Restaurant Technology: Intro to Geofencing

Geofencing, or the ability to closely target particular computer users based on their current location, is still a relatively new field when it comes to restaurant marketing and branding. There are dozens of vendors in this space (this is a long list of who exhibited at last year’s Local Advertising Conference), but very few of the ones we contacted have actually had any restaurant customers yet. The tools span several different kinds of products, too.

You can view my article here in the premiere issue of Restaurant Technology Magazine that provides a primer for those interested in getting started in this space.

Light my bonfire

It is almost a cliche: put a bunch of 20-somethings together and the first business they want to start is building their own iPhone app. The second kind of business is something involving social media. And the third is something with sharing photos.

Yet if you look beyond these broad strokes there is something to be said with what a group of young entrepreneurs are doing in St. Louis with an app called BonfyreApp.com. It could be something that will change that social/mobile/photo space in spite of being part of that triple trendy collection of categories.

I have to say I was very unimpressed when I first heard about it, and was shown the app by one of its founders. Ho hum. Yet Another Social Mobile App. I showed it to my 20-something daughter, who also pointedly yawned. “Dad, I already spend enough time on Facebook and don’t need another network,” she told me.

But the audience for Bonfyre isn’t necessarily another medium for posting pix of people holding red cups filled with intoxicants. It is designed for brand owners to build engaging meetings and to tell their stories. When you pitch their idea that way, it begins to make sense.

When you go to a conference,assuming the conference is any good, you want to bottle some of that good feeling you get from the time spent and preserve those memories. Yeah, and you get the tote bag or backpack too. Maybe you want to capture a few scenes from the speaker’s presentations, or remember some of the folks that you met. Or whatever. So how do you do it now? Rather crudely, with a combination of Facebook photos, LinkedIn groups, email and texts. Links to Instagram or Pinterest photo collections. And a batch of business cards that if you were lucky you either scanned or annotated so you remember who that person was that you met.

The problem is that your stored common memory of the event is all over the place. None of the above mechanisms really work well. Facebook is too public, and navigating its sharing and privacy controls are like trying to set up the next NASA launch (or whomever is launching rockets these days). Texting is great if you want to share one or two photos with one or two people, but breaks down in the many-to-many context rather quickly. The LinkedIn group with its triple opt-in takes months to actually create and get going, by which time the group has moved on to other matters (and doesn’t really work anyway for sharing photos). And the stack of business cards gathers dust quickly as the memory of each individual fades.

That is the space where Bonfyre is trying to enter. The idea is that anyone can download the app to their phone and create these quick discussion groups and invite anyone else to them. There is a Web app for monitoring your discussions. You can be up and sharing content with specific people within minutes. No one else can view the content, unless they are invited in. Once the discussion is created, everyone in the group sees everything. It is mainly for sharing and commenting on photos, but you can also share messages too.Think of it as the virtual tote bag that can preserve your memories of the event.

I began to see the light when I was going to a party a few months ago, a party put on by the Bonfyre PR firm. That day I happened to be having lunch with one of Bonfyre’s founders. He showed me the discussion that was started by the PR firm’s owner, who was trying to figure out what shoes she should wear that night and had photographed several choices. Suddenly we were photographing our own sneakers and putting them online. Soon other attendee’s shoe pictures followed.

Now, granted this was our interpretation of the infamous red cup pix of so many 20-somethings’ nights out, but that is partly my point: no one else was going to see these pictures, unless you were going to the party. And we all had a good laugh when we finally got to the party and looked at each other’s feet.

But now let’s take this silly moment and move into what is actually happening with the Bonfyre app by meeting and event planners. At one conference of 500 people, 60% of the attendees were running the app, and 60% of them were sharing content with each other. At a Rams football game, they had 2000 people at the stadium using the app, and these people uploaded almost as many photos as the entire half million Facebook fans of the Rams. Think about that for a moment: you have all these folks in the stadium sharing their memories of the game with each other, interacting with each other and with folks watching the game around the world. If you were the marketing director of the Rams, wouldn’t you want to reach those folks and leverage this interest? If you were a Rams advertiser, wouldn’t you want to connect with these people, perhaps offer them something? Now you begin to see the power of what Bonfyre can do.

They haven’t gotten everything worked out yet: how they charge businesses, getting their analytics act together, and hiring a real sales team to promote their own brand still remain on the to do list. But this is one mobile, social, photo sharing app that you should take a closer look at. No matter how old you are. Try it at your next meeting or corporate event, and see if you can light your own bonfire.

