#NTVan Recap: Location-Based Services are Here… Now What?

Last night, I attended the Net Tuesday Meetup for the first time this year.  I originally wasn’t planning on attending this meetup because it overlaps with one of my classes, but the topic was so sexy that I had to be there.

The meetup tackled location-based services (LBS). If this sounds new to you, it’s probably because of the jargon. Outside the marketing types, this simply encompasses Foursquare, Gowalla, Facebook Places, Scvngr and other applications that allow you to “check-in”.

LBS on its own is a particularly interesting topic. I was curious, however, how the non-profit sector might use it. Here are the highlights from the four speakers:

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Group Buying: It’s More Than Just Providing Discounts

Credit: dealio.com

Last night, I attended Net Tuesday Vancouver, a meetup where “Social Media and Web Innovators come together with Social Change Makers and Nonprofits to mix, swap stories and ideas, and build new relationships.”

This month’s topic is group buying and Google Analytics goals. I haven’t had enough experience with Google Analytics yet, so that part of the meetup actually didn’t make too much sense to me. The panel for group buying, on the other hand, was great because they brought in perspectives from both the non-profit organization and the group buying company.

Chris Mathieson is the Executive Director of the Vancouver Police Museum, a non-profit that has already offered two Groupons. Chris considers both Groupon campaigns a success. Annalea Krebs is the founder of ethicalDeal, a group buying site with a focus on environmentally-friendly products.

Why Group Buying is All the Rage

Annalea briefly discussed why the group buying business model makes sense. First, there’s the viral component – the model requires a minimum number of transactions before a deal becomes official, and so there’s an incentive for users to spread the word and invite friends. Secondly, there’s the sense of urgency. Deals are only on for a short period of time (usually 24 hours), and this urgency usually convinces people to get on it and grab the deal.

Of course, neither one of these are really a surprise, but I think that this is a good framework to start the discussion. These also suggest that group buying is likely here to stay, given that the business model behind it makes sense. (Google’s attempt to buy Groupon for $6 Billion is probably another indication that group buying is not a fad.)

What About Relationships?

From the non-profit side, Chris shared a glimpse of what it’s like to work with Groupon. To participate, the organization/business is expected to provide deep discounts – at least 50% is recommended. Again, this not really surprising as this is one of the main draws of group buying. It is quite interesting, though, how the revenue is split between Groupon and the organization.

A major consideration for the organization should be the consequences of the deal. Given the popularity of these deals, a spike in customers should be expected. A critical question for your organization is whether you have the necessary resources for this increase in business.

Also, group buying sites will get people in your organization, but it is up to you to build the relationship from there. Have a plan on how you can build on the relationship once customers are at your door.

As an alternative, Chris mentioned the possibility of building partnerships with other organizations such as Yelp or Google Places in order to strengthen customer relationships. (Location-based apps such as Foursquare and Gowalla were also mentioned.) The one advantage of these sites over something like Groupon is that organizations can offer on-going discounts. Creating brand loyalty may be possible with these sites.

Chris also mentioned that once an organization offers a deal, other group buying sites may approach to see if you’d like to do it again. Be careful with this. Think about whether you really want to be seen as a discount brand. Don’t compromise your brand identity for promotion’s sake. This point is especially true for non-profits, who may be strapped for resources and may not be able to offer discounts all the time.

Conclusion

Group buying is something that’s relatively new, but it definitely has a place for businesses and non-profits. If done right (i.e. with lots of preparation) and if done occasionally, it can definitely contribute to an organization’s brand awareness.

This month’s meetup was great, and I’m impressed that attendance seems to be growing every month. If I had one complaint, it’s that the panel could have been more diverse. There is value to having opposing views on a panel. I think that the organizers could have extended an invite to organizations that haven’t had a good experience with group buying. (On a side note, I think Scott Stratten’s blog post on how to make a conference panel rock is pretty bang on.) Chris provided some good things that organizations should think about, but it may have been even more interesting if these insights were coming from someone who haven’t had success with the process.

Overall though the meetup was informative, and there was even free food! (W2 Storyeum sponsored the meetup.) There won’t be a Net Tuesday meetup for January, but I’m already looking forward to the February one!

Were you at this month’s meetup? What were some of the new things you’ve learned? Leave a comment and let me know!

Why Students Should Attend Meetups

Why Students Should Attend Meetups

Photo credit: http://living-las-vegas.com/2009/04/meetup-las-vegas/

One of the things that kept me busy these past few months was attending meetups. For those not familiar with what a meetup is, it’s basically “an arranged informal meeting” around a pre-determined topic.

