Locals only: What does hyper-local mean?

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We’ve been hearing the term hyper-local thrown around and declared the future of social media/mobile for the past year. Sounds great. Now, what the hell does it mean? At 30,000 ft, hyper-local means instead of saying Denver, you’d break Denver out into its constituent parts such as Highlands, Capital Hill, LoDo, LoHi, Edgewater, Cherry Creek and WashPark. Something, only locals would know. Now that we’ve defined where hyper-local is, let’s talk about how that information is shared.

It’s best to think of this information in terms of past tense, present tense and future tense. All methods move to past tense eventually but some are future/real-time.

Checking-in – When marketers talk about checking-in, they think of Foursquare because 4sq has experienced the most growth lately, but it’s important to realize that Loopt offers a deal focused check-in and Brightkite offers Branded Badges. (In a fit of “ME TO!”, Yelp also allows you to check-in.) These extensions on the check-in behavior are exciting and it’s important to realize that the act (or behavior) of checking in is the most important item. In regards to hyper-location, users are passively recommending businesses by checking in and/or actively adding personal insights to the location they’ve checked into. So for example, when I checked-in to Christy Sports in West Denver, a message displayed recommending that I walk across the parking lot and go to Mimi’s Cafe and to be sure and ask for a specific member of the wait staff. Additional services like Fourwhere provide an overview of who has checked-in using what service; Foursquare, Gowalla, etc. These check-ins and recommendations can give someone immediate context, delivered via their mobile device. This technology/behavior can be thought of as real-time  and will be added the data that the experience/place provides. (Also, look for this behavior to takeoff once Facebook introduces check-ins to their massive mobile user base, which was most recently, 1/4th of their overall traffic.)

Group textingBrightkite recently added this feature to their offering (but launched it as a separate app?!?!?) This is a feature that makes complete sense for events. Organizing physical get-togethers within a venue. Sharing opinions about the game you’re both watching. This is a great real-time data-stream and can be repurposed to share information with others after the event is over. (There are obviously more apps that focus on this behavior. Click here to check them out.)

Tweetups – As one would suspect, these are events organized via Twitter (like a meet-up; get it?) and are great for dumping intent-based data into the stream. The organizer talks about who is going to be there and what will be shared during the meeting; food or otherwise. The nature of the meeting is entirely up to you and I would think of it as a flash mob with a purpose. (This is a good review of how to utilize a Tweetup as a business.) Also, people tweet real-time while at the tweetup, giving this event added weight with respect to content.

Twitter/Tweeting – Twitter has been referred to one of the best resources for intent-based marketing. People talk about what they’re going to do (along with present tense and past tense) and this information can be pumped into the data stream. Twitter founders have also said that they believe Twitter’s true strength is that it allows users to get hyper-local, which intuitively makes sense given Twitter’s mobile growth; up 347% since 2009. (Think Kogi.) Twitter has also embraced the location concept and businesses like TwittARound allow users to find tweets via their augmented reality browser.

Reviews – Reviews are of course past tense and provide someone a feel for what the place is like to visit. Osaka Sushi’s Google place page is a good example of this. It features reviews by users from Yelp, Citysearch, Judy’s Book and insiderpages. Blog posts by locals could also be a part of the review process. Everything from real estate to restaurant reviews.

Geo-tagging – Have you ever uploaded a picture to flickr and mapped where the photo was taken? That is what geo-tagging is. This has been made even more easy due to smartphone adoption. You can do this with video as well and Google Earth has a number of user generated YouTube videos, that display (after clicking the ‘Gallery’ option.) This form of user generated content is location specific and adds rich content to the data-stream. Spotisquare is an amazing example of geo-tagging a specific location with music!

Location based services – This is business’s response to all of the user generated information or “placestreaming” listed above. I’ll pick on Foursquare for a minute. What are businesses participating in Foursquare offering? Snacksquare has a list dependent on your area. How do partner with Foursquare as a business? Go here! Businesses are the once again the slowest to adapt.

Mobile coupons – Based on your location and your past behavior, you’ll receive mobile coupons. These can be real-time events (LBS=coupon) but they’ll be based on your foot traffic. Which is much more constrained than you think. We are creatures of habit and your “local” is where you always go.

News – Sites with a local focus like fwix, will need to emulate the model created by Front Porch Forum (about page here) and get more granular and will need users help. (Foursquare has recently partnered with Metro News to deliver location-based news.)

As you can see these technologies/mediums/behaviors offer a diverse array of methods for users/businesses to define on hyper-local offerings, creating a rich diverse landscape. The easiest way to imagine visually managing all of this information is a map with search attached. (Maps on mobile are the best.) The search could allow people to filter one their location and time-based offerings:

  1. Reviews for restaurants, spas, etc – past
  2. Upcoming events and those attending via Tweetups and/or Group Text – future/present and then into the past
  3. Geo-tagged locations – past
  4. Location based services currently offered – present
  5. Mobile coupons – present

All in all, this is what I consider hyper-local. I’m sure there’s more. There always is . . .

1 comment

  • There are lots more – even local product reviews too. We’re also trying to chart the local favourite businesses too.

I'm an Associate Teaching Professor of Digital Marketing at the Daniels College of Business, University of Denver. I also consult with startups and established brands. I'm currently focused on artificial intelligence, cognitive neuroscience and culture. I am married to an amazing woman and have two incredible children. I was raised in Colorado and spend my free time with family, biking, snowboarding and going to the Pacific Ocean to SCUBA dive and/or surf. I'm passionate about architecture, design, street art, photography and the art that tattooing has evolved into.

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