Network World: When you need to measure your Tweets and Facebook presence

As businesses make more use of social networks, the number of engagement, analysis and monitoring tools has exploded. Enterprises are trying to understand their return on social media investments, to find out if their Twitter and Facebook marketing campaigns are actually delivering customers. They want to track social mentions across multiple networks and be responsive to both kudos and complaints. We found nearly 100 products that fall into this emerging product category, which goes by a wide variety of names including social media monitoring, social CRM, social intelligence, enterprise listening platforms and media engagement.

You can read my review in Network World here, where I tested Expion, Gremln, SimplyMeasured, SproutSocial, Sysomos Heartbeat, Ubervu, Viralheat, and Visible Technologies’ Intelligence.

Some other resources:

Solution Providers for Retail: Consider Demand Chain Management

While supply chain management gets a lot of attention, what should drive a company, especially retailers, is how demand for its products is tracked. Let’s look at a case study from Macy’s, which grew sales and reduced its inventories considerably, thanks to careful management of its demand chain.

This was posted today on the blog Solution Providers for Retail.

Poll Time

The hardest part about doing an online poll isn’t the poll itself, but figuring out what you want to really find out. And these days there are more choices than ever for low-cost surveying sources that make the process of polling pretty easy.

Since taking a class in user experience design last year, I have been experimenting with a few different kinds of polls to collect information for my articles. It has been a mixed bag. I tried out LinkedIn Polls and used Google Forms, and both were less than satisfying for different reasons.

pollAnd I am not even concerned about valid or representative sampling techniques, even though I do have a dim memory of my earlier statistics classes when I was in graduate school and we had to do things the old fashioned pencil-and-paper Chi Squared ways.

A good place to start with surveys is go to review the suggestions for survey design from Caroline Jarrett. She has written books on the topic and speaks extensively at various user design conferences. She has some great examples of the more common errors in creating surveys and tips on what you should do too. I linked to her in a story that I wrote for Dr. Dobbs last year.

In the piece I also mention some other tips for doing online surveys, and include links to five survey service providers. They vary in cost from free to $200 a month; depending on which service provider you choose and how many responses you plan on receiving.

In addition to the providers I mention, several years ago LinkedIn added the ability to create polls (polls.linkedin.com). You can send out free polls to your entire network, but if you want to target them to a specific group it will cost you at least $50 per poll. You can use the service if you have a free LinkedIn account too. They haven’t done a very good job of publicizing the polls feature, which is too bad because it is dirt simple to use.

I tried it out and didn’t exactly get much in the way of responses, but the reporting is nice: you get age, gender and job title breakdown, should your respondents choose to allow this information to be reported to you. (You can see the results above.)

LinkedIn Polls isn’t as sophisticated as some of the ones mentioned in my article, but is a great place to start if you are trying to get some quick research done. Another free service that has more flexibility is Google Forms. You assemble your poll questions into a template document, and you can send out the link to your peeps. When they reply their answers are recorded in a Google Spreadsheet, at least in theory. Mine didn’t quite work, and I am not sure why. You get a link to the results and there are some nice graphs that are produced automatically. It is a bit more complex to use than LinkedIn, but still you don’t need a course in statistics to figure it out (and maybe that is what tripped me up).

Any poll that you create you’ll probably want to use some kind of scheduling program such as Hootsuite or something similar to periodically remind your peeps about your poll, or otherwise to advertise its existence among your social networks. LinkedIn makes it easy by have its own URL shortener, along with handy buttons to repost the poll to your Facebook and Twitter streams too. Google creates a special link to the poll that you can send out via email.

Support your St. Louis entrepreneurs this week!

In the next week there are three different events that involve local startups: one at Washington University, one at St. Louis University, and one downtown. All are open to the public.

Tonight is the wrap up pitches for the Olin Cup at Wash U., a year-long competition that has been going on for several years now and involves both students and locals with the best startup idea.

This weekend is StartupWeekend in downtown St. Louis, with events beginning tomorrow night. I will be one of the mentors, coaching the ad hoc teams that form to create something out of just an idea within 48 hours. This is our second such weekend, the last one was a lot of fun!

And finally, I will be judging the annual Idea to Product competition, which involves the region’s college students, at SLU on Friday 11/16.

Here is a great infographic from ITEN that summarizes the recent developments: