Talking Mobile and Local at OMMA Social

I’m at the OMMA Social conference put on by MediaPost. It’s mostly attended by ad agencies looking to learn more about engaging users through social networking and blogging — something they’ve probably achieved a C+ for as an industry.

Some of the content is relevant to mobile and local search. As argued, a use case is evolving at the three-way intersection of mobile, local and social. This can take many forms including finding out what you’re friends are doing and where they are in the context of things to do, buy or see locally (i.e., Loopt).

But for many marketers that wish to reach mobile users in a locally targeted way, it shouldn’t necessarily be a separate effort, according to David Berkowitz, director of emerging media at digital marketing agency 360i.

“In lots of cases, mobile isn’t an offshoot of [online] social media,” he says. “It should be a natural extension and they go hand in hand. The question we’ll ask ourselves when forming digital campaigns is how it makes sense in mobile.” Admittedly, this is ahead of the curve relative to the average agency.

We’re seeing a similar concept emerge in search marketing. As the mobile Web becomes more and more like the online Web, mobile search campaigns and SEO practices meld with existing online efforts (we’ll discuss this at SES London next month).

Of course there are some differences in search terms and use cases that are more fitting of the immediacy and portability of mobile, and for that there will be separate mobile campaigns (Google has already gotten started on this).

Don’t Be Creepy

There are also common traits shared between mobile and social media if you consider that they each rely on behavioral targeting and different forms of location targeting.

The concept of location-based services got a little too far ahead of itself with the oft-cited promise of “walking by a Starbucks and getting hit with a coupon.” This has been reined in to a certain degree and has leveled off with a more realistic vision that involves opting in to various mobile messaging. This could take in a combination of behavior, social graphs and location.

“The ideal story is if a mom is driving home and there is a soccer game in the morning, she can get a mobile message that Gatorade is on sale at the Kroger half a mile away,” said David Vanderpoel, principal of digital marketing agency North Highland. “Not just because we know her cell number, or that she opted in, but because we were part of the conversation at one point, we were able to give the right message at the right time.”

There is a certain “creepiness” involved in this, agreed the panelists of “The Personal CPM” moderated by Charlene Li. This has been the main basis for privacy concerns in mobile — those which are shared to a certain degree with social media. In social, there are lots of marketers monitoring and listening to social conversations — a big topic at this conference.

In mobile marketing, a similarly difficult barrier will have to be crossed with the consumer comfort level in the device knowing where you are in order to serve content effectively. As we’ve argued, this will evolve as there is positive reinforcement for the technology through relevant content delivery.

“Look at Caller ID; when that first came out, it freaked people out,” said MediaPost contributor Joan Voight (not John Voight). “Now most people are OK with it. And those that choose to opt out of it don’t get their calls answered.”

Look to the Application

There are lots of ways this could play out at the intersection of mobile, local and social. It’s a young medium, and a quickly evolving one. User behavior is a moving target, but once more common marketplace standards begin to evolve, the question will be what kind of ad units we end up with — search, SMS, coupons, in-application banners, application engagement?

The answer will likely be a combination, with the latter holding some interesting opportunities to get in front of mobile users who are looking for local information. We’ve already seen the early batches of applications (TheFind, Urbanspoon, Where, etc.). They’ll keep evolving and the next steps will have to be user growth, search volume growth (inventory) and resulting advertiser interest.

“The application is the new ad unit” said Buddy Media CEO Michael Lazerow.

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