Social media applications which track users’ locations are big news recently since Facebook Places launched, competing with Foursquare which has three million users. Many businesses are learning to leverage these applications, allowing users to learn about discounts and gain benefits for ‘checking in’ to their establishments online while they are visiting them. Even though life science companies do most of their business via the internet and mail, there are ways they could leverage these location-based applications. Below are our ideas for life science companies to use tools like Foursquare, and we hope it sparks some ideas for building their brands and obtaining leads and sales in new ways.
Account Managers. Getting the sales team using location-based applications is perhaps the most straightforward way to take advantage of them. Account managers could check in while visiting large institutions or hot spots, offering prizes for customers who see their check ins online and find them. More generally, account managers could give prizes to those who check into institutions in their territory–the implications for lead generation are fantastic! What’s great about Foursquare is that from the login perspective, it’s an isolated application. In other words, employees don’t have to worry about mixing their personal and business personas as they must do on Facebook. They can create a Foursquare persona for work and upload their email contacts (and check in only when working).
Events. Perhaps vying for first spot with the sales team, events are a terrific opportunity for life science companies to use location-based applications. At conferences, companies could offer benefits for ‘checking in’ to their exhibit (anyone can create a venue on Foursquare). Attendance at seminars and workshops could also be tracked, rewarding the first to check in. While it’s true that currently these applications can be ‘fooled’ and users can check in without actually visiting, really it’s more about engaging with them and building your brand through their sharing. As with most social media applications, Foursquare ‘plays well’ with the other tools such as Facebook, allowing each check in to be shared with hundreds of people on other applications. A nice side benefit is that customers may make connections with each other while participating, helping everyone.
Supply Centers. Many institutions allow companies to stock popular products on site, making it more convenient for customers. These supply centers are usually fairly low profile–usually a freezer in the hall or shelves in a small room. They are the perfect opportunity to use Foursquare. Companies could allow users to check in and perhaps give discounts or prizes for the mayor (the person who checks in the most frequently). The perhaps little-known supply center will also be seen by all Foursquare users in the vicinity, as cell phones’ GPS is used in the application, allowing them to pick from nearby venues to check in to. Our local Scripps Research Institute has 156 checkins from 23 people, and this number will likely grow.
Activities and Virtual Events. An interesting take on the location-based applications is Miso, which allows users to check in while they are watching TV shows. In San Diego, we’ve even ‘checked in’ after earthquakes, treating them as an activity. Now, this could make many life science brands salivate, as you could imagine researchers checking into such activities as ‘doing PCR with Company X Polymerase.’ While I don’t envision these activity-based check ins going this far, I do think researchers would check in for webinars, product launches, promotions, or even scientific discoveries. Wouldn’t it have been cool to ‘check in’ when the structure of DNA was discovered, or the human genome sequenced?
As we cover in our Life Science and Biotech Social Media Training and Workshops, many companies in our industry are just getting their feet wet with these new ways to connect with their customers. So, these ideas may not be adopted soon, but we think that it’s never too early to start thinking of ways to leverage the massive networks that researchers have already created. The changes that Facebook have made recently will likely herald a new era of the web, where these networks, and standardization of its content, will rule. The ‘virtual world’ of online places can be seen as the ‘wild wild west’ (www, get it?) in which life science companies should stake their claims now.
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