” message – “mini college reunion with Rachel and Pam!” -  which quickly spreads to your friends on Foursquare, and also Facebook and Twitter.

This is just one example of why city dwellers are tapping into this new service.  In addition to this friend-finding aspect, Foursquare is also a game.  Users compete citywide to earn the most points each week.  Each check-in earns that user one point.  Extra points are earned through “badges,” awarded to the user after certain events (25 different places checked-in, out four nights in a row, etc.)

As the number of users has grown, the rewards have become more tangible.  A user becomes the “mayor” of a location if he or she has checked-in there more than any other user.  Businesses in turn are rewarding their mayors with real-world benefits.  Local bars and restaurants are offering free or discounted food and drink, and chains like Starbucks and Whole Foods have launched coupon programs for Foursquare mayors.

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Note to Self: Add Mobile Computing and Mobile Marketing Strategies to List

mobile communicationI admit, like a certain segment of the world, I was tuned in yesterday to Apple’s Annual Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) in San Francisco.  As a recent convert, back to the Apple world (my last Mac a boxy SE30), I noticed the day more than I have other years. My focus, primarily on the new iPhone.

Yesterday, I sat on the other side of the country attempting to pick-up wifi wherever I could. Sure, I wanted to know if there would be a new design, and if the rumors about new features would be true. As a blogger, and someone who believes social media and networking have been and will continue to be transformative to our work and personal lives, my degree of interest was on the future of mobile computing.

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Your Website: Meet the iPhone

While standing in line today at the post office I observed a lady in front of me check her email, myspace her mom, and check the weather in London just before she was called for her parcels. While it was unfortunate that she wasn’t checking The Blogosaurus (I assume that had to wait until after the post office), it was another reminder of how businesses and clients alike need to focus their attention on the new method of accessing their websites: via PDA Smartphones.

iPhone Sales Chart
If we look at the rising sales of the most popular mobile PDA Smartphone – the iPhone – we will see iPhone sales in the second quarter of this year have reached over 5 million. Keep in mind this is a quarter before the latest G3 iPhone that just came out, with Forbes reporting the opening weekend sale of the G3 (July 11, 2008) added another 1 million users to our above list.

While this number is staggering, we must also keep in mind the iPhone is not the only phone that can reach the internet and your web pages. This list from wikipedia shows the breakdown of various PDA Smartphones with Internet capabilities, and the crucial web development related features like Flash support, Operating system and the web browser which will affect how your viewers view and access your website. We can easily see manufacturers are going to continue to create PDA Smartphones for the public, so you will need to know how to play nice.

  • The first thing you need to do is view your website with one of these phones, and see how your viewers are accessing your website and if it’s compatible. Knowing how your website is laid out and viewed in this environment will help change your outlook of your website, since you may be used to viewing it only on your computer screen. The Smartphone screen is obviously much smaller, and you might need to compensate. Even if you aren’t cool enough or have the equity in your home to purchase an iPhone, download this simulator iPhoney and you will quickly be able to see how your website is viewed in this environment.
  • Always place your navigation menu and website logo at the top of the page. Users should not have to scroll down the page to find the links for the rest of your website, or your website’s content. Make all links very accessible for both viewing platforms.
  • By now your website shouldn’t be using html tables and frames to support your website – the scourge of web design before CSS. Tables and frames can be inaccessible on many computer based browsers, and with the Smartphone this is especially true.
  • Developers can use the web browser Safari as a good proxy for designing your website for the iPhone. Testing your website using this browser will be almost identical in the iPhone and other Smartphones, and will save your web developer time with your website’s code.
  • If you simply don’t have the budget or time to rework an entire website for Smartphones, then simply create a smaller version have the viewer be automatically sent to the portion of your website. Webphone users will appreciate this greatly.
  • Build your website to load fast and scroll less, making it that much easier for users in both environments.
  • Images shouldn’t be so large that it will leave your viewer waiting for them to load. If your website uses large images, break the large image down into smaller sized images, or decrease the actual size of these images to save load time.

Usefull Links

Apple has a great website dealing with developing for their iPhone. iPhone chooses to work with similar browsers and web coding here. If your website is lucky enough to use the great blogging platform WordPress (which Impressions Through Media uses), there are several plugins that are very easy to place on your website which might ease any headaches from designing for your Smartphone audience – The iWPhone Plugin can be found here and WordPress PDA & iPhone Plugin can be found here.

In conclusion, it is very crucial for your website to reach every possible audience effectively, since any malfunction will quickly turn your viewer away to another website – or worse yet your competitor’s. Designing your website to easily comply with the millions of users trying to reach it now with their iPhones, or other Smartphones, will greatly help mend any divide that you may not even know about.