This is a blog post sponsored by the Social Science for Social Media Research Center at the Institute for Public Relations.

Kan_DistasoToward the end of 2014, I had the opportunity to spend a week with Asif Khan, founder and president of the Location Based Marketing Association (LBMA), as part of the Arthur W. Page Center/Robert Woods Johnson Lecture Series at Pennsylvania State University. We talked about how location-based services, Internet of things and augmented reality has an impact on public relations, and I was especially impressed with the case studies his Association has created with its member organizations. We wrote the following blog post and will publish two more to help others better understand how these technologies benefit the profession.

What are location-based services?

Location-based services (LBS) can be defined as a social, entertainment or information services that enable a company to reach and engage with its audience through tools and platforms that capture the geographic location of the audience. The delivery mechanisms used for LBS include mobile internet, mobile applications, short message service, text messaging, multimedia messaging service, services using GPS, indoor location services, digital out-of-home, digital signage, print media, and television.

Location-based services are used to bridge the gaps among all forms of media, inclusive of social media, the Internet, and real-life interaction. Location-based services are used to reach and engage with consumers based upon their location. The key is that location is most often linked to a specific intent to buy or research products and services at that moment in time.

Location-based services are common in marketing, but what about in public relations?

Public relations has just started to trek into location-based marketing as this area continues to grow with existing and new companies looking to position themselves in this technology-enabled ecosystem.

There is tremendous room for growth. The distribution of promotional content to consumers at a global, national or regional level is enabled by a range of mediums including TV, print, out of home and radio. From a public relations perspective, measuring the power of brands and the effectiveness of campaigns and promotions can be improved with location-based technology as we can track the effectiveness of engagement at a more granular level through metrics such as click-throughs, pages views and redemption rates at a hyper-local level. The success of location-based services is in connecting with people where they are in a fun way that either allows them to earn rewards, get tips, help others, and have fun.

Location-based services can be used for more than sales. By using location-based services you can deliver social good by connecting with charities to provide a positive impact for your brand. The Pennies for Life Campaign used a texting campaign to help build engagement with donors who could directly see the impact of their donation because of location-based services.

We are moving to a world where every person, place, and thing will be “real-time” geo-addressable or tagged unless individuals specifically “opt out” even temporarily. Such a world enables us to create both one-to-one and one-to-many messages in the context of geo-relationships.

The retail sector is particularly poised to be affected from this consumer engagement approach as the combination of in-store, mobile, social, direct mail, television and traditional media have the ability to reach large numbers of stakeholders in a personable and highly relevant way on multiple levels, at that moment in time. Building those one-on-one stakeholder personalization will be critical.

The notion of opt-in is critical to the relevance and effectiveness of location-based communications. Encouraging and possibly incentivizing people to opt-in to a location-based service will enable you to collect information about them (e.g. demographic, preferences, purchase habits) and deliver more relevant value added messages and offers. The balancing act will be in collecting and managing the information so that it can also be augmented and potentially monetized at an aggregate level, while at the same time respecting the user’s privacy. The benefit to the individuals’ and the rationale for opting-in will be that they receive messages and offers they would otherwise not have seen, but in return they have revealed their behaviors or preferences for data analysts to study. However, there must be an incentive for the consumer—the questions is, “What will trigger their opt-in?”

Companies have only skimmed the surface with the potential of location-based services. As it continues to grow, the intersection of these services will help increase stakeholder engagement and our opportunity to deliver high-value content.

Asif Khan is the founder and president of the Location Based Marketing Association (LBMA), an international group dedicated to fostering research, education and collaborative innovation at the intersection of people, places and media.

Marcia DiStaso, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor at Pennsylvania State University, an Arthur W. Page Society Member and a Research Editor for the IPR Social Science of Social Media Research Center.

Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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2 thoughts on “What You Should Know About Location-Based Services

  1. Hello Mickie. Thanks for your comments!

    Yes, indeed there is much we can do to benefit society via leveraging real-time location data. The Facebook concept is a good one. Sprint offers a family tracking service, so you can know where your loved ones are at all times.

    We are also beginning to see these services blended into wearable devices like wristbands that have emergency buttons on them that can be pushed to broadcast location in a moment of need.

    Appreciate the input.



  2. Asif,

    I just read a bit of news about how Facebook is now going to be carrying location-specific Amber Alerts that place an alert on your feed if a child is suspected missing/abducted in your area.

    While location-specific technology allows us PR pros some very serious advantages, it’s sometimes easy to forget how much potential there is for socially responsible good, too. Facebook is just one example — other platforms have their own versions of emergency alerts and notifications.

    Great article, Asif.

    Mickie Kennedy

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