When I talk about meetups with most of my fellow students, I usually get the deer in the headlights look.  It’s an alien idea. Something intimidating.

But there are many reasons why students should attend meetups. I outline a few of them below.

PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT

Whatever your interest is, there’s likely a meetup for it. Interested with a career in the non-profit sector? No problem – Net Tuesdays can give you ideas on what non-profits are doing.  Are you an aspiring entrepreneur? The Vancouver Small Business Meetup might be for you.

If you don’t find a meetup that’s of interest to you, you can always start a group and organize one. You don’t need to be an expert to go to these events. In fact, most people are there to get and share information; it’s a great place to learn.

NETWORKING

Truth be told, networking is not my primary purpose when I go to meetups, but I do see it as a possibility.  These events attract like-minded professionals, so they are a perfect place to network.

Whenever I go to a meetup, my following on Twitter always increases by at least five.  Now, I’m not saying that each one of those followers will result to an opportunity, but networking is pretty much a game of numbers. The more you connect with, the more possibilities.

FREE

Most meetups are free, which is fantastic considering the quality of information you usually get.  Conferences and workshops usually offer student discounts, but you can’t beat free stuff. In the last Third Tuesday meetup, I heard from RichardAtDell, a member of the Dell social media team.   I don’t know any other way you can hear from insightful speakers at no cost.

From my experience, where there’s a small charge for a meetup, the proceeds were given to a charity.

DISADVANTAGES?

Meetups have a few disadvantages, but all of these are workable. First, there are too many meetups; just check Meetup.com to see how many alternatives there are. There’s  a quick solution for this: Use the “find” feature on Meetup and try several keywords that’s related to your interest. If you’re on Twitter,you can also keep an eye out for what meetups your professional networks are attending.

Some also question the quality of the meetups. As I’ve already said, my experience with meetups so far have been great. If you’re really worried, though, you can check the rating of a meetup before you RSVP.

CONCLUSION: Meetups are a great way to learn new things and meet new people.  If you’re a student, you should take some time from your busy schedule to attend these events. It’s an affordable way to develop your skills and grow your network at the same time.

Ever been to a meetup? I’d love to hear your experiences – share them with me!

Email is NOT Dead: My First Net Tuesday Meetup

Photo credit: Net Tuesday Vancouver MeetUp Page

Last Tuesday, I went to my first Net Tuesday meetup. I was interested with the meetup for two reasons: first, because part of my role at my co-op job is to send out bi-weekly newsletters, I thought that the meetup’s content would be relevant . Secondly, I was so impressed with Net Squared Camp, and so I knew that Net Tuesday might be a good thing.

The September  meetup did not disappoint. I got many nuggets, some of which I’m hoping to bring into my current role at  SFU Volunteer Services.

Some of the best tips I got include the following:

  • Email is not dead yet. Shanon Daud, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives’ communication director and one of the three panelists at the event, pointed out that for some of the people belonging to CCPA’s target audience do not use Facebook or Twitter. For these individuals, email is the preferred/main/only way of communication. Shannon also pointed out that email is still more direct and reliable than many social media, and that the tool is great for creating and maintaining long term relationships.
  • Test, test, and test some more. Duncan Owen, who is involved with the David Suzuki Foundation, emphasized the importance of testing. Some segmentation might work well. For instance, one group might get a newsletter with the same content but with a different subject line as another group.In fact,  this advice stood out to me:
    Sometimes best practice isn’t best practice for you.What works for one organization may not work for another (because of the different target audiences, the size of the mail list, etc.) and so some testing becomes imperative.

    You can learn more about A-B testing in an email campaign here.

  • Keep it simple. This is the main tip from Ben Johnson, who is involved with the Union Gospel Mission. He advocates for simple content – i.e. keep it short and concise. Note that this doesn’t necessarily negate point #2. All the panelists, in fact,  agreed that too much segmentation of a mail list may be counterproductive. (They also pointed out that it takes too much time to segment lists, and doing so might cost more than its benefits.) Finding that balance between simplicity and testing is key.   For some audiences, segmentation may not work at all; for instance, in the case of CCPA, Shannon said that readers are usually interested with a breadth of topics; thus, no segmentation at all is done on that list.

There were other notable tidbits from the meetup, including a lively discussion about —- surprise! — measurement and analytics. Some names were thrown out there such as Emma, Campaign Monitor, and Vertical Response. I use MailChimp at work and I must say that the tool is easy to use and provides some great reports.

I’m sure I’ve missed something here, but if you’d like full notes, go to the Net Tuesday September webpage. Also, if you’re interested with this meetup, go to its official site or like it on Facebook.