Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Get the Picture?

Last night, I noticed a neat feature on Facebook.  It showed me a picture of my son in full-on sledding regalia and asked “was this taken at Central Park, NY?”  Indeed, an album I had uploaded two winters ago featured pictures taken in Frederick Law Olmstead’s most famous work.  Maybe this suggestion bordered on creepy, but I think I had entitled the album “Sledding in Central Park,” or had used “Central Park” in the descriptor.  I doubt the Big F somehow recognized the trees in the background.

As a marketer, a feature like this one gets my interest.  I could think of a lot of effective things to do with these data and, more importantly, what not to do with them.

I have no idea whether Facebook has made or will ever make album location data available to marketers.  However, I’d really want to use those data if I could.  Why album location data as opposed to other personal data that consumers willingly share with Facebook?  Maybe it’s the photo geek in me (disclosure: it is almost certainly the photo geek in me), but I believe that pictures represent something very important to us.

They crystallize memories.  The remain touchstones to our past and link generations.  No point in waxing poetic any further; just look at any album--on paper or on screen--and you’ll know what I mean.  By tapping into these memories, marketers can potentially unleash some primal emotions, both good and bad.

First, what not to do
  • “Your town here” offers.  The worst thing that a marketer could do, I think, is simply target hyper-local offers that have nothing to do with the location.  Marketers already do this kind of thing in Facebook all the time.  How many ads have you seen that say simply “Great offers in [your town here]?”  Maybe they work, but I doubt it.  The location information seems too disjointed from the offer to make sense to me.
  • Pinpoint/location-based marketing.  Perhaps you have a business near Central Park, such as a bike rental or a coffee shop.  Wouldn’t it make sense for you to market to people who have been there?  Maybe, maybe not.  First of all, the photographer  may not live near the location at all.  

    More importantly, it crosses the creepy line.  It almost screams “stalker.”  Again, I may be inferring too much into these data, since the vast majority of my personal Facebook photos include my kids, but I don’t want someone saying to me, even via a display ad, “hey, we know where you’ve been.”

Instead, marketers should think one level deeper.  What else can we glean from photo data that might set up a relevant offer?  The answer comes not in single-point data, but in aggregating a user’s data to see what larger story they can tell.
  • People.  The photos not only have location data, but also subject data, to a degree.  Many people like to identify the people in their shots.  People most often take photos of other people during events such as parties.  Thus, a marketer focused on entertainment (alcoholic beverages, restaurants, movies) might want to target those people with offers.  
  • Landscapes.  By contrast, a photo without people data suggests scenic pictures (or, admittedly, someone too lazy to tag friends).  People tend to take landscape pictures when traveling, so travel marketers (airlines, hotels, cruise lines) might want to target those people.
  • Marketers could then overlay location data, broadly, to sharpen offers.  Again, I wouldn’t recommend copy such as “You and your friends Bob, Jack and Tootsie should enjoy Bud Light.”  However, a more broad offer such as “Great bars in your area” might work well.

I reiterate that my recommendations are completely hypothetical.  The success of my recommendations would hinge on what data Facebook makes available.  However, I do think that photo data information offers more than the obvious opportunities.

Got any other ideas?  Please share in the comments.

1 comment:

  1. Great article Ben,

    I have noticed facebook asking me to tag photos too. It's funny because first facebook removes all lat/lon tags off all photos posted to facebook (even if you don't want them to) and now they turn around and ask you where they are.

    I wonder if facebook is actually storing the lat/lon for themselves and then only asking you to tag the photos that they don't have lat/lon for already. It would be a good experiment to run.

    At uptake, we are able to match photos to places pretty well and we think we have some great ideas about how to make them useful to you. Agree with your thoughts on what you shouldn't do marketing-wise with those photos. We hope to use them to inspire you.